'Be patient' + other advice hospital CEOs would give their younger selves

On the path to becoming the CEO of a hospital or health system, there are many unique career trajectories and lessons learned along the way. Here, leaders share what they would tell their younger selves, knowing what they know now.

Madeline Bell, BSN. President and CEO of Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. Know that you will not get promoted simply by producing great work. You must network. Don't ever underestimate the power of networking — it will enable you to get your best opportunities and recognition. 

Don't take a job for the title or for the money. Take a job because you love the work that you will be doing. Take a job because you will learn from your boss, or your colleagues. Many times, in your career, you will make a lateral move without a better title or more money — and with each opportunity, you will build a stronger foundation for a successful career.

When someone asks you to do something that is out of your comfort zone, say yes. Stretch yourself. Don't let your lack of knowledge about a subject or lack of confidence in yourself hold you back. If you can see yourself doing it, you have won more than half the battle. If you can see yourself as successful, others will see you that way, too. 

Bo Boulenger. Incoming CEO of Baptist Health South Florida (current President and COO) (Coral Gables). Work hard, be consistent and treat everyone with respect. Demonstrate a strong work ethic by showing up every day on time and doing your best — be mindful of your body language.

Be sincere, humble and empathetic. Remain thoughtful of the values of your organization as well as the individual values and beliefs of your colleagues.

Be patient and open to all opportunities. Never turn down a job or extra responsibilities; take the job no one else wants. Be motivated by challenges rather than promotions. Your career will be long, so take the time to try to solve the hard-to-fix problems in your organization. People will notice and the rewards will follow. 

Stay involved in your community and industry. Having personal connections and trusted relationships with other industry leaders will pay dividends throughout your career.

Keep things simple and measurable. When making decisions, use data and listen to as many different points of view as possible.

Be curious and avoid how "we have always done it."

Never forget the importance of laughter and not taking yourself too seriously.

Rod Hochman, MD. President and CEO of Providence (Renton, Wash.). Worry about the things that matter and get through the rest. You only get one chance to be a father and husband. Enjoy it and savor that time.

Chris Van Gorder. President and CEO of Scripps Health (San Diego). First, I'd tell myself that the lessons mom and dad taught will last a lifetime — that nobody owes you a job, so it needs to be earned every day; to never steal from the hand that feeds you (meaning time, energy, dedication, loyalty, a positive attitude, etc.); and that education is a gift and to use it well. I'd also tell my younger self to surround myself with smarter people and to take care of them and cherish the opportunity to work with them every day — and to start my interactions with colleagues from a position of trust and loyalty. I'd tell myself that a lifetime of learning is required for success and even enjoyment, as education builds a necessary foundation, but experience is necessary for success — so be patient, learn, gain experience. I'd tell myself that one of the key things in life is giving back by being a teacher, because teachers are learners and leaders. 

Second, I'd tell myself that success in life is a combination of dedication, loyalty, determination, competing ethically, working hard, learning, teaching and effort — but success is not guaranteed. In many ways, success comes from a combination of all those things, plus luck.  So never give up — sometimes you will have to wait until all the pieces come together — but never give up. 

And finally, I'd tell myself that while you are doing all those things for career, don't lose yourself along the way. Never forget that the greatest gifts are faith, family, friends and yourself. It's far too easy to lose sight of what's important in life when focused too narrowly on careers and professional or financial success. Find the balance — whatever that is for you.

Lastly, enjoy life. What a wonderful gift it is. Look around, take it all in. You don't get to pass this way again.

Elizabeth Wako, MD. Chief Executive for Central Puget Sound at Providence Swedish (Renton, Wash.). First, there's no such thing as too much education. Every bit of knowledge you gain is useful and helps you be better. Get that degree. Take that course. You won't regret education earned on your personal and professional journeys.

Second, a good five-year plan is key. Try not to get out much further than that, or you'll miss amazing paths and opportunities you may not have envisioned.

Third, be decisive and commit early — a missed opportunity is forever missed.

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