Aligning Mission with Business: Starting With “Why?”- in conversation with Gabrielle Finley-Hazle

It’s been said that in business, clarity of purpose is the Northern Star. It brings light to the journey and guides stakeholders forward in a shared direction. Studies have found that organizations with a clearly defined mission, and a business aligned to support their purpose, are well-positioned to weather the storms and achieve long-term success.

We’re in conversation with Gabrielle Finley-Hazle, a purpose-driven growth strategist and currently, the president of a large health care market in the Southwest that is part of one of the largest nonprofit health care systems in the United States.

Gabrielle, you talked to us about aligning your business results with meeting your organization’s mission. How do you achieve that, and why is it essential for success?

“Health care is an unusual industry. It has service at its heart, devoted to bringing health and healing to the community. But yet it’s still a business.

“I often think of the phrase ‘no margin, no mission.’ It was coined several years ago by the Daughters of Charity National Health System, and it still holds true today. The mission is critical, but mission-driven health care systems must also be financially sound to fund the resources and programs required to serve their communities.

“How to align business results with mission? I draw from my 20 years of health care experience for answers but look also to thought leaders for inspiration. In his book, Start with Why, one of my favorite authors, Simon Sinek, offers a simple solution for leaders. If you start with why — the purpose behind your business — you’ll inspire action. You’ll attract people to what you’re trying to accomplish and align them in achieving the results you seek. Another Sinek book, Leaders Eat Last, provides a second key to alignment. Leaders who help their team members to see that their contribution is more important than their leaders can inspire true loyalty and exceptional outcomes.

What happens when a well-aligned system gets out of alignment? What comes next?

“Misalignment is often part of the journey, especially in this era of health care mergers and acquisitions. At my organization, we faced the need to realign when two large health care systems, Dignity Health, and Catholic Health Initiatives, came together in 2019 to become CommonSpirit Health. The sheer size of the new organization — $33.3 billion in revenue, 150,000 employees, 25,000 physicians, and advanced practice clinicians, 142 hospitals, and more than 700 care sites across 21 states — brought inherent challenges and change. Then, the pandemic delivered even more disruption.

“How did we get through it? We have an amazing CEO at CommonSpirit who provides clarity and leadership. In our local market, we looked at our strategic plan, pivoted to a new strategic framework, and are in the process of communicating our direction to bring everyone on board. We continue to underscore the reason for our two organizations becoming one: to provide better care for more people — in fact, our care is now accessible to 25 percent of U.S. residents.

How does the answer to the question ‘Why?’ trickle down to each stakeholder in the organization, so that each feels connected to the mission?

“I’ll offer an example from my experience. Several years ago, I was asked to take over the leadership of two hospitals at a different health care system. My primary task was leading the organization through crisis management, reputation recovery, financial turnaround, and community engagement. Part of that work was connecting the ‘why’ not just within our organization but outside with the wider community.

“I met with 60 department heads to redefine the ‘why.’ Then, our team went out into the community, holding town hall meetings and having one-on-one conversations with every media outlet. Simply stated, the ‘why’ was this: Patients and their families entrust us with their lives and well-being. They are at the center of everything we do as health care providers. Bringing healing to those we serve is a sacred calling, and thousands of people at our hospitals are united in that purpose.

“It took a lot of heavy lifting to pull constituents together in alignment and to restore faith. But because we understood the ‘why,’ and stated it in a way that resonated with staff and patients alike, we succeeded in reputation recovery and repositioning those hospitals in the community.”

Thank you, Gabrielle, for offering your insights.

*****

Gabrielle Finley-Hazle is a CEO and board member. She is currently the president of Dignity Health Arizona Central and West Valley Market, a ~$2 billion flagship market of CommonSpirit Health, the largest nonprofit health system in the United States. With over two decades of experience, Gabrielle specializes in creating a mission-driven, high-performance culture that allows for company growth and effective crisis management. Gabrielle has a patient and equity-focused approach and achieves strategic growth through innovation.

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