Stacey Daub of Headwaters Health Care Centre on driving strategy through the eyes of staff

Thursday, October 26, 2017 – Ellen Gardner

First as CEO at the Toronto Central CCAC and now President and CEO of Headwaters, Stacey Daub’s management philosophy is guided by delivering results through the understanding and empowerment of the patient and employee experience. Great results are not just possible but assured, she says, when people’s voices and perspectives are valued.
What have been the most surprising things about moving from the CCAC to a community hospital?

The board and selection committee (at Headwaters) had been worried about my coming from the city to run a community hospital, but they soon realized that building relationships is one of my strengths. I’m completely taken with what a special place and community this is. In one meeting I met 27 volunteer chaplains and they’re all on call! I’ve been to the Rotary Club of Orangeville, the local markets and have visited all the Primary Care Practices in the community. Since we support the local emergency support services (EMS) for the region, I’ve been visiting all the paramedic stations and riding in the trucks with the men and women. I’ve learned so much, including what needs to be fixed!

What strikes me is that everyone chooses to be here. The collegial relationships between the clinicians are so strong.

Our relationship with our local partners has evolved and is paramount to serving our community. We are very focused on advancing clinical partnerships and point of care integration to serve our community better. One great example is the creation of a virtual ICU in partnership with Dr. Michael Miletin and Osler. It’s been magical watching that happen.

How did you keep staff motivated during the transition of the CCACs to the LHINs?

Leading people through a time of high ambiguity was a real personal challenge. I’m happy to say that we had exceptional staff engagement during this transitional time. I wanted people to feel strong and confident that we had created a special culture and we would be taking that into the future. People rallied to it and stayed focused. I made a point of having transparent conversations – we can’t control all the changes coming but we can still be responsible for our work today and provide exceptional care to the people we serve.

Throughout the transition, my entire team did very well and I’m proud of them – they believed in the culture and strength of the organization. 

What are important leadership traits for you?

Everybody on my leadership team has presence – you need to be visible. I was in at 7 am yesterday to go to a huddle in the OR. I’m scheduling myself into huddles or to go sit beside the ward clerk. I’m not there to watch or interfere – this is an opportunity for me to understand and appreciate the daily lives and experience of our patients and staff. I want to understand what we do really well and how we can improve our ability to serve our community.   

For me it’s all about our jobs and the client experience. We have different roles to play but we’re also united in common goals. It really breaks down the competitiveness when you realize we’re all working towards the same thing.

What have you learned from the mentors in your life?

Gail Donner has been a huge mentor. She has a deep intellect and level of humility.

I learned a lot about leading from Camille (Orridge) – she hired me at the CCAC and mentored me to be her successor. From her I learned to know the content and to be curious. It was with her encouragement that I developed my own vision to bring passion and dignity to the frontline.

Can you tell me more about that?

In 2010 I started talking about the client experience, thinking about how we deliver care through the eyes of the people you serve. That phrase had not been used before. You need to do that for patients but I also believe you need to do it for staff as well – if you understand their jobs and their challenges, that’s a wonderful opportunity to make things better. People need to feel free to contribute and that their ideas are valued.

Instead of always focusing on the big strategy, my focus is on driving strategy through the eyes of staff – we need to prioritize that.

You also have an interesting approach when it comes to metrics and measurement.

I always says that when you have a relentless focus on the metrics and measurement, you miss the real patient experience – in many cases, the metrics are misaligned with the true quality and risk issues. You’ll miss those issues if you’re only looking at the numbers.

While at the CCAC I decided we should look at employee engagement differently. Instead of relying on the usual NRC Health satisfaction survey tools, we decided to look under the covers and consider some of the basic things like trust and respect. Do you trust your manager? Do you feel respected? Do you feel empowered to take risks? This approach led to dramatic improvements in engagement.

What was your upbringing like?

I come from a large family – 5 kids. My dad (he’s 90) didn’t put any pressures on us. From early on, I was an observer – I would lift myself above the conversation and just watch and listen. I carried that through to adulthood. I’ve always observed who got listened to and why.

What career and life advice do you give to new grads or the young people in your life?

In my life I haven’t had formal specific goals, I’ve had parameters and I had to believe in the mission of an organization. I believe that people who have the most plans get the least.
One of my proudest moments was being named one of the Top 100 Award winners in WXN’s 2015 Canada’s Most Powerful Women designation. I’m still very involved with WXN (Women’s Executive Network) and am currently paired up to mentor a young woman. She’s just kept working hard and not thought about her priorities – now she’s looking around and realizing she wants children. People get swept along and end up in a certain place and think, how did I end up here? This is not where I want to be.

At every stage, you have to pause and always come back to, what’s important to me? Go into different situations – challenge yourself for sure – but go in with your eyes wide open and be in control of your destiny.

Stacey Daub was interviewed by Ellen Gardner, Senior Specialist, HIROC Communications and Marketing.