diana_schultzIt’s tempting to debate in the abstract, focusing on what could have been or how it might be. When it comes to workplace issues, this is particularly true. To clarify, I wanted to profile someone with a unique big-picture perspective.

Meet Diana Schultz, CEO of Kindred Hospital in Corpus Christi, Texas. Her route to the top demonstrates the power of persistent excellence.

While working towards her master’s degree in Public Administration, she became the human resources manager at an acute care hospital. After just 60 days on the job, the CEO resigned and Diana was asked to temporarily fill the position while the hospital sought to hire a new CEO. Unsatisfied with the candidates they’d seen, the staff started a petition to appoint Diana as CEO. The regional director agreed. A few years later, she interviewed for the CEO position at Kindred, and the rest is, as they say, history.

I met Diana last October at a TBW conference and was immediately struck by how comfortably and confidently she navigated leading both a family and a large company. With the symbolic recognition of Equal Pay Day last week, I knew the timing was perfect to share her habits and insights.

Thanks so much for giving us an inside look into your life. First, how do you define success?

I define success as a sense of fulfillment and I celebrate small successes all day every day. About two weeks ago, I was able to steal two hours of a Saturday evening, sit with my 10 year old son watching one of his favorite shows, and talk and giggle. That to me was a success story. When my daughter and I volunteered at the Food Bank warehouse last year and easily gathered a team of 15 individuals to help, that was a success to me. If I’m able to sit with one of our patients and get their mind off of their illness, even for just a little while, I consider myself successful.

Was there a time when you had a different definition? What changed that?

Being a true child of the 80’s, I used to define success by a dollar sign. More was better in my book. Television shows like Dallas and Dynasty had these opulent lifestyles that I thought I wanted. As I grew older and experienced certain emotional hardships, I veered completely to the opposite pendulum swing and studied Psychology in college. I think I picked that degree more to learn about myself, but figured it would also help me help others. Then the financial stressors began since most social service jobs typically aren’t high paying. It wasn’t until about five years ago, when my oldest left the nest, that I realized I wasn’t filling my cup. I wasn’t efficiently being who I wanted to be. I was just a hamster on a wheel running through the motions, but not really getting anywhere. It was at that point that I decided I had to change my way of thinking and behaving.

Can you describe a typical day in your life?

My day always starts by checking my work emails and my favorite social media sites. I have to know what’s going on all around me. I tell everyone I do my best thinking in the shower. So that’s my first to-do list that I create for my day. I’ll revise this list a couple of times as my day progresses. At work, I make sure that all my duties center around ensuring safe, quality patient care. This includes interacting with all departments and providing what’s needed; from quick, simple answers to being the safe haven where they can vent, or being the mentor that challenges them to find alternate solutions to common problems in our industry.  I also try to foster a workplace that people enjoy. I’ve been told more times than not that I can always be located on the building by the sound of my laugh.

Evenings, unfortunately, are typically short and include catching up with my family, homework review, and getting ready for the next day.

Do you have any particular habits or systems that you feel are essential to your success?

I’m a list kind of girl mostly because I can also be a bit of a daydreamer. Additionally, I love visiting with people whether that be my employees or our patients. So I have to find a way to be creative and still productive.

Are there any habits you’re working to develop next?

I’m trying to incorporate more health and wellness into our household by being conscientious about healthier meal choices and fit in more exercise. My kids are very physically active through school programs. However, my husband and I have room to improve in these areas. I want us to be healthy well into our golden years.

With your experience and corporate leadership, you have firsthand perspective on equal pay issues. What advice would you offer for closing the gap?

First and foremost, keep it real! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been approached by an emotional employee who perceives not receiving a fair wage only to find out that they were mistaken. For applicants, do your research to find out what jobs in your area are paying. There are several websites that can help. Make sure that you possess the knowledge, skills, and abilities required by that job description. Your interview should include previous evaluations and accomplishments that demonstrate what kind of an asset you’ll be. Don’t be afraid to negotiate a salary offer. Lastly, find a mentor or two willing to develop your professional career.

Do you have a specific question for Diana? Share it in the comments, and we’ll keep the conversation going.