How Nicklaus Children's CEO recruits talent, harnesses finance experience

Matthew Love accepted the permanent role of president and CEO of Miami-based Nicklaus Children's Health System in January 2020, shortly before the COVID-19 pandemic began — but he said his focus never wavered.

"My leadership style really hasn't changed throughout the pandemic," Mr. Love told Becker's. "It really is focusing on the kids and the mission that we do."

While staying locked in on the health system's mission, Mr. Love has tapped into his fiscal acumen — drawing on his experience as CFO of Nicklaus Children's and CFO at Cincinnati-based Mercy Health — to ensure the organization remains financially viable.

Before becoming permanent CEO, Mr. Love was appointed interim president and CEO in July 2019 after joining Nicklaus Children's as CFO in October 2018. He also previously served as senior vice president and CFO of seven regions for Mercy Health.

As he continues taking on the challenges of navigating an organization through a pandemic, he shared with Becker's his recruitment strategy, discussed pediatric mental health and provided advice for his peers.

Editor's note: Responses were lightly edited for length and clarity.

Question: What has your leadership style been like during the pandemic? 

Matthew Love: My leadership style really hasn't changed throughout the pandemic. It really is focusing on the kids and the mission that we do, really being collaborative in trying to push the agenda around pediatric healthcare. During the pandemic, it got exasperated by a lot of the different external forces, but I also believe we have to focus on the things we do well and keep pushing those through day in and day out.

Q: How does your previous CFO experience inform your leadership as CEO? 

ML: To be successful as a CEO, you have to understand the organization inside out, top to bottom, from corner to corner. Coming up through the CFO ranks allowed me to get a handle around the numbers as well as the operations, tie the operations back to the numbers. In my mind, it's important to understand the numbers that help drive performance and operations. Conversely, the opposite is true. When you understand operations and can influence the numbers, that's a win-win for everybody. So, connecting those two things together as CFO really has helped me perform well as CEO and much more quickly, I think, than if I did not have a finance background. 

Q: What is your strategy for recruiting employees and managers?

ML: Leadership in organizations, specifically pediatric organizations, is key. We're fortunate, honored to be able to lead great people in this organization. So being able to do that at the executive level, the management level, the mid-management level is important. This is about hiring the right people, with the right attitude, with the right energy as well as a skillset and talent. More importantly for us, it's around, "How do I find folks who love what we do, who love our mission?" That's hard to teach. I can teach a lot of things on the skill set and the knowledge and the experience side, but being able to say how do we take care of kids, how do we take care of children and families — that is the most important thing I look at when I look at leaders in the organization from the top to the bottom. You have to be able to live and breathe our mission, which is taking care of kids.   

Q: What are your main goals as CEO for 2022?

ML: One is around workforce management, the second is growth and the third one is around access to pediatric healthcare. On workforce, it is around how do we hire the best talent? How do we recruit the best talent? How do we keep the best talent? Things around increasing the minimum wage, investing in compensation for everyone in the organization — those are some of the key things we've already done and will continue to do.  

On the growth side, it's got to be around, "How do we come out of this pandemic strong? How do we take control of our destiny in terms of really focusing on those key areas?" And for us, it's going to be doubling down on operations, operational excellence and then growing our cardiac, our ortho and our neuroscience programs. At the same time, making real commitments to behavioral health, specifically in the pediatric space. 

Lastly, it's around access to healthcare. How do we make sure everybody sees the clear and deliberate prioritization of access to healthcare across Florida, not only in south Florida but across the state? That's a big effort. It's going to take a village to move that dial, and I really believe Nicklaus can help push that forward in getting access to care for every kid who needs it. 

Q: If you could pass along a piece of advice to other hospital CEOs, what would it be? 

ML: Be true to the mission of the organization. Focus on doing the right things every day. For us, it's about putting patients and families first. That's a motto for us here, and it has served us well. Continuing to do the right thing all the time is what I would share with my colleagues.

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