Lars Houmann’s Leadership Lessons

Mr. Lars Houmann is currently the COO of Adventist Health System soon to be AdventHealth. We recently sat down for a conversation to discuss his leadership journey and leadership lessons learned.

 

Mo: You had a great leadership journey. I have known you for many years. Could you share your Journey?

Lars: I began my career in Adventist healthcare in Massachusetts, and in 1985 came to Florida Hospital.  After two years there, I moved west, serving in for-profit and not-for profit hospitals in California and Arizona for seven years.  In 1993, I came back to Florida Hospital, led the Altamonte campus for a while.  Then I took on an ambitious project of building Florida Hospital Celebration Health in 1998.  This was to be the most innovative health concept at that time, set in a Disney-developed community.  We wanted to create a place that promoted total health versus acute, interventional healthcare.  I learned a lot through that experience especially what not to do as a leader.  I then became the COO of Florida Hospital, subsequently serving as the CEO for a decade.   During that time, I oversaw many important milestones including major expansions of the Florida Hospital/Orlando campus, launching of Florida Hospital for Children, and acquiring University Community Healthcare in Tampa to Adventist Health System.  In 2015, I established separately from Florida Hospital, the AHS Florida Division.  I now serve as the COO of AHS soon to be AdventHealth.

 

Mo: Who influenced you to have a career of service in healthcare?

Lars: My parents influenced me the most.  They were medical missionaries in Ethiopia, and served most of their working lives in Washington D.C.  They shaped my youth, career and passion for serving others in healthcare.  As I young boy, I used to watch my dad caring for patients, working long hours in both the clinic and hospital setting.  He always served others with compassion, and without regard to their financial status.

 

Mo: Throughout your journey, what are your leadership lessons learned that would share with other leaders?

Lars: My top leadership lessons I learned over the years include:

  1. Courage. Have the courage to take risks.  You don’t know what you are capable of if you don’t try.  If you fail, fail fast.
  2. Have Faith/Trust in yourself only through God. Trust that you will always do the right thing, if you stay grounded in your faith.
  3. Be Prepared for the Unexpected. Know who you are.  Be prepared to fly the airplane without instruments.
  4. Be Proactive. Always be ready to help solve the problem.
  5. Step Up. Be ready to jump into the tough situations.  Don’t wait for others to move first.  The situations will not get easier.
  6. Humility. Realize that you are not the smartest person in the room.  Work to release other people’s potential; Unlock their talents.
  7. Be the X factor. Have an exponential thinking.  How can we innovate to create exponential impact on the care, the team, and the community.
  8. Lead self first. Stop being busy – Be proactive – make time to reflect and meditate.  This would give you better clarity and focus.
  9. Good healthy relationships matter.  You cannot achieve anything important without the help and participation of others.  People will rise to any challenge, if they are on a team built with relationships that move them beyond their self interest.
  10. Gut feeling matters. Data and analytics are helpful in making decisions, but they can’t make the hard call for you.

Mo: Physician Engagement: We at CTI we say, engagement is not a metric. It is a reciprocal commitment we make to each other as professionals. What is your take?

Lars: I can’t agree more.  Engagement has to be a two way street.  This reminds me of an incident with an entire specialty of the medical staff at Florida Hospital.  In the early 2000s, the traditional model of voluntary physician coverage of hospital patients was collapsing.  These specialists were unhappy with the heavy patient loads, and declining economics of being in the hospital.  They were developing their own outpatient facilities.  I allowed us, under the notion of physician engagement, to carry on too long trying to adapt the hospital environment and economics to fit their needs.  It would have been better to recognize that we were no longer on a two-way street of engagement based on common interests, and move more quickly to build a sustainable physician model with fully engaged physicians.

 

Mo: Looking back at this situation what would you do differently?

Lars: If I had to do all over again, I would:

Choose clarity and decisiveness over accommodation.

  1. More clearly identify the common interests, and the divisive issues
  2. Define the options, including the consequences of each option
  3. Make the tough choices earlier than later
  4. Don’t buffer people from the consequences of their decisions

Thank you Lars for your generosity and insight and thank you for what you do every day in healthcare!

 

If you would like a printable copy of the Top 10 Leadership Lessons Learned, complete the form below. 

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