This past weekend I attended a memorial service for one of the greatest leaders I’ve ever had the privilege of working with. He was one of my first bosses. John hired me one year out of college for my first Director-level position for a hospital in Southern Oregon. I had exactly one year of hospital experience and three years of HR experience at the time. He saw potential in me. He hired me with knowledge that we would be merging with another hospital in the same town and I knew I would be reporting to the other HR person when that happened and would no longer be the director.
John got the CEO job over the merged hospitals and he was no longer my direct boss. Not much time went by before he quickly saw that the other person was not right for that job. Shortly thereafter, she was gone and he promoted me. Again, another vote of confidence in me that far outweighed any level of confidence I had in my own capabilities at that time.
Here I was, a mere two years out of college, 26 years old and now the Director of Human Resources for a 600+ employee hospital organization that was going through a merger of two competing hospitals in a small town in Southern Oregon. Who gets opportunities like that? He gave me a shot that few people get and I sure worked my tail off showing him I could do the job that he already knew I could do. I will be forever grateful to him for giving me that chance. Together, with the rest of leadership team, we went through four of the toughest years one can go through professionally, but we did it together as a team…and he led us through it with grace.
Leading through a merger is stressful and character building, to say the least. I learned so much from John through those years about effective leadership. He handled it with such strength, positivity and a sense of calm. We had to reduce staff and costs, address significant wage and benefit inequities, physical campus disparities, and a name change. He approached all of these things in the most humane way possible. Perhaps the greatest stressor of all was the decision to buy property on the other side of town across the river for the future site of a new hospital, which was met with a huge community and physician partner uproar. John met every one of those challenges with patience, kindness and compassion. He kept us focused and he acknowledged the difficulties and sense of loss that many were feeling as they adjusted to the many, many changes that they were facing.
Laurie is an experienced Human Resources executive who is passionate about organizational culture, creating great workplaces and employee engagement.