Ascension’s Anthony Tersigni: CEOs can lead filtered lives, so the best way to make good decisions is to make sure you are getting input from differing views.
As head of the nation’s largest Catholic healthcare system, Ascension’s Anthony Tersigni has faced plenty of operational and financial challenges during his near 15-year tenure. But in 2014, the St. Louis-based system embarked upon an ambitious endeavor—complete rebranding of its 151 hospitals in six markets. Tersigni and his leadership team recently completed that bold move.

Your riskiest decision Launching our One Ascension journey to bring clinical, operational and brand integration alignment into the entire health ministry.

Why was that move risky? We started in 1999 as a collection of hospitals and grew into a pretty decentralized system. We needed to move from a holding company to an operating company, which meant changing our governance and management structure. It was the largest shift in the provider space. It really required us to think differently, operate differently, really re-imagine delivery of care and services. We allowed all of our associates across the country to weigh in on what they thought the culture needed to be to move into the future.

People are now understanding the “why” and “how” these changes are critical to creating a solid foundation for this ministry to survive another 200 years.

The outcome We’ve gotten better efficiencies and outcomes and less variation in care and services.

Response from those involved We just surveyed over 100,000 employees; 96,000 responded and 86,000 of them commented. It’s clear that the direction we’re going in is resonating. People are now understanding the “why” and “how” these changes are critical to creating a solid foundation for this ministry to survive another 200 years. The luxury of Ascension is we allow people to bring their personal values to the worksite. That, to me, helps make the culture better. I will stop at an Ascension facility and talk to people and ask how I can help them do their jobs better. And people are willing to offer their advice and counsel.

Advice to execs in similar positions CEOs can lead filtered lives, so the best way to make good decisions is to make sure you are getting input from differing views. My team has every personality and thinking type imaginable. We will never have groupthink and that means we’ll make better decisions. If you don’t have enough people with differing views around you, you’re going to start thinking that you have all the right answers. If that happens you are destined to put the organization in jeopardy and yourself in jeopardy. A leader who thinks he or she knows everything is destined for failure. Destined. Just go through history and you will see that happen.

Describe your leadership style I’m the supporting cast. I hire amazing talent, people smarter than me, give them the resources necessary to do their jobs, and then get the heck out of their way. My mantra is to have managers manage and leaders lead. I also concentrate on mentoring. Cultivating new leaders takes up 30% to 35% of my time right now.

How would others describe it That as a leader, I require all information—good, bad or indifferent.

Bold Moves is a Modern Healthcare editorial feature. Sponsor is not involved in development of content or selection of authors.

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