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.