Ben McKibbens led Valley Baptist Health System in southern Texas, for 25 remarkable years. During that time the health system experienced unprecedented growth, guided by the servant leadership of McKibbens, whom I am privileged to call my friend and colleague. Though now retired, timeless insights and wisdom for current and future healthcare leaders can still be learned from this highly successful senior healthcare leader.
When asked what insights and suggestions he would offer to current and future healthcare leaders, McKibbens made five points. First, borrowing from James A. Baker, McKibbens stressed the importance of preparation; “Prior Preparation Prevents Poor Performance.” He added to that a 6th ‘P’ that very easily destroys the principle of preparation, and that is Procrastination; “Here’s what happens: if we wait until the last minute, there is a rush that minimizes our thoughtful, careful planning, and most importantly, creates pressure and stress that can be very frustrating and even unhealthy… to wait until the last minute, you seldom get it right.”
The second point McKibbens made was to “Win where you are.” Referring to a dialogue between renowned football coaches Bear Bryant and Eddie Robinson, McKibbens noted that when Robinson downplayed his achievement of surpassing Bryant’s record of wins – attributing his success to the fact that his competition wasn’t as difficult as Bryant’s – Bryant responded “Whatever league you’re in, whatever level, win where you are.” His point: Do your very best in whatever place or situation you are in – that’s what matters. McKibbens explained,
“I couldn’t help but think, how many CEOs have boards that are totally different from the ones they’ve experienced in the past. Circumstances, employees, physicians’ needs, problems – they’re all different. And, I really found this out fast – what works in one place might not work in another place. If you’re not careful that can be very frustrating, because people are different, they see things differently. So you have to figure out where the people are and what the circumstances are and work within those environments.”
McKibbens’ third point was: “Attract those people that you can depend on, and then take good care of them.” He followed that by urging leaders to make sure they include their family – especially their spouse – and that their family understands what they’re doing and why they’re doing it.
McKibbens’ fourth point appealed to healthcare leaders to “Set standards early on that comply with a worthwhile mission.” He went on to urge leaders to “Make sure you function with transparency, honesty, fairness, appropriateness, and within legal limits. Set reasonable and attainable goals developed with good advice from appropriate people.”
McKibbens concluded by encouraging healthcare leaders to “Be grateful for the opportunities that are afforded you by being in that job to begin with. When you’re grateful, you respect the job, and you don’t want to do anything to cast mud on it.”
Excellent and relevant wisdom from one of America’s successful healthcare leaders! Whether you are currently a senior healthcare leader, or you are just starting out, you can benefit from learning and applying the wisdom of Ben McKibbens:
National Institute for Healthcare Leadership – www.nihcl.com
America’s Healthcare Leaders – www.americashealthcareleaders.com
Dan Nielsen Company – www.dannielsencompany.com