(L-R: Mike Butler, Carladenise Edwards, Joel Gilbertson, Debra Canales)
How do you respond to change? Does it excite or make you a bundle of nerves? Providence St. Joseph Health (PSJH) executives candidly shared their best strategies for leading and thriving in changing times, addressing the health system’s newly formed group for female leaders at the headquarters office.
There are many key takeaways from this up-close and personal panel discussion, including:
1. Understand what you can control and what you can’t. This philosophy is especially relevant to work in health care, where legislative, social, and even scientific factors can alter the landscape almost overnight.
“Stay grounded in the True North things,” advised Joe Gilbertson, PSJH senior vice president of community partnerships and external affairs. “Be mindful of your calling and what you want to accomplish.” Gilbertson added that problems occur when we make assumptions during changing times and anticipate a worst-case scenario while trying to piece together incomplete bits of information. “Don’t connect dots that don’t need to be connected,” he said.
2. Stay focused on fulfilling your greater purpose. Echoing Gilbertson, Carladenise Edwards, PSJH executive vice president of strategy, advised to stay focused, even when your tendency is to stress out. “My dad would say to me, ‘Carladenise you are always worried about the wrong things,’” she recalled. “It’s about perspective. Think about change in the context of how you can adapt and keep fulfilling your purpose,” she said.
For Edwards, small reminders to herself keep her on an even keel. On doubtful days, she’ll write herself notes like, “I’m fulfilling God’s purpose by___.” She’ll fill in the blank and stick the notes to her desk and computer, so she can stay focused and ensure meaning for each day’s activities.
3. Balance work and life in a way that works for you. All the panelists advised to keep the right balance of work and personal life. For some, like Gilbertson, it means turning off the phone and enjoying family get-aways. For Edwards, it’s integrating work and family successfully. She recalls her decision to bring her children along to a commercial filming with a former employer: “The kids loved it. I believe it’s important they don’t dread the concept of work, so I let them see that I love what I do.” She hopes that this small example of blending work with family life will result in a significant life lesson for her children. “Work is what we get to do to contribute to the world, and when we find something meaningful, we’re lucky that someone will pay us for it.”
4. Care about what’s beyond the job. Adding to the conversation, Mike Butler, PSJH president of operations, underscored the importance of unwinding with stress-reducing, meaning-giving activities outside of work. As a snowboard enthusiast and fan of live music, he explains that “People need hobbies. It actually makes us more pleasant to work with on-the-job.” Butler also advocated for taking up a personal cause that benefits the greater good, such as his involvement in fighting homelessness in the communities PSJH serves. All are important, he said, for putting work challenges into perspective and keeping your inner fire from burning out.
5. Support each other. Debra Canales, PSJH executive vice president and chief administrative officer, who sponsors the women’s group, said that having executives speak candidly about their own methods of dealing with organizational change helps current and future leaders better understand how to manage their teams and confidently take advantage of new opportunities. Additionally, the focus on self-care is a powerful preventive tool against burn out, which can happen at any level of the organization. “We encourage learning from each other’s mistakes and creating a sanctuary where we can share our lives’ experiences,” she said.
This conversation was organized by PSJH’s Women’s Caregiver Resource Group, which was formed by Canales and her colleagues to support gender equity through career guidance and training; networking and other events; and partnering with human resources to ensure equitable practices. Led by volunteers, WCG membership is open to all PSJH caregivers. Events like the one on managing organizational change are examples of programs scheduled throughout the year.
PSJH, which recently brought on board the health system’s first director of diversity and inclusion, was honored in 2018 by Forbes as America’s Best Employers for Women and America's Best Employers for Diversity. Modern Healthcare magazine also recognized the health system for having a solidly female leadership senior leadership team, and Debra Canales was named one of the 2019 Top 25 Women Leaders.
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