CEO influencers on welcoming new leaders into the fold

New leaders who join a hospital or health system not only navigate a new role, but also a new organizational culture. In today's challenging healthcare climate, culture — and smoothly integrating new leaders into it  —  is becoming even more crucial in terms of talent management and ensuring a robust workforce to ensure high-quality care. Integrating new leadership is too important to leave to chance. 

With this in mind, Becker's asked some of our recently honored CEO influencers: What is your top strategy to smoothly integrate new leaders into the organizational culture? Below are their responses, in alphabetical order.

Note: Responses have been lightly edited for concision and clarity. 

Bill Gassen. President and CEO of Sanford Health (Sioux Falls, S.D.): When new leaders join our organization, first and foremost, we focus on cultivating trust and making sure they know that their voice matters. We have built a culture of safety at Sanford Health that encourages everyone — from front-line providers to C-suite leaders — to speak up, raise their concerns and understand the positive impact of their actions and decisions on the lives of others. This builds resiliency and empowers leaders to contribute meaningfully.  

In recent years, we've also developed a new provider orientation and onboarding program. We know that the highest turnover rate is in the first couple of years of joining a practice. The reason why most clinicians leave is because either they don't feel integrated into the culture of the organization or do not adapt to the community where they live. We want Sanford to be a place where new clinicians come and the place where they retire. That means we need to support our clinicians inside and outside of their work. Clinicians are leaders by nature, and we encourage them to expand their leadership outside of the clinical setting. We have clinicians who have been elected to their local school boards, serve on boards of nonprofit community organizations and coach youth sports. A few years ago, we also launched Sanford RISES, which offers 25 of our rising stars every other year the opportunity to engage in a comprehensive three-year leadership and development program.  

Integrating new leaders into our organizational culture is a key part of our broader, comprehensive strategy to create a more sustainable workforce of the future in the upper rural Midwest. 

Robert Sehring. CEO of OSF HealthCare (Peoria, Ill.): At OSF HealthCare we have a robust leadership development program in place because we know how important it is. Culture is at the core of our healthcare ministry and our Sisters' mission. We integrate new leaders into the OSF culture immediately through our year-long new leadership orientation, which focuses heavily on our mission. We have a full day Lead by Mission program, which covers Catholic healthcare and is focused on ethics, discernment and servant leadership principles. After the initial session, new leaders meet in cohort groups to continue the work.

OSF is also heavily invested in ministry development, which is a leaders retreat with the Sisters, founded by Sister Judith Ann, OSF, several decades ago. Leaders attend an annual renewal session as well. Additionally, there is a higher-level Ministry Leadership Formation Program that leaders can choose to participate in. These programs build long-term relationships between leaders from across the ministry and contribute to our succession planning programs, which help us identify and prepare leaders for greater levels of responsibility.

Terry Shaw. President and CEO of AdventHealth (Altamonte Springs, Fla.): Our organization thrives when leaders are aligned in how we live out our culture as one team. Culture is what translates our mission from words on a page into momentum.

When new leaders join our team, they are integrated into a flow of support, training and resources that equips them with tools to lead effectively.

It starts with the Whole Care Experience, an interactive four-hour immersion into our cultural framework and service standards that ensures our new leaders and team members understand how we deliver an exceptional experience for every person, every time. 

Our leaders also benefit from our Leadership Institute, where a suite of custom curricula, workshops, coaching and more help hone our leaders' skills centered around the principles of "lead self, lead others, lead results." This includes our Executive Leadership Program, an 18-month experience where cohorts of emerging leaders focus on six leadership cornerstones that have proven effective in healthcare management.​​​​​​​ This program includes personalized assessments, case study reviews, research presentations, discussion, coaching and mentoring. ​​​​​​​

Michael Slubowski. President and CEO of Trinity Health (Livonia, Mich.): My answer is that you cannot rely on only one top strategy for smoothly integrating new leaders into an organizational culture.

The first and most important step is to hire right by selecting people who are best suited to thrive and be successful in the organization and its culture. That comes through a thorough interview and screening process. Candidates need to be aware of the vision, values, organizational integrity requirements and expected leadership behaviors that the organization stands for as you are considering them for the job. We also put finalists through a set of assessment tools to gain insight on their job fit, leadership competencies, critical thinking and personal values.

The second critical component is to make sure the candidate understands their role and the reality that most effective organizations today are matrixed, where leading by influence is more important than leading by control. There can be no misunderstanding of how the organization and its leaders operate as a team.

Effective onboarding is essential and includes extensive discussions and meetings with leaders across the organization, providing a leadership mentor to support the new leader on their initial journey, and providing the systems and tools needed to effectively hit the ground running.

We conduct leadership advances (not retreats) early on to get to know new leaders. We share check-ins by other leaders to develop relationships and deeply assess how well the leadership team works together through self-assessment and 360 feedback. We also look at how the organization creates clarity on mission, vision, values, strategies, priorities and performance expectations for leaders and employees, and how that clarity is cemented into human systems through recognition, rewards and more.

Finally, we engage in action learning, where we get the new leader engaged with key teams that are working on important strategies and projects. Nothing replaces seeing the culture in action.

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