Sheba2I was invited to deliver Grand Rounds at Sheba Medical Center in Tel Aviv earlier this week.  Much of the talk focused on how to create a learning organization, one that was able to draw of the good intentions and good will of the staff to deliver higher quality, safer, and more patient-driven care.  As you might expect, I drew heavily on the lessons of Goal Play! in this talk. (You see an image of Gloria Martinez on the screen. She was a transporter at my former hospital and is one of the “superstars” in the book.) Israelis are passonate about soccer, so the talk was well received and the topic of conversation for much of the week.


Linda Hsu, over at Alpha Insight Development, kindly refers to Goal Play! lessons in her commentary entitled “Soccer, Leadership, and Empathy.” Excerpt:

My daughter’s soccer coach Paul Levy has written a book on leadership called Goal Play! Leadership Lessons from the Soccer Field.  It may seem a curious title for a book on leadership, but Paul draws on his experience turning around both the Massachusetts Water Resource Authority and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center as well as his many years coaching girls’ soccer to explain his understanding of leadership and what it takes to create a work environment that is truly a successful team effort.

The most important point that Paul makes in the [last] chapter, though, is that “empathy between the leader and the team is the key element of [his] approach” to “creating an environment of respect for individual action and accomplishment.”  . . .  In the context of leadership, being willing to allow people who work for you to “hold themselves accountable to their own high standards” may mean letting go of your perceived control of your team and their actions and instead work to create an environment where learning can occur and mistakes can be made without fear of being perceived as incompetent.  In soccer as in life, as one of his employees notes, “it is how we handle them [mistakes] that makes us who we are.”


NDThanks so much to the students and faculty advisor of the Compassionate Care in Medicine Club at Notre Dame and the Ruth M. Hillebrand Center for Compassionate Care in Medicine for inviting me to join them tomorrow evening, November 14, at 7pm in the Hesburgh Library Auditorium for a talk about the leadership attributes needed to reduce preventible harm in hospitals.  The event is open to the public.  I  hope you’ll join if you are on campus.

NMHThe team-building leadership lessons from Goal Play! were warmly received today by senior clinical and administrative leaders at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago.  Effective September 1st, 2013, Northwestern Medical Faculty Foundation (a practice comprising more than 650 physicians and healthcare professionals) joined with Northwestern Memorial HealthCare to form one united health system (Northwestern Medicine) with a shared mission of becoming one of the nation’s top academic medical centers.  We spent time today discussing the attributes that would make the successful implementation of this vision more likely, drawing on the lessons from the book.

UK flagI am very pleased to announce that the MIT Club of Great Britain has invited me to address their members and other guests this coming Monday evening, November 18, at London.  The event will be held at 26-28 Hammersmith Grove, London W6 7BA.  Doors open at 6:30pm, and the talk will start at about 7:00pm. Here’s the description on Facebook.

You don’t need to be an MIT alum to attend. All are welcome.  Here’s the link for tickets.

Many thanks to Tony Davis, president of the club, for this lovely invitation.  If I get enough interest from the UK, I may have to reissue Goal Play! with a new subtitle, Leadership Lessons from the Pitch.

MIT ChicagoThanks to the MIT Club of Chicago for an invitation to address the club on November 13 at The Gleacher Center.  The address is 450 North Cityfront Plaza Drive, and we’ll be in room 203.  Here’s a link with information. Registration and networking starts at 6:30, and the talk starts at 7:00.

You don’t have to be an MIT alum to attend. Please come by!


Many thanks to Nancy Thomas from Tapestry Communications for inviting me to address a meeting of the International Executives Association, RI Chapter in Warwick. Referring to the talk based on Goal Play!, she noted, “We were very pleased to have you present lessons in leadership learned from soccer, hospital and healthcare management, and more.”

I was pleased in turn to meet a lovely group of businesspeople from the area and learn more about the successes they have achieved and the problems they face.

The leadership lessons from Goal Play!, based on seemingly everyday stories from coaching girls soccer, continue to find resonance with audiences around the country.  In October alone, I have appeared at leadership development seminars at Mott Corporation in Connecticut; the Shingo Prize Northeast Conference; the Allegheny Health Network Health Care Innovation Forum; and the Washington State Hospital Association Annual meeting.

This week, I join the Executives Association of Rhode island in Warwick. This is open to the public but requires a reservation.  Information here.

Please contact me by posting a comment here or writing at goalplayleadership [at] gmail [dot] com if your company or organization is interested in a presentation.

Eve, one of my former Under-12 soccer players writes:

Hi Coach, It’s been a while, but I hope you and your family are doing well! I am in my freshman year at Miami University where I am majoring in marketing. I was just flipping through my Business 101 textbook, and I stumbled across an excerpt that discusses the strategies you used at Beth Israel to avoid large job layoffs back in 2009. i thought it was a funny coincidence, and that you’d be pleased to hear that your innovation is being recognized somewhere!!!

This is a key chapter in Goal Play!, too, called “We’ll design the warm-up, coach.”

In the spring of 2009, halfway through the fiscal year, we found that the nationwide recession and other factors had thrown our hospital finances into a tizzy. Instead of heading toward a year-end surplus of $20 million, which we had projected when we wrote our budget at the start of the fiscal year, we were looking at a loss of that amount—a swing of $40 million in just six months. It was clear that a loss of that magnitude would have an impact for years to come. The income from operations is virtually the only source of funding for a hospital’s capital investment. Even during good years, a hospital is fortunate if it can earn a three percent margin, barely enough to cover the depreciation of plant and equipment. Major losses mean having to put off important upgrades or replacing medical equipment. Infrastructure maintenance and replacement are likewise deferred, affecting the functioning and appearance of buildings and services. Even strategic investments in the hospital and with affiliated physician groups and community hospitals are delayed, putting the hospital at a competitive disadvantage.

The clock was ticking. Our run rate was negative $400,000 per week on an annualized basis. But since we had only six months to turn around the finances to break even, we needed to garner savings of twice that amount per week to break even by the end of the fiscal year. My senior advisers told me that we would have to lay off several hundred staff members to meet the target. They advised that we should immediately begin to contact vice presidents to construct a layoff list, make the decisions, and send out pink slips. I disagreed.

I felt that we had a tightly knit community in the hospital that would stand together and agree to make sacrifices in order to save the jobs of their fellow workers. I believed that if I asked the question the right way, framing the issue in terms of mutually held values, the staff would “design their own warm-up,” solving the financial problem more quickly and effectively and humanely than a centralized approach based on layoffs. I felt that way because of the time I had spent with hundreds of our managers, who now knew each other as well. I had seen their sense of mutual purpose and collaboration grow.

You can read more about what happened here, from my other blog.

I often get personal comments from readers of Goal Play!  Here’s one that warmed my heart:

Dear Mr. Levy,

You probably don’t remember me but I am with Carilion Clinic.  You came to our organization discussing the principles from your book “Goal Play”.  I was one of the three folks who visited with you in the small conference room prior to the presentation.  I sent you a picture of our soccer team and brought my mentor soccer coach to the presentation. 

I have continued to supply all of the leaders on my team with your book since you came to Carilion.  It continues to be impactful and meaningful to them.

My email today is one of thanks.  Since your visit, I have continued to coach soccer- transitioning from REC, Academy, and now travel.  Both of my daughters play on U11 (9yo and 11yo).  We were at a travel tournament in Williamsburg, VA this weekend.  In the semi-finals, the other team was taking a corner and the ball sailed into the box.  My oldest daughter, Lauren, R defensive back, was at the goal, jumped up-ball hitting her side, and took an unlucky deflection into our goal.  She was crushed, holding back tears that began to flow as play returned, which she played through.  I immediately thought of your chapter and story of Tovah.  Lauren was sub’d out about 10 minutes later.  She sat down next to me on the bench, head down, I said your words.  “Lauren, you are a great defender, you have to be in the box and go after the ball, once in a while the ball will deflect the wrong way.  You defended well.”  Her head came up, she smiled, and she said “Put me back in.” 

While your book has a significant impact on JUST culture and organizations pursuing “The Goal”, it had an great impact on my daughter this weekend and for time to come.

I sent this along to Tovah, who is now  30 years old.  She replied:

“That’s so nice – thank you!  Happy to hear I could be helpful!”


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