I had been a successful healthcare executive for almost two decades when I first met Lisa, the CEO of Home Health Companions. She was my client while I worked in the post-acute care industry. I would have been thrilled to know then that I would work with her later, though I never would have imagined the way it panned out.
Lisa and I connected thanks to our shared passion for integrating innovative solutions into healthcare organizations. She opened up to me about her goals, and I guided her through the executive strategy to develop the solutions that would get Home Health Companions to the point that it could optimally meet their clients’ needs.
When Home Health Companions’ COO stepped down in January 2020, I was flattered and excited when Lisa called me about the position. I knew we could do tremendous things together, and I accepted her offer.
My transition to Home Health Companions
It was a big decision to move to the COO position after years of developing global partnerships and strategies. In the first weeks on the job, I found myself sitting in an office looking at P&Ls, HR materials, policies and operations. But I knew I was the best candidate to develop an innovative strategy with my experience in operations, oversight and marketing. I was determined to champion everything Home Health Companions stands for.
I quickly came to terms with the trade-off I made. Though the environment felt like a big change, I grew more excited day after day as I took on new projects. Our clients were going to enjoy a uniquely innovative and superior model of in-home care.
But then, I was faced with challenges I never expected. Just two months into the job, the nation was hit with the COVID-19 crisis. My expectations rapidly shifted from professional growth to a laser-focused approach to serve the healthcare community. I faced immediate business threats, like not being able to serve our elderly patients or the most medically at-risk, plus creating safety policies and procedures to keep staff healthy. We all worked longer and longer hours, and I grappled with the fear of financial and business operations ramifications.
Throughout this experience, I learned a precious lesson that I did not have on my list of big plans coming in: the true meaning of being a servant leader.
Projected growth versus actual growth
When I started at Home Health Companions, I had an agenda to grow the business through innovative and improved operations. I also had an agenda for my own professional growth. The biggest lesson I’ve learned these first four months, however, was the result of the novel coronavirus, and that lesson wasn’t in my game plan.
Some of the biggest challenges I faced as soon as the pandemic escalated included creating new COVID-19 workflows to keep staff, the healthcare community and our clients safe. I also had to keep up with every governmental and CDC change, which were updated daily, to ensure we were following all the rules and recommendations.
I had to step up as an organizational leader when we experienced a growing fear from our staff around visiting nursing homes—and even going into clients’ homes. Those of us on the executive team decided to implement daily conference calls and huddles with our staff to keep them informed on all COVID-19 changes and to ensure they understood the importance of infection control. There were several Saturdays where we even met staff in wide-open parking lots to safely provide them with more masks and gloves, always at the greatest possible social distance.
This exercise in regular leadership and actionable guidance was calming for staff, and it was an empowering lesson for me. By opening these additional lines of communication, we learned that many members of our staff also had a fear of losing their jobs. We were able to quell those fears and purpose all our conferences toward what positive action they could take right then. “What can you do today?”
The value I find in servant leadership
Servant leadership is not a new concept. At some point in our business careers, we all come across the many different leadership styles. While completing my MBA at Southern Methodist University as well as during professional development experiences at Harvard and Oxford, this and the many other styles of leadership were frequently assessed. And while these incredible conceptual models fascinated me academically, they became intimately and deeply applicable during this unforeseen epidemic.
By stepping up to Home Health Companion’s organizational needs during an unprecedented situation, COVID-19 taught me that growth is about transparent servitude in times of unforeseen challenges. My heart aches for all that our community has suffered, as well as the suffering that’s taken place nation and worldwide. I have found purpose, however, in doing what I can to ensure in-home care is available to those who need it, many of them now more than ever.
About Ariane García
For 20 years Ms. García has served in several firms across the healthcare industry including: hospitals, medical device companies, post-acute healthcare, and medical technology. She excels in strategy & business development, contract negotiations, operations, P&L oversight, and marketing strategy. She has championed efforts to enhance capabilities in general management, new market identification, and finance.
It is with great gratitude that Home Health Companions welcomes Ms. García to our team, and applauds her capacity to apply all her skills to such immediately profound needs our organization has had.
“Having Ariane assume the COO role will enable me to do more strategic external-facing activities for Home Health Companions mission,” Ms. Shardon of the company said.
Ms. García earned an MBA from COX Business School Dallas Texas, a bachelor’s degree in Markets & Cultures, and second in Spanish from Southern Methodist University in Dallas Texas. Ariane completed a certification in open innovation strategy from University of Oxford in the UK and a certification on negotiation and leadership from Harvard Law School. She has served on various community organizations with responsibilities in governance, finance oversight and fundraising.