Written by Lauren Beard, Triage Consulting Group
On Thursday, January 17th, 2019, Philadelphians braved frigid temperatures and city traffic for the 2019 HFMA Professional Development seminar that took place at the KPMG offices on Market Street. And boy were they glad they did. Held by the Metro Philadelphia chapter of HFMA, this seminar focused on multiple aspects of leadership development in the healthcare space and beyond. After Guy Hoffman (Chapter President and AVP of Finance at Einstein Healthcare) delivered his opening remarks, the day was kicked off by none other than Kevin Brennan, considered to be a mover and shaker by many in the industry for his innovation in financial leadership. Across his storied career in healthcare, Brennan is applauded for his impact as the
longest-serving CFO in Geisinger Health System’s history, as well as the value he has brought and still brings to HFMA both locally and nationally since joining the organization a mere 38 years ago. Now a Principal at SunStone Consulting, Kevin shared anecdotes and lessons learned along the way throughout his illustrious career.
Imagine how hard Brennan must have been to follow… but Lirui Li sure was equally as impressive. Now serving as the Regional VP of Oak Street Health, Li parsed out the building blocks of networking and reminded us that the richness of close relationships is created by intentional steps during those initial “small talk” conversations with others. Li explored how differences in personality and self-identification as an introvert vs. extrovert should be taken into consideration when determining how to communicate most effectively with a friend, colleague, or new networking contact. Li’s advice translated across professional and personal relationships, and she also provided suggestions for follow up to help sustain new networking relationships long term.
The day continued its course of meaningful content through the Diversity and Leadership panel which held an incredible potpourri of leaders that have used their challenges in the face of diversity for good- striving to educate, inspire, and motivate those around them to instill a positive change in perspective and acceptance. Danielle Pagliaccetti, co-chair of the Professional Development Seminar and Finance Partner at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, took the reins of moderating this session with thought-provoking questions aimed at uncovering both the true meaning of diversity and insight surrounding diversity groups/conversations at work to raise awareness.
Debra Belott (Partner, Jones Day), Dana Beckton (Director of Diversity & Inclusion, Christiana Care), and Al Fuchs (Manager, KPMG) imparted their wisdom on us lucky folks in the audience through many different examples and pieces of advice. The panelists expressed the importance of working within the current culture to build out diversity groups or committees in the office. We also delved into the impact of intersectionality (how interconnected systems of power affect those most marginalized in society) and the significance of educating both those directly affected in addition to their colleagues and peers.
The panelists then discussed hard workplace conversations related to diversity and the crucial aspect of self-awareness as it relates to unconscious bias: evaluating actual knowledge, research done, and previous exposure to an issue helps all parties reach a common ground on the basis of empathy and sincerity. Another great point was made around the idea that we shouldn’t opt out of hard conversations just because they’re uncomfortable. On the contrary, leaning in to this dialogue within the workplace has the unique opportunity to build trust and leads us toward meaningful change, as Brené Brown also illustrates in her book Dare To Lead. After all, isn’t it outside our comfort zones that we grow the most personally and professionally?
This session couldn’t have transitioned more perfectly into Kristin Korn’s presentation on Managing Difficult Conversations. As an Associate Director working in KPMG’s HR department, Korn articulated many tactful methods of delivering all types of feedback in ways that empower and motivate employees. She stressed the importance of continuous coaching, personalized praise, diplomatic communication, and using specific examples to contextualize and normalize feedback to become more relatable. Her insight was so relevant that I noticed the majority of the room scribbling notes in anticipation of employee evaluations that appear on many January to-do lists. Another impactful takeaway from Korn’s presentation was the reminder that feedback touch-points are also opportunities to share experiences and further develop relationships with employees, which fosters trust and support among teams.
Moving into the noon hour, all new-year diets were likely broken as seminar attendees put Li’s networking advice to good use over a lively lunch discussing the morning’s inspirational content while debating whether or not to go back for seconds (the amount of sandwich varietals was another personal highlight). Conference calories don’t count, right?
Kicking off the afternoon portion of the Professional Development seminar was Jack Hoban, the Chief Development Officer at ARMC Recovery, who delivered an engaging presentation on Ethics & Leadership. In a world where the general public feels a lack of trust for businesses across most industries, Hoban touched on his involvement and time spent in the most trusted sector: the U.S. Military, and more specifically the Marines. In addition to relating experiences in the Marines to decision making that comes with any leadership role, he also broke down the difference between moral values and ethics. Although these terms are part of our daily vernacular, we rarely take the time to dig into the true meaning of moral values (valuing our own lives/those we love matching the value we place on others) and ethics (moral values that we act on).
Hoban encouraged us to “lead by pulling from the front” and in the face of a challenging work relationship, recognize the relative value of behaviors being separate from the absolute value of individual lives. Leading with this lens keeps emotions of frustration in check and allows us to provide training and development to those that need it most to succeed. As a final nugget of wisdom, Hoban framed our role as protectors in society/our homes around creating a safer environment for everyone. His homework assig
nment for the audience was to ask the question “is everyone on the road safer because of me?” every time we get in the car (which now haunts me when I’m tempted to slow down further while being tailgated going 10 mph over the speed limit). When I remember to value the life of the impatient driver behind me over his or her behavior, I smile at the effectiveness of channeling Jack Hoban’s message into everyday interactions with others… including road rage scenarios.
We then took a technical turn as Jonathan Arthur, Director at PwC, dove into a session on Leadership Perspectives from a Digital Journey. His insight into the digital upskilling initiative of his own organization was a motivating plug describing the digital age’s ability to transform daily business processes like problem solving, creating unique experiences for users (both internal and external), and accelerating business performance. Arthur emphasized the most differentiating aspect of a business’s offering is and has always been, the person to person engagement and relationship building. He stressed that capitalizing on this opportunity to expand business to client interaction through digital tools and touch points will be a necessity for any company to thrive in the digital age (which is now characterized by so much more than measuring Twitter followers and their feedback).
Rather than moving into an afternoon slump around 2:30 (which usually triggers unintentional fluttering of heavy eyelids) the conference attendees were taken through mindfulness meditation exercises that created purpose and clarity behind intentional closing of eyelids. School Counselor at Springfield Township, Elizabeth Silow, explained how taking simple steps to be mindful in the office can translate to a more compassionate and productive workforce. Silow defined mindfulness as “accepting things around you as they are without trying to change them” and took her audience through exercises to practice mindfulness, such as diaphragmatic breaths and focusing on a single thing at a time. She suggested setting alarms throughout the day to take deep breaths or get some fresh air, and reminded us all that a break from the grind makes for higher productivity when getting back into the grind.
Feeling rejuvenated and alert, conference attendees transferred their attention to the last session of the day- a panel-style President Series led by Jeremiah Lewis, co-chair of the Professional Development Seminar and Manager at KPMG Lighthouse. Past chapter president and Director of Government Reimbursement at the University of Pennsylvania Health System, Mike Rossi shared some valuable insight on what it means to drive your HFMA chapter toward success in the president position, and the personal experiences that put him on the path to getting there. Sparking Rossi’s interest in healthcare was his exposure to Medicare cost reports (true story) early on in his career as an auditor. From there, the challenging and dynamic nature of the industry kept Rossi engaged and prompted him to attend HFMA annual reimbursement seminars, before joining the committee for that event and ultimately, the board. What positioned Mike for the HFMA chapter president position was not his knowledge of the single healthcare facet in which he worked, but his curiously surrounding other facets he had less exposure to. On his constant quest to learn, Rossi attended conferences, read/shared articles, and tested leadership skills all outside his areas of expertise; this helped create his well-rounded healthcare knowledge base and leadership ability, making his connections with other members of HFMA more natural and deeply rooted. One of Rossi’s most influential fingerprints on the Philadelphia chapter was the mentorship program he spearheaded, which continues to make a significant impact on the lives and careers of current mentors and mentees in the program today.
As the conference came to a close and folks from the audience gathered for a Guinness at Tir Na Nog (and mentally prepared for the commute home), we all walked a bit lighter and more confidently, armed with the impactful insight and tools from the day’s sessions, that will help further shape how we lead- our teams at work, our families, and most importantly, ourselves.