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7 Questions with Aaron Hajart

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Jonno White

7 Questions with Aaron Hajart

Name: Aaron Hajart

Current title: Chief Operating Officer and SVP for Strategy and Innovation

Current organisation: Bergen New Bridge Medical Center

Aaron F. Hajart joined Bergen New Bridge Medical Center in July 2017 and currently serves as the Chief Operating Officer and Senior Vice President for Strategy and Innovation. Mr. Hajart provides executive leadership for hospital operations, strategic planning, managed care, and community health. He joined Bergen New Bridge initially leading the transition process for Care Plus Bergen as they took over operations of the medical center as the Chief Transition Officer and served as Chief Strategy Officer prior to his elevation to COO in April of 2018. In addition to general hospital operational responsibilities, Mr. Hajart oversees the Diagnostic Services, Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Laboratory, Community Health and Testing, Behavioral Health Access, Patient Scheduling, Emergency Medical Services, Clinical Service Lines, Managed Care, Cardiopulmonary, and Capital Planning departments.

7 Questions with Aaron Hajart

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1. What have you found most challenging as a CEO or executive of a large enterprise?

One of the most challenging aspects of my role has been finding time to get into more of the details of our day to day projects and activities. As a hospital COO, I make time to round and attend as many departmental staff meetings as I can, but it is increasingly difficult to make myself available. Beyond staff meetings, I think it is important to have a full breadth of understanding of what is occurring on a daily basis but getting into the specifics and seeing the day-to-day trials and tribulations of staff is incredibly challenging to do with so many other competing interests.

2. How did you become a CEO or executive of a large enterprise? Can you please briefly tell the story?

I started in a clinical role and with the help of a number of physician champions, I have had the opportunity to progress into the role of COO. I took on positions that allowed for growth of responsibility but was never focused on just making more money. I went from running a small medical practice, to service line management roles, first at SUNY Downstate Medical Center, and later at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School. I had the fortune of being considered for a new role as Assistant Dean for Clinical Strategy and Development at Rutgers which led to my current role at Bergen New Bridge Medical Center. All along my journey, I found that by focusing on the team or company's success, but still understanding the pressures in and outside of work that our staff had, you can build success with minimal investment.

3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?

I wake up about 4:30 everyday and am out of the house before 6 AM. I like to be in the office before 6:30 which gives me time to catch up on emails, review the prior day's admission/discharge data, hospital volumes and metrics, and prepare for the rest of my day. I generally meet with a different direct report in the morning each day of the week and try to make time for rounds before noon. I attend rounds as much as I can. My afternoon is mostly focused on business planning and various meetings. I make quick rounds, usually in the ED before I head home for the day. I take the 45 min drive home to relax or catch up with family or friends on the phone so that when I get home, I have disconnected a little. I like to make dinner as much as I can and spend time with my wife and daughter. I will often return emails before reading a book before bed. I find reading a couple of chapters of a book helps me wind down at night. I am usually in bed by 9 PM most nights.

4. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?

Leadership is not a title or a role, it is an individual and can be found at every level of the organization. There are nurses, laboratory technologists, and our community outreach staff who lead from within the organization and exude the key characteristics that most of the successful leaders I work with, they are compassionate, good listeners, and decisive. Leading from the middle (or the back) is how successful organizations are made. It doesn't have to be the top of the pecking order that has the role of "leader."

5. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?

I recommend "Five Days at Memorial '' for any hospital executive. While an extreme case, this book details the decisions made at a hospital, and healthcare in general, in the face of peril. This book had a profound effect on me by ingraining the fact that decisions have consequences and each decision leads to compounded decisions that relegate you to reactionary stances. This has helped me to be a more proactive planner but also better understand that when I have to be reactionary, I think further ahead.

6. How do you build leadership capacity in a large enterprise?

Building leadership has to start with the front line. You have to build a sense of team, while getting to know the individuals. While you will never get to know all of your staff, getting to know as many as possible is important to build grassroot approaches to change management. You must also have and show compassion while still holding people accountable. Accountability is the most important tactic in managing people and organizations as it levels the playing field within the organization and trims fat from the operations.

7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a CEO or executive of a large enterprise so far?

I hired a young lady who had been out of work and had a very poor work history overall. She dropped out of college and had no plans to go back. While her interview was pretty standard, what stood out about her was that she was incredibly smart, quick-witted, and honest. I ended up hiring her and she performed remarkably well. In one of our early one-on-one performance reviews, I pushed her to go back to school and told her I would be the loudest in the crowd when she walked across the stage. As I moved up in the organization, I was able to find progressive roles for her until my departure a few years later. About a year after I left, I got an invitation in the mail for a graduation ceremony. Suffice it to say, I was only the second loudest person in the audience as her sister is an incredibly loud individual. She has built herself an amazing career and I count myself fortunate for working with her as long as I did.