Building a Leadership Pipeline

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Curt-BushBy Curtis R. Bush, CRA, FACHE, MBA

Jack Welch said, “When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.” When I first arrived at Baylor University Medical Center, I was overwhelmed but up to the challenge. I was coming from a 75 bed community hospital to a 1,097 bed Level 1 Trauma Center with a department of 200 employees. I had a lot to learn, but I was confident about one thing: I was good at growing people and building leaders. This was a result of being well grown myself by some important and influential leaders along the way. In almost all of my previous positions, I was able to leave with a successor in place.

Ashley was a rising star, and many people within the department knew it, including me. She began her radiology career in the film library, graduated technologist school, and continued to move up. A forward thinker, Ashley had already enrolled in a MHA program because she knew she wanted to advance in her career. She had just cross-trained into CT and was already taking a leading role. She would come to me on occasion to ask about how she could improve some workflow, or ask questions about policies or financial/productivity reports.  She was asking all the right questions, and it was easy to see that she wanted to learn and grow.

After a few months, a supervisor position opened up at one of our outpatient centers, and she applied and got it. Over the course of that year, she was able to maintain good communication with me and made several improvements with the staff and processes in her center. Then, a couple of things happened at about the same time: we were in the process of creating a joint venture that would spin off our outpatient centers, and I had a CT supervisor position opening up in my department. I was able to convince Ashley that it would be better for her career development to return to the hospital and continue to grow.

The only issue with Ashley’s rapid acceleration up the career ladder was the lack of “learning opportunities” (ie, opportunities to make mistakes) that most leaders are afforded. Without those experiences, it was difficult to identify areas of improvement for more focused growth and development for her. It was at that point that I intentionally put Ashley in positions to make some more difficult decisions that were not necessarily related to her scope of responsibility, which included making some interdepartmental decisions. In her role, she didn’t have much opportunity to work with physicians and develop relationships with them, or with other leaders outside of radiology. For some interdepartmental decisions I put her in charge of, she thought she was doing the right thing for the patient and facility, but she did not include all stakeholders and had to back track on her decision. All of this was intentional, and a great learning opportunity.

After she had been in her CT supervisor role for close to one year, I had an open interventional radiology manager position. I thought that this would be a great opportunity for her and would get her out of her comfort zone. She accepted that challenge right away and began to make an impact on a very tumultuous department, with challenges including physician behavior issues that were causing an increase in turnover, turnaround time issues, and differing levels of expectation between the staff and leadership. We were able to work through all of the issues, and while it was not easy (and in some cases rather painful), she  gained the confidence of the staff and physicians. It took over nine months for us to rebuild the team to a culture of respect and accountability, all while improving our capacity to get patients imaged safer and faster.

Over the past two years, she has made many improvements in CT and IR.  There are still growth opportunities for Ashley; in fact, in two weeks, she will be the director of a community hospital within our system after only four years of being in a leadership position. While I hate to lose a great leader, I am proud that she has grown and learned so much while we had the opportunity to work together.

A few things that I look for in potential leaders are initiative – staff members who accept a situation and identify solutions rather than only recognizing the problem. After implementing our daily huddles a couple years ago, it has been much easier to identify innovators in the department as well as those seeking growth. I give every employee the opportunity to meet with me and their immediate leader to talk about “what they want to be when they grow up” by creating an individual development plan for them with projects and timelines for completion.  A key trait of any leader is great communication skills, so I always look for those employees who are great at communicating with their peers, as well as with leaders in and out of radiology.

As I work to identify future leaders that have the knowledge, skills, and abilities to be successful, the most important trait that I look for is their passion for wanting to be great, and what drives them. I have two other managers that I anticipate will move to open director positions soon, and I’m working on keeping that pipeline going!


Curtis R. Bush, CRA, FACHE, MBA is the director of imaging services at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas, TX. He can be reached at Curtis.Bush@BSWHealth.org.

One comment

  1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on succession planning and developing future leaders. LOVE the support you clearly have and shared with and about Ashley.

    Great takeaways from your comments — look for people with initiative — look for rising stars and support them — don’t be afraid to give people a chance and see what they can do — they may surprise you!

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