Neil Meltzer’s Vision for LifeBridge Health Series Part Three: One Team, One Dream, One Goal
Posted Jul 23 2013 6:00am
On July 1, 2013 Neil Meltzer became President and CEO of LifeBridge Health . In this 4-part series he shares his vision for the organization.
As president of Sinai Hospital , and in his role as a national chairman for the American Heart Association , Meltzer has inspired other people to give their time back to their communities, to devote their energies to noble causes. And he has no shortage of inspirational figures himself: Many of them are only a few short steps away from his office door.
“All of our employees have an impact,” he says. “It’s not uncommon to see an employee actually lead someone to their destination because they understand that it isn’t always easy to find your way around. I’ve been in the cafeteria and seen employees actually pay the difference between what someone has in cash and what their lunch costs. It’s very heartwarming to see folks really try to extend themselves and live out the purpose and values of LifeBridge Health. I’ve seen employees visiting with patients on their own time. I’ve seen employees at the cancer institute send cards to patients because they just truly care.”
Meltzer acknowledges that most LifeBridge Health employees have the raw intelligence and natural talent to flourish in almost any other profession, but what distinguishes them as health care providers whether they’re answering the phones or inserting central lines; serving food or performing surgery; fixing computer systems or filling prescriptions is a “heightened level of passion and compassion.” LifeBridge Health employees bear out the truth in Margaret Mead’s observation that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world.
For Meltzer, the dedicationthat motivates someone to wake up early on their day off and scrub graffiti off an alleyway, or to spend their lunch hour tutoring a dyslexic student, is the hallmark of a real model. The ability to lead isn’t vested in titles and salaries, it comes when people are “willing to give of themselves, and willing to show that they’re there for the benefit of others. A role model is someone who is willing to take the time to listen, and help other people move to another level.”
From his own role models, Meltzer has learned the importance of adaptation: staying abreast of changes within your industry, pushing yourself to broaden your mind and accommodate new points of view. “You always have to question what you’re doing,” he says. “You always have to stretch yourself, and recognize that when you’re leading people, everyone has a different learning style, and you have to modify your approach.” Above and beyond all else, he believes in valuing mistakes as opportunities, chances to rise up and do better.
Striking a balance between his personal and professional lives helps Meltzer stay grounded, which, in turn, allows him to be more open. He finds this balance in volunteering, travel, exercise and family: “I’ve got two kids, and when I get home, I’m a husband and a dad, I’m not the president of Sinai or the CEO of LifeBridge Health.”
Growth, on personal and professional fronts, is rarely a steady ascension from point A to B; it is a richly complicated and rewarding process that sometimes entails sharing – and hearing – truthful feedback. As president of Sinai, Meltzer routinely held drop-in dates and lunches to solicit an honest dialogue with staff. Because he sees everyone’s innate ability to “lead from any seat,” Meltzer values the opinions of each employee: “If you’ve got that kind of open, honest relationship with your team, it works. I really want to hear what they like best about the organization, what we could be doing better for them as employees, and what they would do if they were in charge of the system. The feedback is often eye-opening.”
That’s why, as CEO, he intends to rotate throughout the system to continue these types of conversations. “It’s important to me to have first-hand contact with employees,” he insists. “I like nothing more than walking through the organization and having one-on-one conversations with folks. I just find that type of communication more satisfying.”
Though the stereotype of the CEO is someone who is permanently desk-bound (or shackled to their smartphone), Meltzer says, “That’s not me. That’s not why I went into this business. I went into this business to make an impact, and there’s no better way to do that than get your feet on the street.”
He’s genuinely invigorated and inspired by these interactions, and by the way he sees employees from so many walks of life, and in so many different types of positions, come together to serve a common good. “Without the engaged workforce, we really have nothing,” he says. “If I had one sign to put over my door, it would read, ‘one team, one dream, one goal.”