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Success comes at high price for CEO

by on
in Leaders & Managers,Leadership Skills

When Alyson Pitman Giles became president and chief executive of Catholic Medical Center in Manchester, N.H., the hospital was losing $6 million a year. Some people questioned whether it would survive.

During her 13 years at the helm, the hospital’s finances reversed course. By the time she left in 2012, its operating margin exceeded $3 million.

Giles, 59, credits a series of moves, including investing in cutting-edge technology. As New Hampshire’s first hospital that offered the “da Vinci” surgical system (which uses robotics for less invasive surgery) and a 64-slice CAT scan machine, Catholic Medical Center gained a new prominence.

But her success did not come without turmoil. In 2010, local media re­­ported that her $1.36 million annual salary was far higher than CEOs of hospitals of a similar size.

The news morphed into a public relations nightmare. Hostile comments, including personal threats, began appearing in online forums. Security guards started escorting Giles to her car.

Giles did not respond publicly to the controversy. She knew that the $1.36 million figure included a one-time bonus and deferred pay (her true salary was $553,626, in line with other hospital CEOs).

“You can’t say it’s really only $500,000,” she says. “Imagine the backlash of that!”

Ironically, Giles reveals that one of the keys to her becoming CEO was her willingness to take on new roles, even if she wasn’t paid for the extra work. Her secret to career success: whenever a co-worker or boss leaves, offer to do parts of their job without added salary.

“Continually stretch what you know,” she says. “That’s what I did over the years.”

—Adapted from “Alyson Pitman Giles: Gaining strength from challenges,” Erika Cohen, Business NH.

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