8 healthcare leaders share their No. 1 piece of advice


Good leadership advice is meant to be shared. Here eight healthcare leaders — including CEOs, CFOs and chief strategy officers — offer the No. 1 piece of advice they would give other leaders in their field.

1. Rob Bloom, CFO of Carthage (N.Y.) Area Hospital. “The best advice I have is to find the courage to change what must be changed and accept those things that cannot be changed in the short term. Regardless of whether a hospital is profitable or struggling, there will be challenges. The difficult task is to determine where to focus resources while accepting criticism for problems that will not change the short-term viability of the organization. You have to learn to trust your judgment and resist pressures from others that might tempt you to alter your course based on their lack of understanding. It is very much a triage process: Stop the bleeding first, then worry about infection later.”

2. Mona Chadha, chief strategy officer of San Francisco-based Dignity Health’s Bay Area. “One of the key strengths of being a good leader is really listening and leading people by example. That to me is one of the successes. Then, do some thinking outside of the box. That’s been my mantra of success in the past.”

3. JoAnn Kunkel, CFO of Sioux Falls, S.D.-based Sanford Health. “The very first CFO I worked for in 1990 always said, ‘you’re only as good as your team. … I’d never be able to be successful without having you and the team working with me.’ [That CFO] was a very thoughtful and inclusive leader. He gave me opportunities to be part of the team and think strategically and develop into a leader. So since then, it’s always been my belief that we have a very strong team that should always participate. If we have someone that needs help, we have multiple individuals ready to step up. And working together makes us all better. My advice would be: It’s important to remember you are only as good as your team. Sometimes I think when you get into these leadership roles you can forget that. You always want to be inclusive, give credit to the work and the team and the efforts that help make you successful in your role.”

4. Michael McAnder, CFO of Atlanta-based Piedmont Healthcare. “I think what I’d say is try and look for the long-term play. You can’t manage this business on a day-to-day basis. You have to have a clear direction and stick with it. I think that’s probably the thing our CEO Kevin Brown has done really well. I have never worked at an organization with a one-page strategic plan before. Every meeting starts with it, and we use it at every presentation. That consistency has brought clarity. It’s also why we’ve gone from five hospitals to 11 in the three years I’ve been here. That resonates with other organizations when we talk about our plan. It’s really important. In addition, obviously, you have to act with integrity and character. If you’re in a position where you can’t do that, you have to make a different decision about whether you can keep working for someone.”

5. Alan B. Miller, CEO of King of Prussia, Pa.-based Universal Health Services. “I often give a few pieces of advice to other CEOs and leaders, including:

  • Character is destiny — a person with good character will always be better off in life. Choose your friends carefully because you are known by the friends you keep.
  • Hard work is critical. If you are going to do something, do it well.
  • Hire the best team possible. Build trust, and rally the team to focus on a common goal.”

6. David Parsons, MD, CMO of Portland-based Northwest Permanente. “Listen to the people you lead and be honest about which problems you can solve and which ones you can’t. People usually don’t mind being told no as long as you are direct and honest about the reasons why. People detest ambivalence.”

7. Mike Pykosz, CEO and founder of Chicago-based Oak Street Health. “Be persistent and be motivated by your mission. One thing we found really early was everything is a lot harder and takes a lot longer than you think it will. Things that make a lot of sense to you and are super logical will always take a little longer. [Success] requires breaking down a lot of little barriers, including a lot of inefficiencies, a lot of complexities and mindshare. But whatever it is, be persistent and have faith that if you’re trying to do the right thing, and if you stay at it, you’ll be able to break down those barriers and accomplish these things.”

8. Michael Wallace, president and CEO of Fort Atkinson, Wis.-based Fort HealthCare. “I’d say visualize the outcome you want and then go get it. I also like the phrase ‘try hard, fail fast, move on, start over.’ You’re one step closer to a solution if the last one didn’t work. But don’t let perfect get in the way of good. I like to be 8 for 10 rather than 3 for 3. Failure is the byproduct of trying to move an organization forward. If I get 8 of 10 things right, I am going to end up further along, closer to my vision than if I wait to be sure about everything to get that perfect 3 for 3.”




Three C’s for Listening Like a Leader


Listening is a vast ocean surrounded by empty beaches.

I’ve been paying attention to listening, both my own and others. You’re more likely to meet a red-crested tree rat* than to meet someone who actually listens.

5 reasons shallow listening is normal:

  1. Desire. Listening is such a bother.
  2. Ignorance. You might listen if you knew how.
  3. Time. Hurry up. The clock’s ticking.
  4. Energy. You don’t have energy to listen deeply.
  5. Discipline. On a list of “hard things to do,” listening is near the top.

Set the stage for deep listening:

Unfocused conversations feel like chasing chickens.

Establish conversational direction or you’ll end up exhausted and disappointed.

  1. What’s on your agenda today?
  2. What good thing might come from our conversation?
  3. What would you like to accomplish during this conversation?
  4. What’s important for you to bring up during this conversation? What’s important to you about that?

Three C’s for listening like a leader:

#1. Character.

#2. Calmness.

Breathe deeply.

Although listening takes energy, it requires a calm spirit.

Inner agitation blocks listening.

#3. Compartmentalization.

Set a fence around your listening space. You don’t have anything else to do except attend to the person speaking.

Explain time limits before you begin. Because listening requires rigor, you might need to set short-time limits.

After explaining limits, attend fully.

The character of a listening leader:

#1. Courage.

Churchill put it this way, “Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.”

#2. Compassion.

“Compassion is the quality of having positive intentions for others. … It’s the ability to understand others and use that as a catalyst for supportive action.”**

#3. Confidence.

Insecurity seems to loosen tongues and close ears.

#4. Openness.

A closed mind lies behind closed ears.

Poor listening is a character issue.

What’s one thing you could do that would make you a better listener?




Amidst the social gatherings and backyard barbecues of the Independence Day celebrations that we have each year, there are many important and dramatic stories about the sacrifices of our founding fathers who signed the Declaration of Independence.

Some of them are inflated, but what is true is they knew that it was a bold, courageous step that would prompt a strong response from the mother country. What they expected was brutal military action against them by the best organized and equipped army in the world. There were personal and professional risks for those leaders.

The Price of Freedom in the POW Camps

The same challenges were true for our senior leaders in the Vietnam POW camps. There was a lot at stake as they wrestled to set an example for the rest of us to serve with honor in difficult times.

As POWs, we battled daily to have the freedoms that we enjoy in the U.S. We know what it’s like to live without freedom, and we don’t take it for granted. I know it can sound a bit trite, but it’s true—Freedom is not Free.


It can only be maintained by what my organization calls the core of courageous accountability – Character, Courage, and Commitment.

courageous accountability

The Courageous Accountability Model(tm) is featured in Lee’s book, Engage with Honor: Building a Culture of Courageous Accountability.

The Internal Battle

Human nature naturally goes toward the easy way out. The truth is that honor, character, courage, and commitment do not have many easy days.


We’re always bound to self-interest, yet we must learn to periodically rise above it and that takes sacrifice to put the good of others first. That’s what our founders did, what the military does, and what our elected representatives are supposed to do.

In fact, we all play a role in preserving our freedom and national security.

Safeguarding our Freedom and Independence

As we reflect this month on our national independence and individual liberty, it’s a good time to reflect on our individual responsibilities for preserving these liberties that we can so easily take for granted.

So you might ask, “What can I do to help safeguard our independence and freedom?”Playing off our brand and mission at Leading with Honor®, we are engaged in a battle to be leaders who live with honor.

Here are three important points:

  1. Lead and manage yourself. Live as a person of honor. If you need some guidance, download the Honor Code.
  2. Set the example. Influence the next generation and help them understand that freedom requires responsibility.
  3. Hold your elected leaders accountable. Make sure that they’re serving with honorable behavior that serves the best interest of freedom and our country’s founding principles rather than themselves.

The Sacrificial Payoff

This mindset is not easy. It takes courageous, character, and commitment that’s supported by self-awareness and discipline. To be frank, living and leading with honor doesn’t come easy. It requires an ongoing battle with the dark and lazy side of human nature. it’s easy to just settle, drift and become indifferent and apathetic about our greatest treasures as a nation.

So as you gathered with your family and friends, I hope that you paused to remember your responsibilities as a citizen and as a protector of our freedoms.

It’s very clear that our founders understood that when they signed off on the Declaration of Independence and closed with these words:

“And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.”

Please share your comments and experiences below, too.


The foundational pillars of Character, Courage, and Commitment form the bedrock to lead with a model of courageous accountability shown in the article. Want to learn the full model to continue growing as an honorable leader? 

For a limited time, we’re offering the Engage with Honor Launch Package when you purchase a copy this award-winning book.



Rather than having fear and trepidation about the concept of accountability, Lee briefly explains the positive aspects of courageous accountability as a means to achieving your goals.

The key is to establish an authentic foundation of character, courage, and commitment so you can build consistency and trust with yourself and others. Please watch and share your comments – thank you

Anatomy of a post-acute care partnership


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In communities across America — large and small — local hospitals serve a purpose that goes beyond being a center for on-demand emergency care. Our nation’s healthcare facilities have a legacy and responsibility as leaders and guardians for the health of individuals in the communities they serve.

As such, it is imperative that local hospitals continue to take the lead in community patient care and avoid being relegated to the position of bystander through managed care or government mandate.

In addition to providing quality patient care, hospitals also have a responsibility to remain financially healthy. And in today’s environment of uncertain and changing regulation, government-mandated penalties, and shifting payment models, hospital leaders are being reminded that financial health and quality patient outcomes go hand-in-hand.

Balancing these two responsibilities is an increasingly tough task. Avoidable readmissions are a cost no organization can afford to ignore, and many of America’s best healthcare facilities are struggling to find an effective solution to their patients’ post-acute needs.

For many hospitals and health systems seeking an answer, partnering with an experienced and proven post-acute care provider has been the solution.

In a value-based world, the ability to manage the total cost of care — from admittance, through acute care, to the post-acute environment — is a strategic advantage for sustaining organizational health and getting patients the right care at the right time, obtaining efficient outcome and attracting and retaining the best and brightest of professional caregivers.

But how do executives and hospital leaders find the right partner, and how can they determine competence and compatibility for their needs?

William F. “Bud” Barrow II, the recently retired president and CEO of Our Lady of Lourdes Regional Medical Center in Lafayette, La., developed what he calls his “Four-Way Test” for evaluating prospective  post-acute care partners.

“There are many players in the sub-acute space, and a lot of them are not in it for the right reasons,” Mr. Barrow says. “There are many small companies formed not to advance care AND make a profit, but to make a profit and flip the company for even more profit.”

“It’s important to partner with a large capital healthcare provider that has demonstrated long-term commitment to patients, to profitability and to doing the right thing at the right time — every time,” adds Mr. Barrow.

The four “C’s” in Mr. Barrow’s test include:

  • Character: Examine the cultural history of the organization and the character of key individuals.
  • Competence: Can they demonstrate long-term, systemic success and expertise in their field?
  • Capital: Is there a financial model in place that suggests sustainability in a profitable way?
  • Creativity: Does the organization demonstrate nimbleness and the ability to rethink and adjust on-the-go based on the uncertainties inherent in healthcare reimbursement and the overall healthcare landscape?

Once a suitable partner is found, Mr. Barrow further identifies three “must-haves” for forming a successful and sustainable joint venture.

  • Organization-wide support

    Support must come from all areas of the organization. Everyone — from board members to medical staff — must understand and support the goal of the enterprise and fully endorse what is a time-consuming process and significant investment.

  • A critical eye

    You must be willing and able to employ a critical eye when viewing your own organization and make a clear and unbiased assessment of what you do well versus what you wish you did well. “Most people are unable to make this critical internal evaluation,” Barrow says. “As a result, they continue to try and do things on their own, often times leading to long-term failure.”

  • Assemble the right team

    The right people must be in place to evaluate various alternatives and possible solutions as you go through the process and fill in the deficit gaps determined in the critical assessment.

Poor evaluation of organizational readiness, Mr. Barrow adds, is one of the most common pitfalls — particularly when it comes to the vital mutual commitment from administration and medical staff.

“There has to be alignment between the business of medicine and the practice of medicine — it’s paramount,” he says. “The prevailing attitude must be that failure is not an option. This is not something where you put your toe in the water, see what happens, and then back out the first time you hit a bump in the road. Everyone must be on board with an all-in focus on clinical networks, evidenced-based best practices, shared accountability and a singular focus on best patient outcomes.”

Nearly two decades ago, LHC Group pioneered a model of post-acute care partnership that has since earned a reputation for enhancing patient outcomes and financial performance in cities and towns across the country. Since then, the company has pursued a mission to build stronger healthcare delivery systems in the communities it serves.

Quality outcomes — for patients and partners — are the driving force behind everything LHC Group does. Quality metrics are now the preferred standard for evaluating post-acute providers, and with more than 60 percent of its home health locations named among the 2016 HomeCare Elite®, and with the highest CMS Star Ratings compared to home health national averages, LHC Group continues to enhance its reputation as one of the top quality home health providers in the country.

“I can think of no other post-acute provider that demonstrates all of the ‘Four C’s’ at the level of LHC Group,” says Mr. Barrow, who formed his first joint-venture partnership with the company in 2007. “Their overwhelming commitment to character, competence and creativity has allowed them to develop the strong capital to deliver on what they promise.”

LHC Group’s record of designing and growing successful post-acute care partnerships throughout the country is the result of years of dedication, tireless work and experience. Their team is accustomed to rising to the challenge of succeeding in the constantly shifting landscape that is the healthcare industry, and they know how to provide value for partners and improved outcomes for their patients.

The conclusion is clear: Choose the right partner. The health of your community and your organization is at stake.

Cultural Meltdown: When Values Don’t Match Workers’ Day-to-Day Reality

Cultural Meltdown: When Values Don’t Match Workers’ Day-to-Day Reality

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A complete disconnect on values

The problem was that bank employees were pushed to sell products and services to customers whether they wanted them or not, in violation of the company’s stated values, and often this meant opening up accounts and issuing credit cards without customers knowing about it.

And to add insult to injury, even employees who called the company’s ethics hotline that was set up to report issues just like this one were fired for doing so.

Yes, Wells Fargo’s stated company values are 180 degrees opposite of what employees were actually told to do.

If you look at Wells Fargo’s statement of values, it all sounds pretty good:

Our values should guide every conversation, decision, and interaction. Our values should anchor every product and service we provide and every channel we operate. If we can’t link what we do to one of our values, we should ask ourselves why we’re doing it. It’s that simple.

All team members should know our values so well that if our policy manuals didn’t exist, we would still make decisions based on our common understanding of our culture and what we stand for. Corporate America is littered with the debris of companies that crafted lofty values on paper but, when put to the test, failed to live by them. We believe in values lived, not phrases memorized. If we had to choose, we’d rather have a team member who lives by our values than one who just memorizes them.

We have five primary values that are based on our vision and provide the foundation for everything we do:

  • People as a competitive advantage
  • Ethics
  • What’s right for customers
  • Diversity and inclusion
  • Leadership

Those values sound good, but in the case of Wells Fargo, they were total BS.