Good leadership part of community wellness |

Good leadership part of community wellness

John Seelmeyer

St. Mary’s Health Network specializes in

health care and keeping people well.

So what’s leadership training for executives

got to do with wellness? Plenty, says

the executive who heads Saint Mary’s

Learning Institute, and corporations around

town appear to be hearing her message.

Here’s how Chris Cox, executive of the

Learning Institute, explains the link

between executive leadership and community


The relationship between excessive stress

in the workplace and ill health is well-documented.

Stressful workplaces often are those

in which leadership is weak. If the quality of

leadership in the community’s workplaces

can be improved, the wellness of working

people will be improved as well.

As unusual as it may be, St. Mary’s

interwoven approach to community wellness

and executive leadership has made a


Saint Mary’s Leadership Institute’s first

series of classes last winter drew 260 people

at $245 a head. The second series this

autumn has been near

capacity for classes

such as “Dealing

With Difficult

People” and

“Becoming the

Employer of Choice

Beyond Pay and Benefits.”

Even though the Saint Mary’s training

was launched in the midst of a national

recession, Cox said a few days ago that she’s

not surprised that many companies in

northern Nevada spared their educational

expenditures from the budget axe.

“Most companies today are dealing in

intellectual capital,” she said. “The machines

are secondary to the people who work in

the company.”

No one knew that better than healthcare

executives, who increasingly find that

their customers want both high-tech and


But when Saint Mary’s Health Network

began looking for ways to teach leadership

skills to its own executives a couple of years

ago, the organization couldn’t find exactly

what it wanted.

Plenty of organizations in northern

Nevada provide good training in specific

management skills, Cox said, but the health

network decided that it would need to create

its own leadership seminars.

Even now, about half the enrollment in

each of the Saint Mary’s Leadership

Institute seminars comes from employees of

the health network.

Whether participants come from a hospital

or an old-line manufacturing company,

Cox said they quickly learn one thing:

“Leadership principles are universal.”

If the course doesn’t cover universal principles

of leadership, it probably won’t work

for the Leadership Institute. A session on

process improvement, for instance, was

dropped from the catalog because the needs

of students varied too widely.

Seminars aren’t the way that the Saint

Mary’s Learning Institute seeks to boost

wellness by improving workplace leadership.

Cox, who was vice president for human

resources for Saint Mary’s Health System

before she moved into the Leadership

Institute slot, also undertakes on-site training

programs for individual companies. And

the Leadership Institute provides individualized

professional coaching services.

Because much of the training is driven

by the teaching skills of Cox, the institute

needs to carefully manage its growth. She is

one of only a handful of certified specialists

in the communications skill known as

“emergenetics” in the nation and also is a

master trainer with Rapport Leadership


The growth potential is limited, too, by

the institute’s commitment to follow up

with seminar participants for 21 days to see

how well they’ve implemented what they


Cox said the Leadership Institute probably

could double its current workload, but

will move slowly as it determines the needs

of the region’s business community.