Elizabeth Finch has an impressive resume in the healthcare field. She spent much of her nursing career at the Cleveland Clinic where she gravitated towards a leadership role. She now serves as director of surgery at UNC Medical Center, overseeing 26,000 cases a year, 32 operating rooms and a pediatric endocrine suite.
When her vice president asked to see her vision for the department, she realized she knew a lot about healthcare, but could benefit from learning more about strategic planning. That realization led her to enroll in UNC Executive Development’s Executing Strategy for Competitive Advantage program.
“Other industries are way further ahead than healthcare [in strategic planning],” she says. “I love to take business strategies and apply them to the healthcare setting, realizing that we’re not dealing with widgets, we’re dealing with people. It’s a very big balance that you’re trying to achieve, but the principles are very similar and you have to be a little creative to be able to integrate it into that and this course for me was absolutely fantastic.”
Finch spends her days with physicians, nurses, respiratory therapists and anesthesiologists who speak in medical terms. For her, one of the highlights of Executing Strategy for Competitive Advantage was the assortment of professionals in the room. She valued their views, but also learned that some of the challenges her organization faces were not unique to them.
“Sitting side-by-side with business people who have different acumen and then being able to challenge myself to run through scenarios and learn from these people from other industries, as some of these scenarios were playing out, I could definitely resonate with some of these companies. ‘Look at that, you’re misaligned here, here, and here and so are we.’ It gives you a fresh perspective that when you’re in healthcare, you’re so focused on the disease and treating the patient, but your organizational needs aren’t necessarily specific to you.”
Finch found the interactive components of the program extremely insightful and joked that she “fell for every trap that was laid.” The breakout sessions and simulations opened her eyes to how she can improve as a leader.
“I realized I’m not trained to think like that,” she says. “I lead with the heart rather than the brain, and there has to be more of a balance. It’s great to hear the concepts, read about the principles, and then actually apply them. It was interacting with people who don’t think the way I think or don’t speak the language I speak. Being able to integrate with those people and feeling strong enough to be able to say I’m thinking this way, why are you thinking this way?’ was really empowering.”
As soon as she was back in the office, Finch went to work implementing what she learned. “I put together a retreat for all of my leaders and we started to utilize the principles of the program. Building a vision, building a mission, building behaviors, and then saying ‘okay, these are the goals to get us where we want to go. Now, how are we going to get there?’ Taking the time to learn these new principles and think in a different way while giving your leaders an opportunity to do that, especially in the healthcare system when you’re just not used to dealing with industry and thinking with a business mindset, really made a huge difference.”
Finch was so inspired by her experience in Executing Strategy for Competitive Advantage that she enrolled in an online MBA program to continue to grow her business acumen and is actively shaping her department’s strategic mission and vision.