Several years ago, Catholic Healthcare Partners (CHP), one of the largest not-for-profit health systems in the U.S.A., was at a turning point.

The religious-based, mission-driven health system included 38,000 associates spread throughout 100 corporations in nine regions and five states throughout the Midwest. It had a highly independent operating structure and leadership mentality — one that served it well for decades but was preventing the organization from adapting.

The mindset of regional management was more competitive than collaborative, making overall investments in talent and in succession planning a challenge.

Although CHP had implemented many efficiencies and systems across the organization, “the idea of looking at talent across the system was still foreign. The instinct at the local level was to develop talent, then protect it,” said Jon Abeles, CHP’s senior vice president of talent management and diversity. “We had no way to create meaning around system-wide succession planning when our culture was in many ways locally focused.”

Working closely with CCL, CHP developed an intensive, experiential 14-month learning and development process for multiple cohorts of 28 high-potential executives from across the different regions of the organization.

The CHP Leadership Academy was designed to engage participants using industry best practices and innovative approaches: classroom sessions focusing on assessment and development of individual and organizational leadership capacity; team-based action learning projects related to complex strategic-level business problems; individual and team coaching; and an extensive evaluation process.

Just as important as the leadership content was the opportunity for executives to connect with their peers from different regions and functional specialties through action learning projects.

“Our leaders got to know one another, from Scranton to Paducah to Youngstown, and for the first time they saw that they are all smart, all on top of key issues, and that they could and should work together,” Abeles noted.

The positive impact of the Leadership Academy was palpable. The participants began to connect with the overall system and mission of CHP, learned to work across boundaries, and showed an eagerness to tackle strategic, complex and critical issues. And the program set an industry standard, receiving several best practice awards from the American Society for Training & Development.

The CHP Leadership Academy has “delivered results for us — helping us manage change, develop a leadership cadre, and build an organization that grows through continuous learning,” said Abeles. “I think that it is a model program and that key elements can work in other health-care organizations and in other industries.”

Learn more about the CHP Leadership Academy and its impact: Catholic Healthcare Partners: A Critical Mass of Leaders Adapt, Collaborate.

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