DTA Coaching Community – Interview with Karl Thomas

Karl Thomas 1

As you probably know by now (if you follow our blogs), on the first Monday of every month, DTA convenes a community of Care Team Coaches and Leaders from across the country. The purpose of these calls is for coaches who all use DTA’s Coaching Reporting Tool to share notes and learn from one another on their coaching journeys. Our call in March featured a presentation from Karl Thomas, Chief Innovation Officer at North Memorial Health in Robbinsdale, MN.

As Chief Innovation Officer, Karl has primary responsibility for designing and delivering an unmatched customer experience across North Memorial Health, including two hospitals, multiple primary and specialty care clinics, air care, and ambulance. His team oversees Metrics and Insights, Brand Culture and Education, and Customer Experience Coaching. Prior to joining North Memorial Health in 2016, Karl spent 20 years with Hilton Hotels, primarily focused on developing the brand culture and communications strategy for the Hampton by Hilton brand across the globe.

DTA: First things first, why customer experience and coaching? What drew you to invest in this strategy for your group/department?

KT: We know that customers have a choice in where they receive care – and we want North to be their first choice! We wanted a quick win with the team, and our partnership with DTA has allowed this – we show impact in every area we coach in. The investment in building a strengths-based team has paid off well beyond expectations!

DTA: Tell us about your team members. Do you coach too?

KT: I oversee the coaching team as part of our Innovation Organization – the day-to-day specifics are handled by our Manager, Shawna Foss.  Our team has a variety of backgrounds, intentionally – we have a nurse, a psychology major, a long-term North Team Member whose has experience leading in many departments, and a passionate leader who paves the way for her team to do amazing and impactful work.

Personally, I don’t coach – I can’t compete with the excellence of my team!

DTA: How do you keep your team fresh and grounded in the work that they are doing?

KT: It can be difficult and repetitive for our coaches as this is their full-time role – but being a diverse system with many locations, we are able build a little variety into the schedule. We rely on the team to self-schedule, which also helps. We try and look at different ways we can impact the organization and have scaled and evolved the coaching model.

DTA: What goals do you have for coaching? How do you identify areas/departments/roles/people for coaching?

KT: We use data from our Metrics and Insights team to drive where we coach – behind the scenes, we have a goal to coach all customer-facing team members in 2019-2020.

DTA: What kind of results are you seeing from this work?

KT: Everywhere our coaches have been, we’ve seen a positive impact! We use the Cohort Profiles from the DTA Coaching Reporting Tool to help us understand and focus our conversations on areas to celebrate (strengths), things that are inconsistent, and to identify areas of opportunity. We use them in our coaching debriefs with departmental leaders, in conversations with Senior Leaders, and in our education to prioritize the skills we should focus on.

One of our biggest areas of opportunity has been in the use of open-ended questions. This has really taken off in the organization such that even senior leaders now end meetings by asking, “What questions do you have for me?”!

DTA: Whether it’s your own coaching experience or that of one of your team members, what is your favorite coaching story?

KT: We run a very busy Level 1 Trauma Center, and were a little skeptical of how coaching would be viewed by a team that works hard through a constant flow of difficult situations. When one of our coaches did their debrief, a team member started crying as she realized the impact she was having. In healthcare, people don’t get a lot of strengths-based feedback. Our ED manager started to call our coaches “Life Coaches” because of the impact they are having on the team.

Thanks to Karl and all participants of our monthly Coaching Community Calls! This format has been super helpful in collectively building the Coaching Community across the country. If you are interested in learning more about the DTA Coaching Reporting Tool (the use of which is common to all of the Coaches on these Community Calls), you’re in luck! Sign up to view a demo of DTA Healthcare Solutions’ Coaching Reporting Tool.

Janiece Gray

I began my career as a social worker and later, with my Master of Health Administration (MHA), directed operations at Allina Health in Minnesota. I later directed patient experience at Allina. My background and experience give me strengths in approaching healthcare opportunities and challenges through a systems lens – with unique strengths, challenges and activation points. My experience is also informed by leadership roles leading performance improvement in patient-centered care and patient experience departments. Working in the client role with healthcare consulting firms inspired me to address some unmet needs in the industry, and to co-found DTA Healthcare Solutions. I have a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt, and find that the discipline of practice translates to healthcare work very well.

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