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Mark A. Wallace Headshot

What Keeps the CEO of the Nation's Largest Pediatric Hospital up at Night?

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There is a quote from Peter Drucker that has always resonated with me and, in my view, is quite fitting to this discussion: "The best way to predict the future is to create it." Taking that to heart, I believe that as a leader you can't successfully plan for the future in a quarterly or even monthly meeting. Rather, it is task you must think about each and every day.

A lot of CEOs in health care worry constantly about changing reimbursement models or the impact of new health care laws on the future. While there's no disputing that these have a great potential to influence the way we provide care to patients, it's not what occupies my thoughts.

I wouldn't say that I lose sleep over anything in particular, mostly because I don't sleep much to begin with. I'm usually up by four in the morning and in the peaceful serenity this time of day offers, I do find myself thinking a lot about who Texas Children's is as an organization; where we've been, where we're going and how we can get there.

More than anything else, it is the employees -- the people who are the face of Texas Children's Hospital -- who I think about. Is Texas Children's providing an environment and culture of support? Am I helping to nurture our employees' growth by providing them the tools and opportunities they need to carry out their ideas and visions to the greatest extent of their capabilities and talents?

Great organizations, responsible organizations, invest in their people by developing and maintaining a robust infrastructure of programs and benefits that meet the personal and professional needs of employees, enabling them to thrive. The three key elements of that infrastructure we emphasize at Texas Children's promote financial well-being -- including pension plans, competitive wages, benefits and incentives, and transportation subsidies; physical well-being -- comprehensive employee health and wellness programs, including Employee Assistance Programs, financial assistance programs, onsite medical clinic, etc.; and career well-being -- learning and development opportunities and reward and recognition programs, among others.

Over the years it has truly been the employees who have propelled Texas Children's from one level to the next. As a leader, if you foster a culture centered on your employees, you will truly be amazed at the extraordinary effort they put forth. As we've grown, in dramatic fashion, from an organization of about 1,000 employees to now more than 9,000 employees and 1,500 physicians, I have focused on ensuring that we never leave anyone behind.

In my experience, I've found that placing a great emphasis on selecting the right talent and investing in employees, helping them develop and hone their skills, ensuring they are happy and engaged, leads to amazing results. At Texas Children's I've seen this first-hand in the phenomenal loyalty our employees have, not to the organization itself, but our mission. This is really the ultimate goal. When you have something special that your employees can rally behind; when you can see the inherent passion employees have for the mission, you need to care for and cultivate it.

For example, at Texas Children's we have a robust Learning Academy site which provides resources to support the development of our employees and teams. Through the academy, employees and leaders alike have access to resources and courses to help aid their professional development. From learning to hold people accountable, mastering face-to-face performance discussions, motivating without using power, to exploring the foundation of emotional intelligence, we have teams dedicated to fostering the development of our entire workforce.

Additionally, we have a number of succession planning initiatives, including our rising leader program, transitional leader program and a new transformational nurse leader program which all focus on identifying and fostering future leaders. These programs demonstrate our commitment to improving outcomes as a result of investing in the best and brightest leaders.

There will always be predictions about the future of our industry; forecasters predicting the imminent doom and gloom, but I've never been caught up in this. As leaders, we should be optimistic about the future instead of losing time fretting about what could be. If we attract talent, build our leaders, invest in employees, demonstrate the dignity and respect they deserve, regardless of external changes and regardless of predictions, you'll find your organization not only survives, but thrives.