Blog Post

Carl Armato believes in blogging. Here's why.

September 17, 2013

    Dan Diamond, Managing Editor

    Today's Daily Briefing features our recent sitdown with Carl Armato, a CPA-turned-CEO of Novant Health. It's an interesting interview; in conversation with Tom Cassels and Eric Larsen, Armato talks about his unexpected career path, reviews Novant's tactics for physician integration, and details his six-part strategy for building a "remarkable" patient experience. (You can see the condensed interview here.)

    But Armato also discussed an issue that's always intrigued me: In a world where a leader has limited time and bandwith, how does a CEO make his or her presence felt? Especially when you run a health system that has 24,000 employees?

    Armato had a strong opinion on the value of "staying visible," and has adopted a rare (but increasingly popular) tactic for achieving it: He's become a blogger, too.

    I pulled out that part of the conversation below. 

      Q: You mentioned being out in the field as playing an incredibly important role in your career when you were starting out in accounting. And it sounds like doing fieldwork remains part of your identity today.

      Carl Armato: Absolutely. I always learn a great deal from the people closest to the patients and communities we serve.

      Q: But that has to get harder as you've transitioned from spending most of your time out in the field to running Presbyterian Healthcare; from running Presbyterian Healthcare to being an executive at the big table; and now running a multi-billion dollar organization. How do you stay 'in the field' when there are so many good reasons for you to be in the boardroom?

      Armato: So I can tell you that I’ve never left the field. What I mean by that: I round whenever I visit a different site, and I host quarterly open forums throughout Novant Health.

      Also, I post an entry on an internal blog every Monday that allows employees to post their responses. I’ve done it since the day I took over, and try to write on topics that are important within Novant Health, in the health care industry or maybe in the local newspaper. For instance, I wrote one blog post on hospital pricing and I used examples in a way that people could understand and relate.

      Q: Some leaders are wary of non-traditional communication channels, like a blog. Why has it helped you?

      Armato: Every location that I round at, there are so many employees that quote to me a blog I wrote, a topic I talked about. They comment on how great it is to stay connected in that way. 

      Novant Health employees and physicians do not hesitate to let me know about issues that are out there. In my early days as CEO, I started getting feedback about a discretionary bonus program. Some groups were excluded, other groups weren't participating and so on. I must have gotten 80 different comments about it. But I learned a lot, because I didn’t know—some parts of the organization weren't applying the bonus plan for employees the way they should have.

      Now, we’ve got a unified Novant Health approach and bonus plan that’s been launched, and I tied it together on the blog, mentioning the comments that people gave me along the way.

      My point is, there’s lots of ways you can stay visible "in the field" without necessarily being at every location.

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