June 19Women as Leaders Program 2When a few of HFMA’s leading female members suggested adding a “Women as Leaders” panel discussion at this year’s ANI: The HFMA National Institute, they sensed the session would be popular with women who would attend ANI. 

They could not have imagined that five minutes before the session was scheduled to start, there would be so many attendees—primarily women, but also a few men—that staff would need to find extra chairs to accommodate them all. 

“There are so many things that are unique to us [as women leaders] that we just need to talk about it,” HFMA Board member Kim Griffin-Hunter, a partner with Deloitte who has been a member of HFMA for 25 years, told those in attendance. A panel of HFMA Board members—Griffin-Hunter; Carol Friesen, president and CEO, Crete Area Medical Center, Crete, Neb., and vice president, health system services, Bryan Health; Kari Cornicelli, vice president and CFO, Sharp Grossmont Hospital, La Mesa, Calif.; Rebecca Speight, CFO, Lake Pointe Health Network, Rockwall, Texas; and Melinda Hancock, senor vice president and CFO, Bon Secours Virginia—offered their thoughts on managing their work as healthcare finance executives with their roles as wives, mothers, and daughters. Some also talked about the ways their faith had influenced the paths they have taken as finance executives. 

The conversations were often deeply personal, and their forthright discussions of challenges they faced in becoming finance leaders and in their roles as executives resonated with the women in attendance, with discussions ranging from the sacrifices they had made to become leaders to female bullying in the workplace to their efforts to balance work and family. There were several tips they offered to HFMA members considering taking on similar roles in healthcare finance. 

Know thyself. “Know what you are good at, and do that [type of work] 75 percent of the time,” Friesen said. When the right opportunities for advancement come along, there is one simple way to distinguish them: “We know we’re good at it, we know we’re strong when we’re doing it, and we know we feel good when we’re doing it,” she said. It’s also important to pass up opportunities for advancement that don’t feel right, as others will inevitably come along, she said. 

Seek out mentors in the workplace and within HFMA. “I’ve always had strong female mentors and strong female leaders. I have to say that has been key to my success,” Cornicelli said. 

 Women as Leaders ProgramMaintain an appointment calendar that reminds you of both work and personal responsibilities. For example, Speight’s schedule includes not only dates and times of important meetings and due dates, but also her 4-year-old daughter’s activities, so that she can keep track of responsibilities for work and home at the same time. She also takes steps to integrate her home life with her work life by sharing stories about her daughter with staff members and letting team members know that between the hours of 6-9 p.m., her focus is on her family. “We are one person. We are not ‘Work Becky’ and ‘Home Becky,’” she said, as several attendees and the panelists nodded in agreement.

Concentrate on being an engaged listener when staff and family need to talk. For example, Cornicelli, who describes herself as “the quintessential multi-tasker,” said she often used to talk with family or team members while completing other activities. “I’ve had to practice being more present,” she said. 

Be cognizant of the ways in which your attitude or approach affect those who work for you. “Understand that how you react has an impact on your team,” Hancock said. 

Ignore the judgments or negative energy that can sometimes be directed toward women leaders as they navigate their work lives and personal lives. “Who are those six or 12 people in your life who really matter? Concentrate on what those people think,” Friesen said.

Publication Date: Wednesday, June 19, 2013