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Dome - The future’s looking bright

April 2011

The future’s looking bright

Date: April 6, 2011

New program grooms next generation of leaders at Johns Hopkins Bayview

(L) Karen Armacost, director of Johns Hopkins Bayview ElderPlus, and Freddie Jenkins, patient care manager of the clinical research unit.
(L) Karen Armacost, director of Johns Hopkins Bayview ElderPlus, and Freddie Jenkins, patient care manager of the clinical research unit.

Mark Miley, manager of noninvasive cardiology at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, has always been successful as a “fixer.” When he sees a problem, he wants to solve it immediately, but sometimes finds it challenging to delegate responsibilities to prevent being stretched too thin. 

So when Miley’s colleague, Carol Sylvester, senior director of care management, shared her own personal struggle with “letting go” and accepting that it’s impossible for one person to do it all, Miley felt validated. “It was nice to know that other leaders have felt this way,” he says. “It was a connection point for Carol and me.”

This is exactly the kind of outcome Bayview’s new leadership mentoring program is hoping for. The program was created to arm managers with tools to succeed in leadership positions within the institution and to be recognized as potential candidates for Johns Hopkins Medicine’s competitive Leadership Development Program. Managers like Miley are paired with medical center leaders like Sylvester for a year of personal growth and professional development. During their monthly meetings, Miley and Sylvester have explored a variety of topics, including the art of not always rushing in to fix things. The bond they’ve formed also has helped them work effectively together on medical center initiatives, such as an effort to reduce the number of readmissions among patients with congestive heart failure.

Janet Harding, Bayview’s coordinator of diversity and inclusion programs, sees the  leadership development program as an opportunity to increase the number of underrepresented minorities in leadership positions. Organizers believe the program, still in its inaugural year, will prepare managers, including women and minorities, for leadership positions within Hopkins Medicine. This will create movement within the organization and open up positions for new managers. “We want star performers who are eager and determined to move ahead,” says Harding.

Performers like nurse Freddie Jenkins, patient care manager of Bayview’s Clinical Research Unit. She and her program mentor, Karen Armacost, director of Hopkins ElderPlus, have found that a shared reading list is a great way to gain new perspective on challenges. Jenkins and Armacost both read Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard, by Chip and Dave Heath. “It talks about looking for the ‘bright spots,’ or positives, in any situation,” says Armacost. “There is a tendency when you talk about challenges to focus on the negative. This book shifts that focus.” Together, she and Jenkins found the bright spots in difficult situations that Jenkins was encountering at work.

“Our relationship is comfortable,” says Jenkins. “Karen has been extremely open and honest, and she made me feel that I could be open and honest as well.” It’s a relaxed rapport that’s evident from the moment you see the pair, and it’s no accident. The program's  mentees and mentors go through a carefully orchestrated pairing process reminiscent of the speed-dating exercises you might find at a singles’ mixer.

Staff are accepted into the program based on applications that include their biographical information, past performance behavior, resume, goals, and an assessment of personal strengths and weaknesses. All managers who have been at Bayview for at least one year are eligible to apply. This year, a cohort of nine mentees was selected to participate.

Mentors, who are current administrators, directors or vice presidents, also undergo a careful application process. Once both groups are chosen, each person who’s seeking improvement meets with each leader for five minutes of getting-to-know-you time. The would-be students then give organizers a list of the leaders they best connected with.

Once they are paired up, mentees take a good look in the mirror, courtesy of a 360-degree leadership assessment that helps each person identify his or her strengths and weaknesses. Mentors then help them to come up with a personal plan, and they meet regularly to discuss progress and challenges.

By the time they graduate from the program this April, the inaugural leadership development  class also will have the insight from three supplemental education days focused on service excellence, compliance, and diversity and inclusion. It’s a crash course in the “big picture” issues that Johns Hopkins leaders face every day. “This will ensure that we can meet the demands of a rapidly changing health care environment, overcome challenges and become more intuitive by incorporating new perspectives,” says Craig Brodian, vice president of human resources, who sits on the leadership program's oversight committee.

The initial feedback for the program has been extremely positive, and the next class is being formed. Organizers believe it’s a model that would work well at other Johns Hopkins entities, which could benefit from the groundwork they’ve laid out at the medical center. “The program fosters engagement in managers, which we believe is necessary for staff engagement,” says Anita Langford, vice president of care management services, who sits on the initiative’s oversight committee and also serves as a mentor.

It’s a trickle down—and up—effect that benefits Johns Hopkins Bayview staff at all levels. Even mentors like Sylvester, who has been at Johns Hopkins for 30 years, and Armacost, who has worked at Johns Hopkins Bayview for 22, say they’ve learned a lot from the dialogue with their mentees. “It’s what we do at Hopkins,” says Sylvester. “We teach.”

—Sara Baker