BY: ED GIGANTI
Catholic Healthcare Partners (CHP), Cincinnati, OH, is piloting a major new leadership development strategy. CHP's Leadership Academy is identifying high-potential executives currently in the system and involving them in a two-year program of learning and professional growth experiences. Sr. Doris Gottemoeller, RSM, senior vice president for mission and values integration, and Jon Abeles, senior vice president for human resources and organization effectiveness, designed and coordinate the academy.
"We have 28 leaders from throughout the system in our first academy class," Sr. Gottemoeller said. "They are a wonderful group. At our launch in February, all 28 of them were so enthusiastic and eager to begin. They quickly developed bonds of mutual support and commitment."
The Leadership Academy was created to assess participants' aptitude and readiness for increased responsibility within CHP (and areas for further development), to assist them in acquiring the skills and knowledge needed for enhanced leadership within the system, and to form a cadre committed to CHP's mission and values and imbued with its culture.
Abeles said that, in 2001, CHP's corporate leadership team
discussed the system's needs for succession planning to ensure
a "next generation" of leaders. They specified a number of provisos
that ultimately shaped the design and curriculum of the academy:
The goal is the right person in the right place at the right
- Individuals may be groomed for specific positions, but promotion
is never automatic.
- There is also value in bringing in "fresh hires" from outside
- Responsibility for selecting and developing the next generation
of leaders cannot be completely centralized at the corporate
"Above all, we didn't need or want a mechanical process of succession planning," Abeles said.
"We decided to offer an opportunity for advanced leadership development to a pool of persons, recognizing that some of them will take on more responsible positions in time, some will expand the quality and quantity of their contribution in their present positions, and some may leave usbut, we hope, take with them enhanced skills and deeper commitment to Catholic health care," Sr. Gottemoeller said.
And thus the Leadership Academy was born. Abeles and Sr. Gottemoeller evaluated several "best practices" and consulting resources before choosing to partner with the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) in Greensboro, NC, for the design and delivery of the academy curriculum. They assembled for the academy a steering committee that includes CHP president and CEO Michael D. Connelly, Board Chair Raymond R. Clark, Sponsor Sr. Marie Hartmann, RSM, and several CEOs of CHP regions. The steering committee, working with assistance from CCL, identified five critical leadership factors that underpinned the academy curriculum:
- Passion for mission and values
- Servant leadership
- Utilization of complex mental processes
- Bias for action
- Skill in developing others
"These are factors that we envision will be essential components
of leadership success five years out," Abeles said. "We asked
ourselves, 'What do our leaders need as demands of our health
care ministry become greater or change?' If you truly need
people to act differently five years out, you can't wait five
years to develop them."
The talent-identification process for the academy began
in November 2001. Direct reports to CHP's executive management
team (regional CEOs and corporate officers) were invited to
nominate themselves if they wanted to participate. Those interested
completed a "Leadership Resource Review" instrument indicating
their previous leadership experiences, a self-assessment of
competence in the key leadership factors, and other qualifications
(CHA's "Foundations of Catholic Health Care Leadership" program
is a requirement for participation), as well as their professional
goals. After review and senior reporting leader input, nominations
were forwarded to the steering committee for final selection.
"We chose at least two participants from each of CHP's regions
and looked for diversity in gender, age, and job responsibility.
There were many more qualified people nominated than could
be accommodated in this pilot group," Sr. Gottemoeller said.
These leaders will be encouraged to apply for inclusion in
The class of 28 is a mix of facility CEOs and vice presidents
of nursing, operations, human resources, finance, support
services, and others. They came together for the first time
in February of this year at CHP's Cincinnati headquarters
for a three-day introductory program. CHA Senior Vice President
Tim Eckels spoke to the group regarding ministry leadership
challenges in the 21st century. CHP President and CEO Mike
Connelly gave an update on challenges facing the system and
on the ways the system intends to develop future strategy.
Davida Sharpe of CCL conducted a number of exercises with
participants on leadership behaviors and "servant leadership"
and also helped them understand the nature of "360-degree
feedback" before providing them with their personal assessment
data (gathered by using five different assessment tools).
"Action learning" is a significant part of the academy curriculum
and differentiates this program from the normal didactic formats
found in traditional leadership development experiences. At
the February session, Patricia O'Connor from CCL oriented
the class to the concept of action learning, a hands-on process
in which participants will be actively engaged in developing
and applying critical leadership factors in the context of
business dilemmas throughout the two-year program.
The participants were divided into three teams, and each
team was assigned a project and a sponsor. Each project addresses
a complex business problem identified by CHP's executive management
team. They are:
- Ethnic diversity. Although CHP is a diverse organization
in many respects, ethnic diversity in systemwide leadership
positions needs to be enhanced. This team is working to identify
staffing, recruiting, and development strategies and action
plans at the conclusion of a current status analysis. Susan
Makos, CHP executive vice president, is this team's sponsor.
- Nurse vacancy rate. This team is considering how to
apply internal and national best practices to address vacancy
rates in two at-risk regions of the system. Executive Vice President
David Jimenez is the project sponsor.
- Increasing market share. This team is creating strategies
for enhancing market share within a highly competitive region
of CHP. Executive Vice President Jane Crowley is the team's
sponsor. O'Connor is acting as coach to the teams throughout
the action learning phase.
"Leaders really come into their own when they are stretched,
when they are facing tough issues and still keeping up with
their already busy lives," Abeles said. "These action learning
projects were designed to take them out of their comfort zones."
The analysis and recommendations the teams develop will have
immediate value to CHP. Through the projects, the participants
will be growing in the five critical leadership areas that
are the basis of the academy curriculum.
The teams are working on these projects in face-to-face
meetings and in electronic communities until they present
their results at the system's annual management conference
next September. Abeles said the group will participate in
additional action learning initiatives throughout the program.
"That way, it takes away the 'episodic' nature of the experience
and develops competence 'beyond best intentions.'"
As this issue of Health Progress went to press, Abeles
and Sr. Gottemoeller were preparing for the first five-day
intensive retreat for the academy class at CCL's Greensboro,
NC, headquarters. The two estimated that they are spending
a quarter of their time on the development of the Leadership
Academy and admitted that the entire design was not totally
worked out in advance but continues to evolve. "It was very
important to begin," Sr. Gottemoeller said. "If we had waited
until every 'i' was dotted, we'd still be waiting to initiate
One evolutionary development has highlighted the mission
of Catholic health ministry. "We are changing 'servant leadership
factor' to 'mission leadership' and making it an integrating
competency," Sr. Gottemoeller said. "What makes this program
different is the sense of mission; we are preparing leaders
to carry on the mission. Our challenge is to devise learning
components that accent and integrate the mission. CCL is working
with us to craft these components."
Both Sr. Gottemoeller and Abeles credit the success of the
Leadership Academy to date to the enthusiastic support of
key leadership and the combined commitment of the human resources,
organizational learning, and mission integration departments
of CHP. Also, they said that the time spent early on in integrating
the system's board, sponsors, and senior managementcorporate
and regionalin the design and talent identification process
was important to program success.
Copyright © 2002 by the Catholic Health Association of the United States
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