July 26, 2021
Kat Baxter

11 Leadership Lessons Learned from a Conversation with Terry Wood

By: RLC co-chair, Kathryn Baxter, Division President at Facility 36

As part of the Revista’s commitment to the healthcare real estate industry, we are thrilled to introduce…THE RISING LEADERS COUNCIL (RLC).  

Rising leaders around the country are applying for one of ten positions in the inaugural class now through September. One of the many great benefits will be interacting with and working on initiatives with Revista leadership like, Terry J. Wood, Vice President – Real Estate at Kaiser Permanent. RLC co-chair, Kathryn Baxter, Division President at Facility 360, recently interviewed Terry about leadership and here are some amazing highlights from their conversation:


1.    Learn how to influence people. “If you can’t influence people, frankly you are not a leader. You don’t get appointed to a leadership role, you get appointed to a role in the company. We all know senior people in organizations, very senior, who are not leaders because they can’t influence people. So, you have to influence human behavior to meet whatever goal it is you’re trying to achieve.”


2.    Build an effective team.  “An effective team is a team that understands what needs to be done.  How do they know what needs to be done – through a clearly communicated vision, demonstrated leadership and leading by example.” Throughout our conversation Terry continued to stress the importance of an effective team and credits his team to his ability to participate in so many leadership roles inside and outside of Kaiser Permanente.  His role as a leader is focused around building an effective team and empowering the team to be successful. “If you don’t have an effective team, you waste a lot of time micromanaging.”


3.    When hiring, dig deeper than the resume.  “I’m not the kind of person who lays off an employee based on the assumption that they are not meeting all of my expectations, and further assuming that I can hire someone I don’t know who will meet them all.  I’ve seen too many people dismissed/laid off based on the assumption above. I believe that most people can be developed to be effective employees, so I dedicate the time to develop employees.”  Terry says that when he does need to make a change or hire a new employee he looks past the resume and assumes that a candidate either has the fundamental skills for the job, or can be taught the fundamental skills for the job.  “In an interview, the first thing I try to do is put the person at ease so I can get to know who they really are, if they have a winning attitude, can work in a team environment and within our culture.  I spend much more time focusing on the aspects of a person’s character than on their skillset.”  


4.    Believe that people are inherently good and effective.  Terry says he often looks to hire people who “are early in their career. They are often more willing to learn and be developed into highly successful employees.   When you start with that assumption, you can generally develop/change people and refocus them if required.”
5.    Set clear goals for your entire organization. “Without goals cascading throughout the organization and be aligned   all the way up at the top, someone can feel like they aren’t even part of the company. For example, if I’m a stationary engineer, and I don’t understand how my job helps promote the company goal of delivering high quality, affordable healthcare, how am I going to feel connected to the company?”


6.    Rely on your team to develop and implement these goals.  When asking Terry if he developed the goals for his team and then passed the assignments off, he responded light-heartedly “No, no.  I’m not smart enough to do that.  I need my team.  I review and approve the goals and ensure they are aligned with higher level goals and my vision, but the goals are developed     with my senior leadership team.  I can’t review every goal downstream from me, but that’s where having an effective team comes in.  The team understands my expectations and works through the same process with their direct reports.”


7.    Learn from those you know and respect.  “I think what I find to be the most effective for me in continuing my leadership development is to observe others whom I respect. What is it they’re doing? There are great people above and below me. And I look at how their teams are energized and how effective they are. And I’ll often just have interviews with them as well, and just say, ‘Hey, what is it you’re doing that’s unique, or let’s talk about how you lead.’ You can learn as effectively from others as you can from a book. There’s great structure in books, but I find that speaking to somebody whom you respect as a leader is as good, if not better than that.”


8.    To be a good mentor break down barriers, then listen.  “I start with breaking down the barriers and developing a friendship with a mentee first. And then we get into things that are    more developmental in nature like ‘Where would you like to take this?’ I always make a point on the second, third, and fourth call, after 10, 15 minutes into the discussion, to start to really focus the discussions   and say, ‘By the way, where are you in this? How do you feel about that?’ And just asking questions and then doing a lot of listening. I think at the end of the day, the goal is to be an effective listener as a mentor, but you’ve got to put the person in a place where they’re comfortable speaking in the first place.”  It is important to develop a relationship early on to be highly effective.


9.    Understand the benefits of equality, inclusion and diversity in your organization.  “I think that if people don’t understand the benefits of having a diverse organization, and it’s not just about having a diverse organization, it is making sure that people are included in that organization and they’re sponsored to support their career development, then I think they’re going to fall behind and lose the tremendous benefits of a diverse organization.”


10. Pay attention to how technology will impact your ability to influence.  “If you’re influencing people, you have to understand the environment as a whole. And if you don’t have a grasp on technology and what technology is able to do for individuals and organizations, then you’re not going to be able to influence and lead effectively. So, I think a clear understanding of the value and the advantages of where we’re going from a technology perspective is absolutely key.”


11. Laugh.  “I think you have to have a sense of humor. That’s often dismissed. Laugh at yourself. If you can’t laugh with others, then it makes for a pretty rough environment to work in. We’re all working hard, and it shouldn’t be a place that’s just a grind.”


Stay tuned for more leadership interviews through September!

The RLC Program is made possible, in part, by: