Talking Careers with Laura Kaiser

Please introduce yourself and define your role at Intermountain Healthcare.

I am the Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, I am accountable for our delivery system: 22 hospitals and multiple ambulatory settings, the Intermountain Medical Group, Quality, the Institute for Health Care Delivery and Research, Health and Wellness, Physician Relations, Homecare and Clinical Operations and Support Services. I have the opportunity to work with a terrific set of leaders, whose competency, dedication and energy make my job easier.

What has helped you reach the executive level in our organization? 

I’m a firm believer that the best leaders – in healthcare or in any field – are those who see leadership as an act of service rather than an exercise of authority. Personally, I have always been blessed to love my work and for it to be an extension of my drive to be of service. Our field is full of highly capable, caring and purpose-driven people. In my experience, leaders who live the principles of servant leadership – sharing responsibility, putting the needs of others first, fostering a healthy culture, and helping people reach individual potential – are those who help an organization to thrive and reach its full potential through the hands of the team.

How do you maintain a sense of work life balance? 

Our work is rewarding in so many ways, but it can also be stressful and draining if we fail to recharge and maintain that all-important balance.  Fortunately, I have a strong support system of faith, family and friends who help me disconnect from the job when it is time to do so. We love getting outdoors to exercise, garden and walk our dogs.  Volunteering in the community in areas I care about – education, our environment, and music – is also revitalizing and centering.

What critical questions do you ask yourself when you make decisions?

Many decisions are very straight forward, relatively simple, and can be handled decisively and quickly.  However, when faced with a more complex issue, I ask myself what the central question is and determine whether it is something I need to problem solve or if there is another individual within Intermountain Healthcare who is in a better position to make the decision. If the decision is mine, I try to carefully identify options, anticipated consequences of each option, including who will be affected and in what way.  I may seek input from others to include in my decision making. Finally, given careful discernment, I move forward and, if necessary, adjust or fine tune the decision as appropriate.

What resources have you found most helpful in navigating your career? 

That’s easy… mentors.  I have had a number of remarkable, supportive mentors throughout my career who have provided valuable advice.  Some of the most helpful insight has not been about how to navigate career moves.  Rather, my mentors have identified opportunities for me to grow, improve and do better in my current role.  As I've listened, learned and incorporated their best thinking, navigating a career seems to take care of itself.

What do you think it means to be an Intermountain Healthcare Employee? 

l had a pretty good idea before I came here early in 2012 how special this place is. But it turns out I underestimated exactly how unique of a culture we have at Intermountain Healthcare. Most of us who work in the healthcare field choose to do so because we are able to touch the lives of many people. With Intermountain’s focus on high quality and sustainable costs and providing our patients with an extraordinary care experience, we have a culture that allows us to act in the best interest of our communities. 

What was your first job?

As a teenager, I volunteered at a local hospital as a candy striper and also did some babysitting, life guarding and served as a church camp counselor.  At 16, my first job that involved a W-2 was working part time at a fast food Mexican restaurant.  It was a valuable experience - learning customer relations, handling cash, cooking, dishwashing, cleaning the dining room and taking the trash out. Learning to work and follow through on responsibilities is an important foundation for a successful career.