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New CEO resuscitates ailing hospital

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in Leaders & Managers,Leadership Skills

In 2008, Methodist Hospitals was struggling. Based in Gary, Ind., Methodist had weathered five years of instability after a series of CEOs.

Ian McFadden became the latest CEO in September 2008. An experienced turn­­­­­around expert, he knew how to proceed.

“Morale was low in the employee population,” he recalls. “Many of our doctors were referring their patients to other hospitals and many of our nurses were working on contracts.”

To execute his turnaround, ­McFadden concentrated on two areas: relationships and recruitment. He convinced the board of directors to let him hire physicians and nurses who could bring fresh expertise and enthusiasm to the hospital. Lessening the use of outside contractors helped him gain buy-in from fully vested employees. He also retained many of the most committed medical providers who wanted to see the hospital return to prominence after five rocky years.

McFadden introduced himself to all the physicians and other staffers during his first four months on the job. He solicited their ideas in a series of meetings and implemented as many of them as he could.

Some of the fixes were easy, such as fixing an elevator. Others required more time, such as recruiting and retaining skilled nurses for all shifts. By acting on their ideas, he earned their trust.

“You have to make sure the physicians, who are your key customers, felt that they could get things done in order to provide their patients with great quality care,” he says. “If you weren’t serious about certain things, then it wasn’t going to work.”

Results came quickly: McFadden and his newly recruited executive team returned the hospitals to profitability within one year.

—Adapted from “Methodist Turnaround,” Pat Colander,

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