Distinguished Guest Lecturer Ellen Zane, the former president and CEO of Tufts Medical Center and the Floating Hospital for Children, recently offered career advice to Suffolk Healthcare students.

She shared her “Management Pearls,” which she considers “tidbits of wisdom” that can only be learned through experience. “These are things that I wish someone had told me along the way,” she explained.

Zane’s wisdom comes from years of experience. Before joining Tufts, she was network president for Partners Healthcare System Inc., where she developed a provider network of 5,600 physicians for the Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham & Women's Hospital.

Her most important advice for healthcare leaders is to be bold and take big, calculated risks. “Risk is good. Risk is important,” she explained, asking the audience, “Do you have the ability to stand up and take really significant risks in your career?”

When Zane came to Tufts in 2004, the stakes were high. The hospital was at the brink of financial collapse, with losses greater than $18 million. Although the task was daunting, Zane helped turn the hospital around. In 2010, it earned a $6.9 million profit.

She attributes her success to her team. “You are only as good as the people around you, said Zane. Hiring smart and talented people is important because they add value to organizations, she added. “Never be intimidated by people who are stronger and smarter than you.”

As a leader, one of the biggest challenges is “managing in a shade of gray” because very few decisions are black and white, Zane said. Although it can be difficult, leaders need to make the best decisions based on the available information, even if some data are lacking.

Zane also noted that in management, “the shortest distance between two points is not a straight line.” Leaders have to mitigate unexpected obstacles every day. Good leaders know how to navigate around those obstacles to achieve their goals, she said.

Other important words of advice included:

•Hire employees who share your passion for work.
•Know what you don’t know. Ask questions.
•Practice good management and leadership skills consistently and earn respect.
•Emotional intelligence is essential.
•Everyone is in sales all the time.
•Politics is everywhere; use it to your advantage.
•It isn’t enough to be right. Accomplishing goals is just as important.
•Being a leader isn’t a popularity contest. Gain respect by communicating clearly and honestly.
•Negotiate tactfully. Know when to compromise and when to be competitive.
•There is a thin line between success and failure.
•Strive for consensus, but know when it’s time to make an authoritative decision.
•Practice a strong ethical code.
•Make a difference. Add value to your organization.
“As always, Ellen showed considerable passion as she shared her ‘Management Pearls’ with our students and alumni. They were talking about her presentation for weeks afterward, figuring out how to act on what they had heard,” said Rick Gregg, Suffolk’s director of programs in Healthcare Administration.