Greg Habiduk teaches Management 300 here at Concordia. Having taken his class, I know that he has a great deal to offer the students of Concordia, as he impacted my own life in a very positive way.
Emma Bott: Can you give me some background on your education and work experience?
Greg Habiduk: I received my Bachelor of Commerce from the University of Saskatchewan majoring in Health Care Administration and General Business in 1986. To some extent the choice of major at the time was driven by both family experiences in the health care system and from a desire to be of service to others in a way that I didn’t see as possible by going into a more business oriented major like accounting.
After graduation, I was successful in taking on a CEO role in a small rural community in Manitoba (Arborg). It was a daunting task for a very green individual like me who took over from a senior leader in Manitoba’s health care system. I was only 21 and was replacing somebody who was 65. I largely supervised people who were at least 10 years, and sometimes 20 years older than myself. As tough as it was, knowing nobody in the province of Manitoba at the time, it was a great learning experience.
After 4 years in the role I moved on to take my Master’s Degree in Health Services Administration at the University of Alberta. This was also a great learning experience from a couple of different perspectives. I got to be exposed to and learn from my fellow students who came from very many different professional backgrounds. We helped each other see issues from many different perspectives because of our differing backgrounds. Also, the opportunity to do an administrative internship at the Misericordia Hospital in Edmonton was very life changing. It was great exposure to many amazing leaders, (particularly at the middle management level) who helped change and solidify my views on leadership.
Beyond 1995 I worked in a number of different healthcare leadership roles, CEO of health districts in Saskatchewan, working for the Ministry of Health in Alberta and was the Senior Vice-President of Covenant Health (Edmonton/Alberta) where I was in charge of the Misericordia and Grey Nuns Community Hospitals. I was privileged to work with a number of great people and teams throughout my healthcare career. I transitioned into Western Management Consultants (now known as WMC) in 2012. Since then I have become both a consultant and Executive Coach. I have particularly enjoyed my executive coaching practice.
Emma: For you, what is the most interesting part about being a consultant?
Greg: If I could sum it up in one word it would be diversity. I get to engage with a variety of leaders and companies on a very interesting array of challenges and opportunities. All of my days are very different and for the most part entertaining! The second thing I might suggest is freedom. That might not have been the word when I first started out. In early days you are trying to develop a practice and might be taking on some work that wasn’t as satisfying or enjoyable. But now, I really do believe I can be a bit more choosy about my work and not be as worried about what kind of revenue I’m bringing in. Quality of work as a consultant and coach has opened up those doors for me.
Emma: Also, what is the most interesting part about working in healthcare?
Greg: There’s a number of things. If you like complexity, healthcare has it in spades! There is also no shortage of things to change and get done. The challenge has been a lack of consistent direction for a long enough period of time to make that difference and ensure that something can stick. You can’t be changing CEO’s and other senior leaders every year or two and expect stellar results. What I also continue to be amazed and encouraged by is the continued passionate commitment to patients that I encounter with my work with front-line staff and middle managers. They could easily be disillusioned and throw up their hands in despair. But they don’t. They continue to bring energy and passion every day in hopes of making things better for their patients.
Emma: What have you learned from working in both healthcare and consulting?
Greg: If nothing else I have learned the value of dogged determination and perseverance. I’ve really come to appreciate the value of establishing a vision, working towards that vision, and staying true to your values. Doesn’t mean that it’s easy- leadership never is, but I can hold my head up high and believe I have earned the respect and trust of many of the people I have worked with and tried to serve. On a less lofty note, I have also come to value the power of structure. Time and workload management are critical even more so in the consulting and coaching business. In this past month, I’ve been actively managing at least 20 different coaching and consulting engagements, still trying to be a good husband and father, and trying to get myself back into triathlon racing shape. If you don’t have structure and discipline all that can come off the rails rapidly and disastrously.
Emma: Why did you decide to teach?
Greg: I’ve always had a desire to teach. Might come from a family background where my mother was a teacher for 35+ years and my uncle was a teacher/principal for a similar number of years. At one point I was even debating whether to transfer from Commerce to Education in my undergrad. Then I was asked to consider coming back to the University of Saskatchewan as a professor in the health care program. I also have realized that even during my healthcare career and particularly in the last half of my career I really enjoyed “teaching” or making others capable of greater accomplishments and achievements. What led me to Concordia was a simple conversation with Dr. McElhone. I just wanted to know what it might take to teach at a university. The rest is history.
Emma: Has being a teacher taught you anything?
Greg: It’s taught and/or reinforced a number of things for me:
- The value of preparation. I’m now being looked to as the expert so I had better know my stuff. I have to continuously be ready for my classes and that includes what to do if technology doesn’t work as you expect it to.
- Be flexible. Questions and opportunities are coming up all the time. Even though I have prepared I have to be ready for something out of the blue. Sometimes that means not having the answer right then and there as well. Nothing wrong in coming back with an answer or thought after some further research.
- It’s taught and reinforced a lot about leadership for me. To effectively teach I also have to read, listen and understand more and more each day. It helps keep me on my toes!
Emma: What has been your favourite part about being a teacher here at Concordia?
Greg: I would say that it is the value brought to me in my own learning. To effectively teach I have to be learning all the time – how to instruct, how to change things up, how to keep bringing value to the students. I am continually self-evaluating. But overall I love learning and Concordia has helped me to continue to learn – the students most of all.
Emma: How do you balance working, teaching and your family?
Greg: Of late this has seemed to be one of my biggest challenges. As I have gotten busier and more in demand as an executive coach and consultant some of my engagements have meant evening and weekend work. I have worked hard to stay from those types of obligations and set some boundaries for my clients and myself. As a family, particularly my wife and I, we do try to set aside quality family time. Historically we have always tried to make weekends pretty sacred for us. We also get involved with the activities of our children – coaching soccer, getting to gymnastics practices and events, dance recitals. Home time is also key for us and we have a house that is set up to support that. Movie night is fun for us! More recently my wife and I have recommitted to just being healthier. So we are back on track with workouts and eating better. We have also set ourselves a goal of competing in a half-Ironman this summer. All signs are looking good right now. Ultimately, I think success in leading a balanced life is to make very clear for yourself what is important to you. A good plan, a good set of partners, and some structure helps you achieve most of what you want to achieve. Make no mistake, it is never perfect but the little compromises are better dealt with if you are on track with most of what you want to accomplish.
Emma: You teach leadership, what to you is the most important part of teaching leadership?
Greg: I would say that the most important part about teaching leadership is having the integrity of leading in the way you are teaching. If you don’t lead in the same way that you teach your credibility is incredibly suspect. Lead by example, teach by example, bring the real world into the classroom and vice versa.
Emma: In your opinion, how much of leadership is found in the traits that you are born with and how much of is learned?
Greg: I believe the vast majority of leadership skill can be learned. Some may believe that most leaders are born but I still believe that circumstances, opportunities, learning, mentorship and a lot of other environmental variables come into play to allow an individual’s leadership to develop and grow. I also believe that a lot of us tend to define leadership as becoming a leader of a country or a large business. However, leadership happens in all kinds of places and venues and the most successful companies and ventures have leaders at all levels of their organizations. At a personal level, if I had not been provided some key opportunities along my journey, my natural talent might have gone unused or put to less positive use over the years.
Emma: To you, what is the most important characteristic of leadership?
Greg: Integrity. First and foremost if someone doesn’t act in a way that supports their stated values then I have no time for that individual. If you can’t live and lead by your values then your credibility as a leader is diminished significantly. I believe humility ranks right up there too. If you are so arrogant as to not hear or learn from others you are also at significant risk of failure. There are hordes of political and business leaders who have failed to heed this cautionary lesson. The results have been catastrophic for them and for those that they have tried to lead. Connected with Humility is a lifelong passion for learning. You have to have a desire to learn and create. To explore. To see new horizons and possibilities. And then be able to communicate these new possibilities in a passionate way to others.
Emma: What advice do you have for students going into the workplace?
Greg: First, be clear on your own personal values. Act in accordance with those values, don’t compromise. There are many opportunities out there and many of them will allow you to live the life that you want to lead. Find your passion and commit to that passion. It likely won’t be easy but it will fulfill you as you succeed. Second, take a variety of opportunities along the way. Explore various options. Learn from others, both what works and what doesn’t work, what feels right and what doesn’t feel right. I’ve often said I’ve learned more from the poor leaders I’ve had than from the best leaders I’ve had. Typically I come away thinking “I don’t want to be like that, lead like that, or treat others like that.” Third, keep fighting that battle for balance in your life. Make sure you take the time to take care of yourself in all aspects of health and nurture your important relationships, as these comprise as much about success as title and money.