Cone Health’s Dr. Mary Jo Cagle on learning the language of possibility


Congratulations on your promotion. What advice do you have for leaders during a merger or acquisition?
Start with the “why” in all of your communications. Cast a vision of why the team made this decision. Remember the book, The Three Laws of Performance. Performance and perceptions are rooted in language, so use the language of possibility. Finally, you can never over-communicate.

You recently oversaw the opening and then closing of a hospital to care for COVID patients. What did that teach you?
During the opening and closing of our COVID hospital (we were open for 12 months), we learned a new level of agility. We took the lessons we had been learning from Lean around continuous improvement and letting the people who do the work design the work. We put that into action at a higher level. Necessity really is the mother of invention. And when dedicated professionals are empowered to solve a problem for their community, the results can be inspirational.

You’ve said you were the first or among the first for some of the things you’ve done. What is the biggest challenge with that?
When you are the “first” to do something or be in some role, there is no blueprint and many are watching to see if you can “measure up.” Your work is more closely examined. You are questioned more closely and you must perform at a higher level to receive the same level of acceptance. The good news about all of that is that you become better, smarter, faster and more knowledgeable. You also often get to design your own template. My motto is, “Don’t get discouraged, get better.”

Who is your role model in and out of healthcare?
Jeane Kirkpatrick and Ruth Bader Ginsburg were big role models for me outside of healthcare. And from a young age, I read everything I could find about Marie Curie. She inspired me.

We’re celebrating our 45th anniversary this year by asking who do you see as the most influential healthcare leaders in recent years?
Dr. Don Berwick and his work toward patient safety has transformed healthcare. President Barack Obama and the Affordable Care Act have changed policy, strategy and practice. Finally, I would add Seema Verma and how she shaped policy.

Be part of an environment for female healthcare professionals to learn, grow, connect, be inspired and mentor one another and the next generation of female leadership. It’s more than a conference. It’s a community! Register for the Women Leaders in Healthcare Conference on July 22-23.



Leave a comment