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Building HHC's "Bench Strength" Through Leadership Training

During the third full day of HHC leadership training, Christopher Russo, Pharmacy Director at Kings County Hospital Center, joined in a role-playing exercise where he had to make some decisions to resolve a fictional crisis scenario.

"That was the easy part. After all, a big part of my job is to solve problems all day long," said Russo, who supervises 100 employees and oversees an operation that manages $15 million in pharmaceuticals annually.

But after all the participants made their individual choices, they were asked to come together and consider the same scenario again. And this time, they had to make the decisions together, as a team.

That's when the test of leadership began.

"The exercise really forced us to negotiate, to be open to having others affect our own thinking, and solve a problem quickly while maximizing the synergy of the team," Russo said.

That lesson is exactly the intended goal of the new leadership training program for high performing middle managers at HHC that features a series of courses, coaching and projects to cultivate and develop talent.

Designed around a mix of facilitated discussions, case studies, self-evaluations and role-playing exercises, the program aims to equip selected staff with the leadership and business skills required to more effectively contribute and lead in their areas of responsibility.

"I went to school to learn how to be a pharmacist, not a good communicator, or a good negotiator, or even a good manager. Those skills we've had to pick up along the way and just hope we get it right," said Russo. "Now that I have the opportunity to strengthen these skills, I can focus on being the kind of leader I would want to follow."

According to the Advisory Board Company, selecting and developing future leaders is critical. Yet most organizations apply little or no rigor to identifying and grooming their top players. Without a leadership training program like the one HHC has developed, organizations can suffer a gap in succession planning and miss the opportunity to align the people strategy with the business strategy and its long-term success.

"Great performance and great organizations are built on great talent, and we cannot leave the development of future leaders to chance." said HHC President Alan D. Aviles. "This is one of the most important investments we can make to build organizational bench strength and prepare the next generation of managers to lead with confidence in order to survive and thrive in this changing healthcare landscape."

The 12-month leadership training program requires five full-day sessions where participants and their assigned coaches explore topics of healthcare management, accountability, effective teamwork and impact through influence.

In between the sessions, the 113 participants, who represent clinical and administrative specialists from every HHC facility, Central Office, Family Courts, and HHC Health & Home Care, must apply the learning to develop and complete a project relevant to the HHC hospital, health center or agency where they work.

"Our goal is to equip participants with the skills, confidence and motivation to be more effective leaders all while tapping into their ideas and energy to drive innovation and change," said Caroline Jacobs, HHC Senior Vice President of Safety and Human Development. "As leaders, we have to do this many times a day."

The leadership training program is part of a more comprehensive workforce development initiative led by Jacobs that will extend learning opportunities to staff at all levels, and aims to empower employees to achieve their full potential while furthering HHC's core mission and advancing major organizational priorities.

Russo says he and all the participants felt honored and extremely thankful to have been selected for the training program.

"It's a big deal to know HHC is willing to invest in our future career in the organization. I've learned so much that I can apply now in my current job," said Russo. "And I'm confident the training has better prepared us to take on bigger challenges and leadership roles when they present themselves."


March 2013

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