Two of the biggest institutions in the region — a hospital and a university — near the successful end of the first year of a unique leadership program. Big expansion plans are on the horizon.
Tiffaney Randolph grew up under the Golden Rule, to treat others the way you want to be treated.
That served her well as a teenager and a young adult, and remains a staple of her personal life today. Randolph is now an advanced practice divisional educator and fellowship director at Tampa General Hospital, where she supports and leads teams working in patient-focused departments. It’s one of several leadership posts the nurse practitioner, with a doctor of nursing practice degree, has held at TGH since joining the health care giant in 2016. “I love health care,” Randolph says, “and I love clinical outcomes.”
And while the Golden Rule still reigns in her life, at TGH Randolph also recently learned a key leadership principle about emotional intelligence and leading with empathy. “You don’t have to just treat people the way you want to be treated,” she says. “You have to meet people where they are.”
It’s a nuanced, and essential component of how Randolph approaches her job now at TGH. And she credits the lesson for it to the People Development Institute.
The People Development Institute is a partnership TGH has with the University of South Florida Muma College of Business that provides leadership development programs unique to the academic medical center. Launched in October 2021, all TGH team members can access classes on topics such as technical and emotional skills, financial management, communication, emotional intelligence and conflict management.
PDI courses, so far, are virtual, with plans in the works to roll out hybrid and face-to-face instruction. Classes are free to all TGH employees, at least for the first five years, through a Tampa General Hospital Foundation grant. A bonus: after PDI participants complete their courses, they earn badges recognizing their expertise in each competency.
Randolph is something of a super-user of the PDI at the hospital. “I feel like I’m a groupie for this leadership program,” she says. “Everything they do I latch onto it. I can’t believe all of this is free here. I think it’s amazing. I don’t see any other institution offering something as robust as this at this level.”
As the PDI nears its first anniversary, two top officials, one from USF, one from TGH, are excited about both what the program has done so far and where it can go. In press materials announcing the formation of the PDI, the organizations boasted it was the first of its kind, in terms of leadership development curriculum, in the country.
Matt Mullarkey with USF and the executive director of the People Development Institute, says one core tenet of the program is to be open to every TGH employee. The 1,041-bed hospital system has a payroll of some 8,000 people. That goes, Mullarkey says, from “valet to vascular surgeon.”
“We saw a lot of health care programs in the MBA space,” adds Mullarkey, also director of the Doctor of Business Administration Program at the Muma College of Business, about some pre-PDI research. “We wanted something more robust — and something accessible to every TGH employee.”
The official on the TGH side of the institute is director David Howard — who was previously a USF employee and consultant. With a background in computer science and engineering, Howard was sold on the potential of the institute after a few conversations with TGH President and CEO John Couris in early 2021.
Couris and Howard met when the nationally known hospital CEO was a student at USF in 2021, working toward a Doctor of Business Administration degree — an advanced MBA. Howard was a consultant in the DBA program, focusing on statistical analysis, which Couris was studying. Couris has been leading TGH, the region’s only center for Level l trauma and comprehensive burn care, since 2017.
“This was something John was especially passionate about,” Howard says. “When you have buy-in from the CEO it lets everyone know it’s not just checking off a box. We truly are committed to developing leaders here.”
The buy-in was so big Couris convinced Howard to leave USF and join TGH to run the People Development Institute. Howard now works with USF adjunct professor Marcus Green and Joann Quinn, an administrator and associate Professor at the Morsani College of Medicine, on the PDI.
Two keys to the success of institute so far, say Howard and Mullarkey, are collaboration and commitment to researching what works and what doesn’t work.
On the first point, Mullarkey says everything in the curriculum stems from USF and TGH leaders working together on finding the right mix of process and real-life application. “If this was done (only) with faculty in a room in USF,” Mullarkey says, “we couldn’t do it.”
The curriculum, adds Howard, is adjusted based on need and demand — not an Ivory tower leadership cram down. “The key for us is we really want to have empirical data to back up what we teach,” Howard says. “We want to have real academic vigor in what we do.”
One example of how they do that is through pre-and post institute surveys. For example, before a TGH leader takes a PDI class, the institute sends surveys to that leader’s direct reports. That leader/student is then evaluated on a host of leadership topics, both before and after the class. Going deeper, those topics, Howard says, become values that include kindness, transparency, vulnerability and trust.
Getting ready for year two of the institute, Howard and Mullarkey share one big goal: expansion. While not likely for a few years, that could include eventually opening the curriculum to other health care organizations.
“We are on the cutting edge of transforming learning opportunities,” for leadership at TGH, Mullarkey says. “I think that’s pretty thrilling.”