11 executives share their best advice

The "Corner Office" series provides a platform for some of the brightest executives in the healthcare industry to discuss a variety of personal and professional issues.

In each "Corner Office" interview, executives share the most memorable piece of advice they've ever received. We've collected each answer, which are listed in order of their appearance in the Becker's Hospital Review print issue, beginning with the most recent.

Caitlin Stella, CEO, Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital (Hollywood, Fla.)

Well, I've been very fortunate to have a lot of great influencers and mentors in my personal life and career, so I've had lots of great advice. One that often pops up in my life goes back to when my parents took me to college. They brought me to school, set me up in my dorm room and we cried and hugged and then they left. I remember going back into my dorm room and I couldn't believe it was real. There was a card on my bed. I opened it up and it was a drawing of a little girl walking down a dirt road and inside the card it said, "Don't look back. Keep your eyes on the road ahead."

I've had the good fortune of having amazing job experiences early in my life. I ran the autism center at UCLA and helped researchers and clinicians secure some of the first funding available from the National Institutes for Health to study autism. I went on to work as a consultant for PricewaterhouseCoopers, travelling around the country and seeing health systems in different states. I just remember thinking that I shouldn't look back because it's all building up to something. Going on to the Children's Hospital of Los Angeles, I worked with amazing people to offer services to children in that market, and I kept my eyes forward because I knew it was all taking me somewhere. I went back to UCLA as a senior level administrator before I was recruited to Joe DiMaggio, and I finally I feel like I'm home here. It was all building up to this point. Always look forward, every experience building toward something bigger, has been my philosophy. That card always pops into my mind. I think my parents left me great advice.

Ketul Patel, CEO, CHI Franciscan Health (Tacoma, Wash.)

One piece of advice I received is to be open to change, and what I mean by that is to be adaptable and collaborative. In my entire 25 years in healthcare, the one constant is change. There's healthcare reform in different generations, with different philosophies, but change is constant.

When I did my administrative fellowship at the age of 22, the board chairman there told me, "You need to live your life as an executive on an elevator." At first, I didn't understand what that meant, but I realized that if you don't find a way to connect to every level of the organization, you're not going to succeed. By doing that you get to know what's really going on with the frontline staff in every part of the organization. As you connect with different parts of the organization, you see different viewpoints.

Tom Jackiewicz, CEO, Keck Medicine of USC (Los Angeles)

I have been given two pieces of advice that have stayed with me throughout my career. First, my mentor once told me, "Never make a decision that you can't read on the front page of the newspaper." If you can't read the decision in the newspaper and feel good about it, it was not the right decision. Also, I use a quote from Jack Welch that I thought was very insightful: "If you're in a meeting with your direct reports and you're the smartest person in the room, you've got real problems."

Tommy Ibrahim, MD, System Managing Director and CMO, Integris (Oklahoma City)

One of the most important things for success is having a core group of talented people around you. It's really about building a strong team, and I take a great amount of pride in putting the resources in place to support my team members and make sure they have what they need to be successful. I spend an enormous amount of time in one-on-one meetings coaching my team members, being their biggest cheerleader but also their biggest critic when necessary. I think that's an important aspect of being a strong leader.

As you move further up into an organization, it becomes clear you have to become a master delegator at the higher level. Particularly when you hit the C-suite, you have to depend on the people who work with you and for you, and I think I actually learned that the hard way because I was a young leader.

I became a CMO at age 29, and I always thought I had to do everything on my own to get it right. I tried to take on more and more, and it became quite clear that was a recipe for failure. I burnt myself out significantly, so I had to really begin delegating and depending more on my team members, encourage them to do the work themselves and not micromanage them. Even though I held a master's degree in health administration, I hadn't learned the skills I needed to be a C-suite executive, so a lot of it was really the school of hard knocks. I'm a better leader for it.

Laurie Glimcher, MD, CEO, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute (Boston)

I think I have tried to live by three principles in my life and career. One of them is passion and being passionate about what you do because life is short and if you're not passionately in love with what you do then what's the point. The second one is endurance because science and medicine aren't easy, so you need to stick with it the through the hard times, and then the third one is kindness. Those are three of the big ones. And I tell people, shoot for the moon, and at least then you have a chance to land among the stars.

I'm a risk taker in terms of science, I think you have to be. If you want to make major contributions, you have to be very innovative and very bold. You're going to fail 90 percent of the time but that 10 percent of the time when you discover something really important makes it all worth it.

Debra Canales, chief administrative officer, Providence St. Joseph (Renton, Wash.)

I had a mentor who was a division president when I was a senior manager at PepsiCo who saw things in me that were unique and valuable. They encouraged me to volunteer and take risks and gave that gave me confidence. It's almost like seeing what's around the corner, anticipating challenges and opportunities, and seizing them. It's important to be a vacuum filler, someone who looks for what is missing in a given situation. You have to really seize the moment when you see an opportunity and lean into it.

Adrienne Boissy, MD, chief experience officer, Cleveland Clinic

So, I had a piece of advice that was given to me by one of my best friends in grade school. It was actually written on the side of a coffee cup. It was simply: "Of course you can." At that point in my life, it was hard to know what I should be doing, or where I should be focusing energy and time. I always reference back to that when I'm uncertain or afraid. Sometimes those simple things have a way of orienting you. Early as a neurologist, one of the best pieces of advice I got was to build bridges outside of my microcosm. When I came to Cleveland Clinic as a neurologist, someone came to me and said, "You should have some support outside of where you are," and that's something I've stuck with.

Kevin Lofton, CEO, CHI (Englewood, Colo.)

This [piece of advice] came to me early in my career during an administrative residency down in Corpus Christi, Texas. Early in your career, the question is always if you can handle what's coming your way. I remember as I was getting ready to head to my first real ED administrator job, the department head who mentored me said, "Kevin, you know you can handle this stuff, it's just another dog and pony show."

Earlier in my career, there were a lot of times — whether it was public speaking or any other high-profile meeting — where I would always remember that phrase and think to myself that I could handle it. As my career has gone on and I've talked to more people, I've gotten the same kind of advice, whether it's about preparation or the concept of lifelong learning. Healthcare's always changing, so just being willing to change and acknowledging the ongoing and continuing nature of education to stay abreast and stay ahead of things is essential.

Elaine Thompson, PhD, CEO, Lakeland (Fla.) Regional Health

Our CFO, Evan Jones, who is just an amazing leader, once said to me, "Surround yourself with people of character because character is something you exercise every day." It's a lot easier to exercise character when you're around people who are doing the same. It's really been a blessing to have an executive team and a board that are selfless. They have high character when it comes to doing what's best for the patient and their family. That piece of advice is a beacon for me in terms of who I choose to be on my teams and how we elect our board.

Alan Kaplan, MD, CEO, UW Health (Madison, Wis.)

I can't narrow it down to one piece [of advice], but I believe life and lifelong learning is a series of many lessons with lots of advice. When I was an emergency physician, I believed very strongly in helping anyone anywhere for anything, and I never let artificial barriers get in the way of helping people. As I moved through my career I felt my role was not about me, it was about the organization I represented and the people I took care of. I think if there's any one thing in leadership or healthcare that really serves as the guide, number one is to put patients at the center. Sometimes we have very hard decisions to make, but we have to come back to patients as our North Star.

Michael Maron, CEO, Holy Name Medical Center (Teaneck, N.J.)

I came up through the financial ranks because of my accounting background, so I started off in budget reimbursement. My first boss, Rich Keenan — a brilliant man who's very well respected and still active as the CFO of Ridgewood, N.J.-based Valley Health System — gave me some great advice. He told me to never ever lose sight of what is behind the numbers on the page, and if you're not sure what's behind those numbers, get out of the office. Get out on the floor of the hospital and go to where patients are cared for. Make sure you can connect the reality of what's going on there to the numbers you're seeing on your balance sheet or income statement.

People have a tendency to bury themselves in their computers or the data, and they have no idea what's happening in the ER or the patient floor or in the operating room. I enjoy actually putting on scrubs and rounding through the OR when I get the chance, engaging with the surgeons while they're in surgery, understanding the business and what's going on — that's very important.

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