Ep. 7: Paul Rumsey (w/ Christopher Gomez)

by | Jan 20, 2021 | Podcasts, The Virtuous Heros | 0 comments

Podcast episode

About our Guest

Paul Rumsey is the Senior Vice President of Strategic HR Operations at Atrium Health; in this role, he leads merger integrations, process improvements, and strategy and culture initiatives for 70,000 teammates across three different states. As Chief of Staff, he served as “HR for HR” to address teammate relation issues and to enhance HR skill development. In this episode, Paul and Chris discuss the importance of being your genuine self in order to be an effective business leader. With experience as a teacher and executive in healthcare, insurance, hospitality, and software, Paul’s lessons are valuable across industries.



Chris: All right. Welcome back to the Leading Virtuously Podcast. So excited to be able to have Paul Rumsey on the show today. Paul, who are. 

Paul: Great to be here. So I’m the senior vice president of strategic human resource operations at Atrium Health, which is based in Charlotte, North Carolina. We have about 70,000 teammates and we’re in three different states.

So what my role is really focuses around strategic alignment. Partnering with the rest of the organization to make sure HR is aligned with that as well. A title I initially had was chief of staff for HR working directly with our chief people and culture officer. My background started as a teacher and I wanted to help young people and then moved from there into corporate training.

After about 12 years of teaching. And stayed in the learning space for quite a while. And then expanded here. I’ve worked in multiple industries from hospitality to software, to healthcare insurance, and now in healthcare itself. 

Chris: Excellent. Yeah, that kind of takes into my second question of how you got to the role that you’re in today.

How did you, if you wouldn’t mind sharing, how did you onboard into this role and specifically within Atrium. 

Paul: So fortunately the boss that I had when I worked in Dallas, Texas moved here and about eight, nine months later, I followed him here. So that helped with the onboarding as to my leader. I say to people.

The only a couple people in my life that I would move across the country for and my current boss Jim Dunn is one of those people. So I’m moving into this role. It’s much more expanded than what my focus was before, but in my past, I’ve always tried to make sure that whatever I was doing in HR or learning.

Directly impacted the operation side of the business. Sometimes in my past, I reported it in the operations instead of human resources. And so that helped when I worked at the software company, it was a business intelligence company, all about data, all about dashboards reports, making database decisions.

And so that helped. And then in my previous job I did a lot with influencing the overall strategy and the strategy implementation throughout the organization. So that really helped set me up. So I would say the biggest lesson is whatever my job is, make sure I’m doing that extremely well. But then what other areas of the organization, that I can.

Influence take part in to help them. It just expands my career focus, but also might influence on the overall organization versus just staying silent in my one area. 

Chris: So based off of the career that you had and thinking about your work and your career, what do you think is something that like the average person wouldn’t know that you’ve been able to gain wisdom based off of your career though?

Paul: So I would say for me, it’s being true to myself and who I am. So I remember I started one in one company and the culture of that company was not as, as Collaborative and one where people thrive. It was very much if someone’s doing something wrong, point that out so that you can rise above.

Chris: So it wasn’t very functional, it was dysfunctional.

Paul: Exactly. And initially I thought. Wow, maybe this is how I have to lead in order to survive here. And it was right during the downturn of the 2008, 2009 world economy. And we started doing some layoffs and really number crunching. I was miserable. I could tell my team was miserable.

And I said, Paul, what has worked for you in the past? Go back to what, works your leadership style. You’ve gotten results in the past and don’t change because of these external pressures. So I would say the biggest lesson. And when I did that, We met our numbers. We actually exceeded our numbers quite a bit.

I was much more content because I was being authentic to who I was and my team was much happier and really thrived in that organization even more than some of the counterparts in in our area. So I would say the biggest lesson is be true to yourself, know yourself, be true to who you are in your core values.

Make sure they align with the organization’s about use and don’t let external influencers, even your boss or coworkers bring you down to a different level than what you know is works for you. 

Chris: I love that Paul, because I think that’s really important for newer leaders. Even leaders that have just adopted a team that they’re still trying to figure out what it’s like to lead within the organization.

And I know oftentimes our work psychologists that work with our clients talk all the time about how. Usually two different cultures, the culture of the team in general, and then also the team of the organization and in a grand scale. So I think that’s great advice to leaders to be able to realize like it’s okay to be genuine to who you are, to be able to get the most out of your team and to work the way that you feel like is really putting the best version of yourself out there.

So thank you for sharing that. And so Paul here’s the. The million dollar question of like, where do you see virtue and business intersecting for yourself within your own career? 

Paul: Yeah, so a lot of it has been around decision-making. Who has that decision-making authority? How do you empower others to make decisions in one organization?

That was a key area across the organization, through our employee engagement survey, that we got feedback that certain levels were making all the decisions and just pushing it down. And so the frontline levels didn’t feel like they had any. Build or buy in into that. And they really pushed back and appropriately.

So decision making is important and I really believe how being a virtuous leader is gathering input, having transparency of what you’re doing as much as you’re able to and getting that input from others because I’m only seeing things from my level or my world. And if I’m going to make business decisions that impact others, I need some of the inputs.

Now at the end of the day, I may have to be the one making the decision and I’m perfectly okay with that. So I’m not saying shirk, your decision making responsibility, but it’s important to be virtuous. I realize I might not have all the answers is there from a diversity equity inclusion perspective.

It’s very important. To get that. So that was one thing that I really learned at that organization. Another one is just how you treat individuals. So I talked about the one organization where I worked, where the, it was a dysfunctional culture. And the interesting thing is when I saw my boss there offsite.

So he’d have all of us over to his house every so often. And the way he interacted with this family. It was amazing, but in a business sense, it was like a totally different person. If you would bring that family perspective where everyone just adores you and bring that still strong leadership, high expectations.

But helping people get there versus just cutting people down when they aren’t me be hitting your expectation. We would go through hell and high water for you. But people left. I remember being in a business review meeting and people would leave after the presentation crying and I thought this is crazy.

 He, for some reason, felt like that’s what he needed to do in order to lead that part of the business. But when I saw him outside of work, I thought, wow, that is incredible person. What I like about my current boss is he’s the same in and out of the office. So it’s who he is. High standards holds us accountable, pushes us, which I’m all for, but does it in a very authentic virtuous way.

Chris: And yeah, I guess the thing that was really resonating me as you were talking about both examples was that if humility, especially around decision-making. In order to be able to, as a leader, to be able to interact with all levels of the organization, you have to be able to come from that place of humility that says I don’t have all the answers.

And oftentimes that can be a scary place for a leader. It feels like oftentimes you have to have all the answers and ultimately be able to just like collaborate with other people and set the floor to ask the question and then sit back and allow the team to fill in the gaps.

So yeah. And then, yeah, that, that is crazy to think about around your second example, but to think about someone that, that is that way in a personal life and then completely different in an, in another way. And yeah. Wow. I’m sure that, it must’ve been frustrating for you too, to be like, see the power and potential that the person had, but then it’s just not really showing up in the workplace.

Paul: Definitely. The one good side of that is he did allow us to see that side of him. So then it did put into context where I might be in a meeting and I hear this other ass side of him, but I realized, okay, that’s not fully who he is. He’s doing that in order to, in his mind, that’s the best way to reach the business needs.

But I do know this other side of him. And so I would try to find ways to tap into that side. As I interacted with him, frame things up in a certain way that he might resonate with, and that really helped my relationship with him, that it was a very positive relationship for the majority of the time that I worked there.

Chris: So what would you, so what says you Paul to a leader who feels like they’re watching this interview? I think what’s really coming through to me is about being your genuine self. And so what would say you being in the role that you’re in to a leader, that’s saying you know what I’m recognizing the fact that I am not showing up the same person and I’m not really being my genuine self.

What is some, like some tactical steps that someone could take towards starting to move in that direction. 

Paul: So I think a big part is knowing yourself, knowing what type of person. Down deep, want to be. Most of us, know what type we want to be, and then we can easily say, okay, I’m not like that person at all.

Also I might be going back to a previous leader, one of my first leader, When I moved into corporate training was an amazing mentor. And so I learned from her and my current boss, the importance of mentoring people, because you’re helping their career, encouraging them to make some of those decisions.

You’re there as their safety net. So looking at say, what type of people do I gravitate to. Do I feel like I can do that. And so trying to identify what type of person do I want to say when I leave, or as people would say, when I die, what’s on my tombstone. I’d try to be a little more positive. What characteristics do I want people to say?

And then if I don’t feel confident or competent in those areas, maybe it’s transparent communication. Maybe I don’t feel confident in being transparent or I’m not exactly sure how to do it in an authentic way while safeguarding the business too. Then set up an action plan on how you’re going to get that competence.

As you get more competent in an area you’ll get more confident, find someone that can give you honest feedback whether it’s a coach or a peer and just say, listen, I’m going to come to you on a regular basis. And I want you to be blunt with me. Tell me what I did well, but I don’t need you to just butter me up.

Tell me what I did not do well, and then we can process that, but we all need those people because if we just stay within ourselves, We’ll keep telling themselves, oh no, you did. Okay. Because maybe we don’t want to confront ourselves. 

Chris: And no, I love that too. Just thinking about that example of Accountability partners.

We want to be able to bring in accountability partners that are excellent in that area, that we’re trying to be held accountable to that when we bring in people that are weak in those areas, then all they’re going to be like, oh, don’t worry about it. Everyone struggles with that, et cetera, versus someone that already has got that mapped out so that when we come to them, and we’re saying that we’re struggling in that area, that they have the ability to be like.

No, you can do better. Let’s focus in that area. So that’s great. Thank you for sharing that too. Cool. Yeah. So not to, to touch upon that question that you had said when you think about, your own retirement and you are retired, what do you think that you want to be remembered for in your own career?

What do you, what would you like people to say about Paul?

Paul: I would like people more, even more to say that I impacted them as individuals. Then I just helped me the business aspects in my mind as a leader. If I am meeting the business obligations, that’s just my bread and butter. But I want people to be able to look back and say, When I think of one of my best leaders, Paul comes to mind and it may be around some connection I had with them a way, ideally that I helped them improve their career development and their growth.

I remember when I left one organization that someone on the team wrote me a letter. And it surprised me because she talked about how she was very insecure when she came into that role that I took an interest in her. I worked with her on her skills. She had some career development and promotions, and now that I’m leaving, she feels much more confident to continue her career in whichever way she wants to go.

And I didn’t even realize I did that. Those are the types of things that I’d want to say that people would look and say, I impacted them as people in the careers or their personal growth, even more than, Hey, you helped us always hit our numbers. Both are important, but the personal side, I think is much more lasting in a broad worldview.

Chris: Yeah. I always tell people that we can never hitch a U haul behind us when we pass. But what we can, the only thing that we can leave behind as a legacy and the way that we make people feel. So I think you nailed it on the head for sure, Paul so how can people get a hold of you

Paul: The easiest way is through LinkedIn.

So Paul Rumsey look me up on LinkedIn and that’s easiest way. I accept almost every invitation unless it’s I could tell someone is just selling me something that maybe I don’t, because I got invited, but in most cases LinkedIn is the best way. Again. I work at Atrium Health. My email address is [email protected].

You’re welcome to send me an email as well. I love connecting with people. Networking is important. I’d like to learn from you all, just as much as maybe you’ve learned something from this podcast, it’s, we’re all in this together. So it’s all about helping each other.

Chris: Awesome. Thank you so much, Paul.

Really appreciate it. And excited too for our audience as well, to be able to pull away from what we talked about today. So thank you for your time. Really. Appreciate it. Thank you for this opportunity. 

Chris: Yeah, no worries.

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