Ray Williams with Springfield Clinic Healthcare Staff

Significant organizational change is not the work of lone operators, nor does it happen without context. Leaders who would launch transition or innovation as a single-minded passion only deliver failed aspirations. They need a mindset and a comprehensive concern for purpose and inclusion.

Springfield Clinic, a multi-specialty medical provider throughout downstate Illinois since 1939 has grown to 450 physicians and advanced practitioners with 2,400 employees serving a population of approximately one million patients throughout the central Illinois region in eighty medical specialties and sub-specialties. In the past year, they have reached the $1B mark in revenues, an all-time high in the history of the clinic.

That growth in market, financials, operations, physician partners, and patients was due to the healthcare leadership and collaborative efforts of its newest CEO, Ray Williams. Following an executive search, Springfield Clinic named one of the top healthcare leaders in the U.S., Ray Williams as its CEO in January of 2017. Ray would bring his decades of experience in healthcare, healthcare administration and operations, and multi-specialty environments.

Ray arrived knowing the complexity of operating as a multi-location and multi-specialty provider. He understood the often-volatile cultural differences among professionals and between them and the supporting staff. He understood how accelerating technology would force accelerated decision making. And, he felt the need to move the organization’s culture to a more customer-centric behavior to build “a community of caring.”

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The Five Behaviors of Healthcare Leaders to Create a Community of Caring

I have had the pleasure of serving as Ray’s senior advisor and executive coach for quite some time, and I have had the honor of deeply understanding his forward-thinking, visionary organizational priorities and healthcare leadership philosophies.

1. Servant Healthcare Leadership. Ray is a servant leader. Creating and fostering a success-driven, excellence in service-focused healthcare company is Ray’s passion. He knew any shift in culture, quality, and efficacy was fraught with trips and falls.  He was tasked with establishing and articulating goals for Springfield Clinic as well as bringing leadership, management, and rank and file into alignment. Coming into the C-suite, he sought to build trust with his Board of Directors.

Ray anticipated the size of the challenge in working with a Board made up of physicians, uber-smart professionals who are also difficult to corral. So, he turned to us as trusted advisers to add some strategic and organizational psychology depth to his work. 

2. Facilitate and Co-Design DOC (Designed Open Communication) Meetings. My in-person visits to the Springfield Clinic facilitated meetings co-designed by executives to assess needs and establish a model for meeting behavior. The behavior change sought the results of co-creation adding value to the concept of consensus. Instead of looking at situations from a conflict perspective, people came together to achieve one outcome related to the vision of the Clinic – a community of caring. People came together in an effort to design the perfect meeting. Creating their best desired state where they could live in a meeting utopia rather than meeting just for the sake of one person’s agenda.  An executive said about the DOC process, “Once we agreed on the ‘one thing,’ and began to design our agenda for our discussions; our priorities shifted to become a “we” rather than just ‘me.’”  Looking back from the continuing COVID-19 era, Ray noted, “We’re in a better place, and a stronger position, a place where trust is present, a place where we know better how to work together and talk together and meet challenges together. This has helped us deal with the COVID situation far more productively.” Springfield healthcare leadership came to strongly leverage results-based resources that helped resolve issues like supply chains, personal protective equipment, and more.  

3. Promoting an Inclusive Environment. We have learned all things are possible when you engage diverse inputs, create a psychologically safe environment, and empower an empathic and respectful emotionally connected culture. Our experience and research in organizational success repeatedly find innovative and competitive value in sharing.

4. Practicing the Co-Creation Process. Springfield Clinic has applied this value-added co-creation process repeatedly. The approach to co-creation optimizes collaboration by soliciting and integrating contributions from health practitioners, C-suite leaders, site and specialty managers, supply and logistics, and customer experiences. Needs, approaches, processes, tools, and methodologies are shared, measured, tested, applied, and improved.

Co-creation is a holistic behavior. It discovers the organic dynamic in an organization emphasizing the fluid and flexible instead of coercive policies and processes. It enables and empowers the agile and improvisational response to pain points, an approach that engages all participants.

5. Continuous Coaching and Input. Our coaching continues in-person and with at-distance coaching for recent recruits to C-suite. Understandably, they come to the C-level table with a laser focus on challenges and hurdles specific to their offices. That laser focus is unintentionally isolating and negatively disruptive.

Springfield Clinic has come to think differently and bigger, aligning their respective roles and goals with Springfield’s vision continuously. They find a new behavior that is more collaborative and emphasizes their talents to achieving and sustaining “a community of caring.”

The 5 Most Important Strategies of Healthcare Leaders to Create a Community of Caring

As one of the country’s top healthcare leaders, Ray Williams understands his task includes strengthening an organization with a vision, healthcare leadership, and culture that survives his tenure. His passion energizes Springfield Clinic’s “community of caring” with the power to sustain future scalability in a time of accelerating technology and shifting social expectations.

Here are five takeaways other businesses can learn from Springfield Clinic and Ray’s leadership decisions.

  1. Create financial independence by developing strong collaborations with local hospitals. Unless finances are in order, an enterprise spends most of its time juggling priorities without a central priority of providing service. 
  2. Become a larger financial, operational and leading entity in Springfield, IL. Elevating the stature of the clinic within its community created greater awareness. Hospitals were then more inclined to broaden their relationship with the clinic.
  3. Change the culture to become more collaborative – much like the external collaborations – to become more focused on how to work together as a team – and forge bonds in times of crisis. The success of an organization depends upon people. The agility that the clinic developed during its turnaround enabled it to succeed during the pandemic crisis.
  4. Acquire critical talent and develop them to become resilient by developing more effective leaders and teams. Physicians want to belong to an enterprise that offers equity based upon performance. Because the clinic’s mantra is collaboration, physicians feel they have a voice in how the clinic operates. 
  5. Create, manage and lead a control room. Control rooms meet the needs of crises through leveraging existing collaborations, financial positions, and critical talent. Centralizing operations for the short-term was a direct outgrowth of the clinic’s ability to respond to emerging opportunities as it was growing and met rising demands during a crisis.

Ray understands — as do we — that success is always a work in progress. No single book, no one TED talk, no three-day seminar will build a future. My partnership with Ray Williams and Springfield Clinic proves the point. Success is a journey, and not a destination.