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The “Beautiful Moments” Leadership Style Of Kaiser Permanente CEO Bernard Tyson

“I compartmentalize everything.”

The “Beautiful Moments” Leadership Style Of Kaiser Permanente CEO Bernard Tyson
Bernard Tyson, CEO, Kaiser Permanente [Photo: The Collaborationist]

At Kaiser Permanente, we spend a lot of time talking about how to maintain resilience and make sure that we have good mental health and wellness in the midst of the stresses in our lives. Much of my daily routine is intended to create that balance.

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I compartmentalize everything. It’s the way I focus. I like to have my stuff in specific folders, clearly marked for those specific projects or initiatives. For example, every day I get a folder for all of my meetings, and they put a little tag on top of the folder to specify the contents, with specific data highlighted and organized. I have three of them in front of me right now, one of which says “New Growth Strategy for Kaiser Permanente,” because I’ve been thinking a lot about how to make sure that our 200,000-plus employees can clearly hear the message from the top leadership about where we want to go. It’s also a nice way for me to continue to see our progress, because I’m opening and closing each folder. And then I can transfer what I didn’t complete to a Post-it, or as I call them, “stick-ums,” and move on.

There’s a mantra that I live by called “beautiful moments.” For the last week, I’ve been traveling up and down the East Coast, and yesterday I had a grueling day and had to race to the airport to get on a plane from D.C. back to San Francisco. I landed at 8:30 p.m., bone-tired, and went straight to dinner. And when I walked down the stairs of the restaurant, and my wife turned around, and I saw that smile on her face, that was my beautiful moment. I try to find at least one of those every day and deliberately take a mental picture, because it makes everything else easier.

Time he wakes up. Between 5 and 6 a.m. “But I always set my alarm for 6 a.m. no matter where I am in the world to get oriented to that time zone.”

First thing he does. “I usually pray, check email on my phone, and exercise while watching the news.”

Dealing with the news. “I get summary reports once or twice a day. I may call, for example, my government relations executive to find out what’s going on in a specific area of government. I also have news alerts and pop-up headlines on my phone.”

Lunch routine. “My assistant will ask me, ‘Is it soup or salad today?’ It’s like clockwork.”

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Non-guilty pleasure. “I listen to music all the time, even in the background when I’m working. I love rap and gospel, so I listen to artists like J. Cole and Shirley Caesar. The song that I’m really glued on right now is ‘The Story of O.J.’ from Jay-Z’s 4:44, in which he’s describing how we can think differently, as a race of people, to make sure that future generations are at a better level than we are today.”

Time he goes to bed. Between 10 and 11:30.

Correction: An earlier version of this story stated that Kaiser Permanente has 200,000 employees in its medical group.  The company has more than 200,000 total employees and more than 21,000 in its medical group.