Another Fantastic Fall Forum

The following is a post from WHCM board member Rachel Labas.

This year WHCM members were treated to a well-moderated (Thanks board member Wendy Weitzner!) “fireside chat” style interview with Ellen Zane, former President and CEO of Tufts Medical Center and the Floating Hospital for Children. She was the first woman to run the hospital in its 215-year history. Interesting female leaders with strong conviction and great advice are a common theme for these Forums, and I make an effort to never miss one. I am guaranteed to learn something, and on a social note, guaranteed to connect with other WHCM members I haven’t seen in a while, or meet new ones sitting at my table during dinner before the main event.

I’d seen Ellen speak before – she’s a guest lecturer in my grad school program at Suffolk University – but this time I found her more relatable as she honestly shared compelling stories about her leadership experience and success. She also shared opinions on the direction of the healthcare industry in Massachusetts, important for the approximately 100 healthcare leaders and future leaders in the room. Ideas around wellness and prevention, the role of health insurance and care coordination were discussed, as Ellen answered audience questions for the last half of the program. Ellen credits part of her success to “hiring people smarter than you – be honest with yourself – what do you do well, and not so well?” I thought this was a wise statement and mark of a true leader. You’ll never be an expert at everything, surrounding yourself with those who can supplement your skills seems like an important key to success.

As a woman, Ellen did not want to change who she was, but her road to success was paved by being an “approachable woman.” Ellen walked that line of approachability and respect while in all her leadership roles, especially when arriving at a struggling Tufts Medical Center. Lastly, she pointed out differences between the non-profit and for-profit worlds; a perspective she sees even more clearly now as a member of several corporate boards. She’s found CEOs at for-profits know when to say “stop” to the input. That CEO takes input, but makes the decisions. Consensus is good, but often paralysis occurs in non-profit healthcare, struggling for buy-in from all parties, and this slows down progress and success of those organizations.

I’m looking forward to the next WHCM event. If you were at the fall forum, what did you think? Did you pick up on other relevant advice?