"Everyone can be great at something. It is my job to help them find it, or create it."
MHA Alumni Spotlight: Craig Phifer
What was your childhood like?
I would say that my childhood was as relatively normal as you could imagine. I grew up in a really small town about an hour outside of St. Louis, with awesome parents who are both engineers, and two sisters. I grew up in the kind of environment where nothing was ever handed to me, but my parents always made sure that success was an option that was available and that if I worked hard I could achieve anything.
Were there any qualities about role models in your life that stood out to you from an early age up to now?
My parents along with my entire family are all extremely hard working. My older sister’s the kind of person that when she was in about sixth grade she started saying that she was going to be a doctor and never wavered on that. So she went to medical school and did well and went on to become a respected family physician who works incredibly hard. My younger sister is a software engineer for Snapchat, but before she got into that, she was getting a PhD in astrophysics.
So really, I’ve just been extremely fortunate to be surrounded by a lot of people whose great work ethic and positive attitudes rubbed off on me.
Who or what inspired you to pursue a career in healthcare?
In high school I wasn't exactly sure what I wanted to do but I did like playing and being around sports, so physical therapy seemed like the ideal job being that I had the opportunity to be around athletes. So I went with it. And I guess I got lucky because I really ended up loving it.
What was your first management role like?
About two years out of physical therapy school, I was finishing up the MHA program at USI and I took over the therapy department at a large orthopedic practice.
And as my first management role, it was a really wonderful introduction to administration because I had a lot of freedom and just an all-around great boss at the time.
What are your beliefs about motivating, influencing, and leading others?
As far as motivation goes, I really believe that it's an intrinsic quality and that my job as a leader is to help people uncover their vision and help them foster connections between people who share similar visions. The biggest things that I want to do to motivate others is help them understand really what they want, to explore who they are, what they're looking for, and why they're looking for it.
I recently mentored someone we’ve hired who is incredibly smart and really capable, but he wasn’t exactly sure what he wanted to be doing.
So my job as a mentor became to essentially help people explore their thoughts and feelings, and allow them to draw motivation from the things that have been within them all along.
What can people expect from you and what do you expect from them?
The big things are trust and that everything I do be done to the best of my ability. So honesty and expecting the best out of me and likewise for others.
How do you handle conflicts in the workplace?
Much like my mentoring process, I like getting to the bottom of the issue and avoiding as much as possible fixing something superficial. So a lot of the solution lies in addressing the feelings and beliefs where a particular problem originated rather than things that aren’t really the problem itself. I believe that if we’ve done a good job at creating a positive, conducive work culture we’ll be able to come to an effective, collaborative solution.
How do you hire?
First, I try to make sure that we have a great culture that great people want to work within. So making sure that we’ve designed a culture centered around autonomy, helping people define their purpose, and making people great at what they do…autonomy, mastery, and purpose.
From there we assess and try to identify the qualities of the people who would excel in our culture. Lastly, the hiring process becomes simply finding people who have those qualities through resumes and conducting multiple interviews via seemingly innocuous questions we ask to pull out specific traits. We even have a scoring rubric that we use to try score as objectively as possible.