He has been at the helm of Akron Children’s for 36 years and CEO William Considine’s leadership philosophy has never wavered. Service above self is a mantra he lives by and it’s evident in the culture he has helped create for employees.
His days start early and often begin out in the community sharing the message, and the mission, of Akron Children’s. This morning he spoke at a 7 o’clock rotary meeting in Hudson about the hospital’s 125th anniversary and how the hospital continues to position itself for the future.
“We learn a lot from the kids we take care of and that feedback is extremely valuable,” Considine said.
His daily schedule is typed out on 5 x 7 notecards, which he keeps tucked in his breast pocket for quick reference – a refreshingly old-school approach you don’t often see in the age of iPhones and iPads.
“I don’t need an iPad, I have Pat O’Desky and she is phenomenal,” he said of his longtime administrative assistant. “She keeps me focused on the kinds of things that create the energy I need to carry out this privileged role.”
O’Desky knows how important it is to Mr. Considine to interface with patients, families and employees as much as he can, and she takes advantage of scheduling his meetings around campus when possible.
“If I can get out of my office and walk to a meeting, it gives me a chance to say ‘hi’ to people,” said Considine. “I’ve learned so much from families over the years – the bond I see between patient families and our people has been enriching. It’s the key to our culture.”
After an 8:30 a.m. strategic operations committee meeting to talk about the investment the hospital wants to make in research, Considine chats by phone with the president of the Ohio Association of Children’s Hospitals about Issue 3 (Ohio’s marijuana legalization initiative).
At 10:30 a.m. Bernett Williams, the hospital’s vice president of external affairs, arrives in his office to review his role in a Partnership Conversation panel meeting being held at the hospital. The impetus was a conversation in Schwartz Rounds that highlighted a complex abuse case involving multiple agencies.
Williams explained how the conversation brought to light the hospital’s need to have ongoing communication with organizations like Ohio Department of Job and Family Services and the Children’s Services Board.
Coach and mentor
If you ask Considine how his leadership role has evolved after 36 years as CEO, he’ll tell you he now sees himself as more of a coach and mentor to the people around him.
“I have lots of institutional memory I can share,” he said. “My role is to lead by example through my actions. I want to promote a culture that is proactive, positive, supportive and fair for our employees. I want to empower people to be the best they can be.My dream is to make the impossible possible. If you get the right people working for you, there’s no stopping us.”
Upon arriving at a welcome lunch for new physicians, Considine makes it a point to approach and greet each new doctor. After going around the table and allowing everyone to introduce themselves, he provides a short history lesson on the hospital and how its geographic footprint has changed over the years.
“This year has been a time to celebrate our heritage and tradition, but also rededicate ourselves to our mission,” Considine said. “We invest in people and you folks are those people.”
When asked by a new doctor about the challenges Akron Children’s faces in the future, Considine references the ever-changing healthcare financing and reimbursement issues, the challenges of growth without sacrificing culture, and the explosion of “mega” hospital systems.
“A lot of people don’t understand what an independent healthcare delivery system is,” Considine said. “We don’t want to choose one partner to the exclusion of another. Our challenge now is to think more broadly about how we can impact the whole system for the betterment of the kids. It’s about the number of patients we touch, not the number we see.”
Considine mentions the guiding principles made back in 1890 by the founders of Akron Children’s: treating every child as your own, treating everyone as you want to be treated, and promising to never turn a child away.
“We have what we have today based on those humble promises,” he said.
With lunch wrapping up, Considine walks over to see the HR department’s new office space in the AMHA building.
He’s greeted warmly by department employees and even gets a hug from daughter, Cathryn O’Malley, who serves as the administrative director for organizational effectiveness. They chat about the success of some recent hiring fairs Children’s has held on campus.
As he heads back to his office, he stops to watch Air Bear land on the helipad – a sight he has seen numerous times, yet one that still seems to inspire a sense of awe and reverence. It’s likely a reminder of just how far things have come.
Faith and family
Considine credits his faith for directing his life’s work, his humble beginnings for his work ethic, and his parents, Howard and Gene, as his key role models. A blue “Howie Strong” bracelet on his left wrist keeps the spirit of his recently deceased father close at heart and hand.
“Mom and dad passed on the right kinds of values to me,” he said. “They shaped who I am today.”
For all intents and purposes the life of a CEO is a 24/7 job – literally.
According to O’Desky, “Every day for the past 36 years I drop a package off at Mr. C’s house on my way home from work that contains anything requiring his attention. He goes through everything before he goes to bed and places it back on the porch for me to pick up in the morning. When his kids were young they liked the idea that I brought him his homework every night – while they did their homework, he would do his.”
Considine credits Becky, his wife of 43 years, with a happy home life and 3 well-adjusted children, which afforded him the luxury of pouring his heart and soul into his work.
Now an empty nester with 3 grown children, he’s less conflicted about his work-life balance – but that wasn’t always the case.
“When Cathryn was in either kindergarten or 1st grade her teacher told Mrs. Considine she was sorry to hear about her and Mr. C. breaking up,” O’Desky shared. “Becky was very surprised and asked where she heard that news. The teacher said Cathryn mentioned he didn’t live at home.
“When Mr. C. heard, he called and told me he needed to be home in the evenings because Cathryn didn’t think he lived with them anymore. We can laugh about it now, but she was serious at the time.”
Long before he was a CEO, Considine shoveled sidewalks, painted homes, mowed grass, unloaded trucks, worked in the tire pit at Goodrich, and peddled newspapers – all jobs he says helped to shape his work ethic.
One of his vivid memories as a newspaper boy, with a route on Main Street, was frequent stops at a local drugstore for a cold Norka-brand orange soda – ironically the same company his son Michael now owns and operates.
When asked about his future plans for retirement – the waters are still unchartered – but he says he sees himself always having a home in Akron.
“I enjoy the 4 seasons – weather is a state of mind,” he said. “I have Irish roots so I could imagine renting a place in Ireland for a few months, playing some golf and seeing the sites.”
At 2:30 p.m. Considine meets up with Walt Schwoeble, vice president of human resources, for this month’s employee roundtable. Each month 12 to 15 randomly selected employees are invited to join him for an employee-directed session aimed at allowing them to ask questions and share what’s on their minds.
Today’s hour-long meeting focused on the challenges of growing the hospital while maintaining quality, how the census plays into staffing issues and turnover, and the hospital’s long-term needs.
Once back in his office he takes a minute to reflect on the framed sun catcher resting on his windowsill. It was given to him by a former patient’s mom and it’s something he deeply cherishes.
“Angie was a 13-year-old girl with cancer who took advantage of our art therapy program and was known for making sun catchers for the doctors and nurses,” he said. “She was an inspiration, made people’s lives better and along the way became a caregiver herself.
“After she died her mother gave me 1 of the 2 sun catchers she never got to complete. It reminds me every day that our work as a children’s hospital is never done.”
With his tenure still ongoing, one could argue that his own legacy – while vast – is not yet complete.
“My biggest challenge is prioritizing all the things I want to get done for Akron Children’s,” Considine said. “I won’t rest on my laurels because I plan to come back here even in retirement to check out all the new things being done.”
He then needed to get ready for an evening dinner meeting – a typical full day advocating for the Akron Children’s Hospital mission.