Somehow, logic tells us that being exceptional exceeds being effective.
But there’s nothing wrong with being effective if you fall short of being exceptional. Why? Because at minimum, healthcare organizations – any organization – wants their people to be effective. In some ways, efficiency can be a component of effectiveness, while some may carve it out separately.
Still, after a year-long pandemic – and still going – whether you’re effective, efficient or downright exceptional, the reality is that supply chain is essential.
Leaders & Luminaries asked members of the Bellwether Community to describe or list the attributes, characteristics, qualities and skills of an effective supply chain leader. The bread-and-butter strategic and tactical composition. What follows are the ingredients they shared.
“Listening: Supply chain leaders must not only hear, but carefully listen. Often viewed by stakeholders as a conduit to a desired acquisition, supply chain leaders must effectively understand the diverse wishes and concerns to support optimal balance of cost, quality and outcomes. As an unbiased role in the organization, the supply chain leader also needs the ability to navigate through ‘noise’ to extract the facts in a situation.
“Relationship management: Supply chain leaders must be effective at managing relationships with internal stakeholders as well as the external supplier community. This is crucial for preserving trust and maintaining supply chain’s seat at the table in strategic conversations.”
Ben Cahoy, Future Famers Class of 2017
“As a result of the growing complexity of healthcare, increased risks and demands, and the mere size of some supply chain organizations, the desired characteristics of an effective supply chain leader have evolved significantly during my career. I have personally experienced the role move from largely a contract/price negotiation-dominated activity to one that requires the skills of a senior executive/leader.
“Most notably, supply chain leaders today must be able to develop, articulate and execute a vision and overall strategic plan for supply chain management. Decisions made today have far reaching impact, and as a result overall business acumen and financial management are critical to success. Now issues such as business continuity, risk management, cybersecurity, pharmacy supply management, servicing the broader continuum of care, advanced analytics, new forms of value creation focused on total cost of care, change management and relationship management are just a few of the expectations being placed on supply chain executives today.”
Jim Francis, Bellwether Class of 2017
“Strategic flexibility: The job requirements, people, methods all change constantly, but we have to stay focused on our goals and objectives.
“Long-term approach: Because the requirements, people, methods and vendors all change, we have to manage our relationships and operations so that we have options when one approach doesn’t work.
“Ability to execute: Those that can pull it off day-in and day-out are the truly successful ones.”
Jason Hays, Future Famers Class of 2015
“An effective supply chain leader needs to understand their business and the marketplace to know how and where to focus to add value from a supply chain perspective. A supply chain leader needs to be able to communicate the value that supply chain adds to the organization and position the department as a strategic value center. An effective supply chain leader needs to be able to work with all levels of stakeholders internally and externally to add value and remove waste from the supply chain on behalf of its customers. They need to keep abreast of the changing market and technology and develop an organization and promote and hire a pipeline of talent to meet to needs of the evolving supply chain.”
Eric Tritch, Future Famers Class of 2015
“One very important attribute I learned over the years was consensus building. Fellow Hall of Fame recipient Jim Stover (Bellwether Class of 2009) was one of the best I have ever seen and taught me much. It is one thing to have a vision, but it may be quite another to get others to see and buy into that goal. I have seen this characteristic in effective supply chain leaders on both sides of the desk.”
Ted Almon, Bellwether Class of 2010
Amy Chieppa, Future Famers Class of 2018
“Honesty, Integrity, a good listener and then the educational and technical skills. Certainly must understand technology, must be a motivator – and not just for your staff as you must be able to motivate hospital leaders and physicians to improve quality and stabilize or reduce cost.”
Dale Montgomery, Bellwether Class of 2014
“There are many, but patience, confidence and integrity come to mind most immediately. Integrity is a pretty obvious one. Patience and confidence, however, are required for developing people and teams, which I think is a supply chain leader’s most important job. Patience is necessary because people make mistakes. Confidence is necessary because you’re not always right and you don’t know everything. Admitting such and asking for help is a wonderful way to build up a team and to earn their respect.”
Nate Mickish, Future Famers Class of 2015, Bellwether League Inc. Board Secretary, 2018-2020
“They need to possess leadership qualities, both for their department/division, and for their organization overall. The ability to build a divisional strategy, in concert with the organization’s overall strategy is critical – and will get noticed by senior administration. Having a good vision, and excellent people skills is also required.
“As one of the hospitals that I worked at began ‘affiliating’ with others, they discovered that our supply chain could bring meaningful value and provide an opportunity to bring value outside the normal patient referrals, physician relationships and payer contracts.”
John Strong, Bellwether Class of 2011
“Supply Chain leaders finds themselves at the cross-roads of many constituent groups or stake-holders. They first must be effective communicators who are able to form and articulate a strategic leadership vision across an enterprise to foster change. They must have the interpersonal skills and adaptability to forge effective personal and business relationship across these dynamic group to drive business decisions.”
Troy Compardo, Future Famers Class of 2018
“Effective supply chain leaders should want to become visible across the various network of end users of products and supplies in their healthcare facilities. This will enable them to view actual trends on product use and get feedback on the efficacy of those supplies. This knowledge could build better outcomes for patients and save money.”
Kristine Russell, Bellwether Class of 2017
“The ability to go wide and deep. I feel that a supply chain leader first must be a leader and have the ability to work at a C-Suite level. However, I feel that they must have a basic understanding of the processes performed by the day-to-day staff in order to support them in providing tools needed to complete their tasks.”
Jean Sargent, CMRP, FAHRMM, CRCST, Bellwether League Board Member, 2010-2015
“Leadership, strong interpersonal relationships, analytics, courage to adopt the change management needed to implement supply chain strategies.”
Brent Johnson, Bellwether Class of 2014
“Disciplined, reliability, integrity, forward thinking, time manager, good with numbers.”
Jimmy Henderson, Future Famers Class of 2016
“Always remember that the people that you are fortunate to have the opportunity to direct are the ones that carry you on their shoulders and enable you to succeed. A few kind words always go so much farther than terse comments of criticism, although sometimes the latter are essential, too. To this day, I always try to treat others with respect. The other teachings that stand out for me are Stephen Covey’s ‘Seven Habits of Highly Successful People.’ Most importantly is ‘to seek first to understand and then to be understood.’ This, of course, is closely followed by ‘being proactive’ and thinking ‘win-win.’”
Dick Perrin, Bellwether Class of 2014
“Commitment to quality and safety in patient care: If your customers don’t feel you care about these two matters…none of your cost savings or good ideas will be heard.
“Ability to lead: very few top positions in supply chain do not require strong leadership skills to effect the change that is needed.
“Ability to motivate: You can’t do everything yourself!”
Jane Pleasants, Bellwether Class of 2015
“The ability to analyze a problem, create a plan or both execution and teaching, the ability to stay calm and to get others to calm down and approach the problem rationally, to allow others the chance to get it done and hold them accountable.”
Mike Switzer, Bellwether Class of 2015
“Supply chain leaders must be honest, trustworthy and ethical. These skills are imperative in the business relationships necessary to be successful. Following through on commitments, having energy and openness to new ways of doing things, being known as a collaborator and embracing change will drive respect and success. Showing empathy and respect for others at all levels and professionalism in interactions will allow leaders to build the team necessary to carry out your supply chain vision.”
Deborah Templeton, R.Ph., Bellwether League Foundation Chairman, Bellwether League Inc. Treasurer, 2016-2020
Bill Donato, Bellwether Class of 2013
“I believe that one needs to be a ‘Visionary Navigator.’ I coined this name with the purpose of not only being responsible for creating the future, but figuring out how one gets the organization there too! It is understanding the very complex world of hospital logistics business (i.e., Facilitates, Real Estate/Property Management, Environmental Services, Nutrition Services, Supply Chain and Pharmacy). In addition, understanding the ‘value proposition’ created by solid leadership and foundation of the fully logistical spectrum. It accounts for 50 percent-60 percent of most hospitals’ revenue stream. We need to rethink the idea of Supply Chain!
“In this regard, one needs skills to work at the executive level, understand how to navigate the complex world of hospital business and most importantly help others understand how important these activities are!”
Donna Van Vlerah, Future Famers Class of 2015
“The first thing is you must be a trustworthy person and cultivate trusting relationships. If people don’t trust you then you can’t be effective. To create trusting relationships, you must go beyond being honest and ethical and make sure you keep your commitments. It also means you must take into consideration other people’s agendas not just your own. Secondly, you must be competent and a lifelong learner so that people see you as the expert and seek out your assistance. Finally, I’d say you must be persistent and patient in order to make progress. Health care is very complex with competing priorities, and you have to make your case multiple times before you get traction.”
Nancy LeMaster, Bellwether Class of 2015
Jamie Kowalski, Bellwether Class of 2017, Bellwether League Foundation Co-Founder and Board Secretary, Bellwether League Inc. Co-Founder and Founding Chairman, 2007-2013
Vance Moore, Bellwether Class of 2019, Bellwether League Inc. Board Member 2010-2015, Bellwether League Foundation Advisory Council Member, 2021
“I have always felt the focus on supply chain management should be in the last word: Management, which entails planning, leading, organizing and controlling. I think customer service (both real and perceived are essential skills) as well as marketing [because] supply chain is often most visible in failure. I feel this is an essential skill for effective supply chain leaders.”
Pat Carroll, Bellwether Class of 2018, Bellwether League Inc. Founding Treasurer, 2007-2011, Board Secretary, 2013-2018
“Having the ability to engage with those you depend on to run your business is perhaps the most important skill any leader can have. High-performing organizations measure their employee engagement scores because it’s such a key driver of performance. It only makes sense that we give back to our teams the characteristics we expect from them. Additionally, to be successful, you must win hearts and minds, and that starts with engagement.
“Leaders need to be versatile. Every employee, every customer and every business associate is unique, and you have to be prepared to meet people where they are.
“It’s especially important for today’s supply chain leaders to be clinically credible. For years, the clinical enterprise operated independently from the cost enterprise. Today, our industry is transforming – beyond decisions about price, supply chain leaders must focus on how the products and services they’re purchasing affect clinical outcomes. To do that successfully, these leaders must demonstrate clinical credibility.
“Increasingly, supply chain leaders are finding themselves in the position of driving change and innovation within their organizations. Having courage and thick skin are incredibly valuable attributes in those instances.”
Jody Hatcher, retired President, Sourcing and Collaboration Services, Vizient Inc., Founding Sustaining Sponsor
“Tenacity, curiosity and creativity are traits that I have employed throughout my career. Curiosity helps identify either a problem, or area for improvement. Creativity supports the development of new programs or processes to further operational improvements. Tenacity is critical when making any changes in healthcare’s intricate and multifaceted systems. Tenacity is also valuable when working with human nature and change.”
Mary Starr, Bellwether Class of 2018, Bellwether League Inc. Board Treasurer, 2012-2016
“Leadership means to lead by example. By never asking your team to do things that you would not or have not done yourself is a basic key to success. Rolling up your sleeves and being part of the team that gets things done is by far the most effective quality a leader can demonstrate.
“Another key is setting rules and expectations that are clear and equitable. As a leader you cannot have ‘favorites.’ It is extremely important that you make clear what you expect from your team as I have found that most will strive to exceed your expectations.”
Dee Donatelli, Bellwether Class of 2015