Core Connections Feature: Taylor Foss, SVP, Organizational Transformation, Mission Health, Asheville, NC

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This month’s Core Connections Feature highlights Taylor Foss, senior vice president of Organizational Transformation at Mission Health in Asheville, North Carolina. A wife, mother of four and grandmother to seven, Taylor joined the state’s only western nonprofit independent community hospital system four years ago. She received her bachelor’s from Purdue University, as well as a master’s in Organizational Dynamics from Penn University.

Taylor FossWho inspires you and why?
I’m inspired every day by the stories of our patients and their families who often overcome tremendous obstacles while on the road to bettering their health. I was recently speaking with a young woman who had bariatric surgery. It totally changed her life. She’s off all of her medications, exercises regularly, feels, and looks, terrific and now helps others who are going through a similar journey. Our patients remind me every day that we have choices in how we live our lives, and how it’s important to live the best life you possibly can.

Tell us about a time when you took a substantial risk that paid off?
I recently suggested that we introduce a very innovative initiative into our organization. It has never been done before in health care, but I believed it would have a huge impact on our culture. I asked my CEO to join me in meeting with the founder and executive team of the firm (we had to fly to California). I hadn’t met the team before, just really believed in the founder and the theories behind the program. Fortunately, it was a very successful meeting and we’re on our way to a full launch this fall. The pilot has gone well and we’re excited about the potential of this work.

What keeps you coming back each day? What’s the best part for you?
The patients and our mission of keeping the community of western North Carolina healthy keeps me coming back each day. Additionally, the best part for me is working with a fabulous team who I learn from every day. We work through very serious issues, create innovative programs, help our employees be their very best selves and we like to have fun, too. Every day is different and challenging because I have such a diverse group of functions reporting to me.

How do you lead differently now than you did 5 or 10 years ago?
I think I “tel –  less and really focus on bringing out the strengths and ideas of others. I find that if I lead with my ideas it could shut down the conversation. Plus, once we start an open dialog, we always end up with much better options than anything I could’ve come up with.

What’s the biggest change or shift in your industry you’ve seen in the last 10 years?
It would require a book to fully cover this question. However, simply stated, our focus has shifted to keeping people well so that they don’t have to come to the hospital. We want people to “Be Well, Get Well, Stay Wel – . If they do have to be in the hospital, we want to give them the best possible care (we are a Truven Top 15 Healthcare System in the country) and experience. But we also want to be sure that when they return home they have the support and structure they need to continue their recovery and to stay well.

Access to care is critical in our communities, and we’ve spent a great deal of energy hiring providers to care for our folks, particularly in the rural areas. We want everyone to go to his or her physicians when something arises, rather than waiting until it becomes a critical emergency department issue. Annual physicals and screenings are an essential part of staying well.

What is the best lesson you’ve learned from a mentor?
To not focus so much on pleasing everyone else, but rather to just be myself. This is still difficult for me, but I’m much better at this now than I’ve ever been.

Is there a quote that you always tend to bring up in meetings?
“Never doubt the capacity of the people you lead to accomplish whatever you dream for them. ”

– Benjamin Zander

What’s your next big goal?
I’ll retire in the next three to five years, so I’m preparing for that journey. I have a wonderful group of friends who are in a similar circumstance and we’re planning an “Act III ” retreat in early November to talk through some of the questions, concerns, etc. that we all have as we think about leaving our very busy jobs.

It’s a wonderful gift to have friends for support during this important milestone. I also think that thoughtful reflection and preparation are important in making sure our retirement years are fulfilling and happy.