Good leadership part of community wellness
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
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
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.
The governor’s newest directive opens the door for live sports, entertainment and events to begin, though with restricted capacity. It also sets a 1,000-person capacity limit on trade shows, business conventions and other conferences.