CEO blog: What is a Coffee Chat with Julia?

Shortly after I became President & CEO at Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital, I started a regular Coffee Chat. We’ve scheduled them at different times of day and different locations in order to make it as convenient as possible for staff to join me for a drink and a chat. In some cases we’ve targeted particular groups with special outreach, e.g. we did a students’ coffee chat and we scheduled one on the 3rd floor with particular thought given to a time of day that would maximize nurses being able to attend.

So with another Coffee Chat around the corner (actually a “Popsicle Chat” in honour of the weather and locating the chat outdoors), I thought I’d share some of the FAQs about Coffee (Popsicle) Chat:

  1. Who is invited? EVERYONE! Whatever you do at Holland Bloorview you are invited. Work at registration – love to chat with you. Researcher – yup. Admin assistant – yup. Physician – sure. OT? PT? SLP? Uh-huh. Nurse – You betcha. Ops manager – okey dokey. Environmental services – why not?! You’re probably seeing the pattern. Come one come all.
  2. How many people usually come? It varies. I think it has ranged from 2 people to a dozen or so at a time. The numbers don’t matter – however many people come is the right number. I’m there for the hour.
  3. What do you talk about? It depends. Sometimes when I have something on my mind I’ll raise a topic, e.g. about 6 months after joining Holland Bloorview I started to talk about and wanted feedback on my priorities. I used a Coffee Chat to elicit that. Sometimes the time of year dictates what’s on people’s minds, e.g. is it operating planning season? Are we working on the Quality Improvement Plan? It’s a group chat so who is in the room dictates the topics. Whatever is on your mind is what we’ll be talking about. Some memorable chats included aboriginal ways of knowing and equity, diversity and inclusion; workload and how do you give the kind of care you want to when there are so many kids who need therapy; what are some of the new things going on in the health care sector outside of Holland Bloorview; why do I use social media and how do I think it benefits Holland Bloorview; and lots of other things. Oh and one time Dr Flap and Nurse Flutter created a “Coffee Chat Song” (of course they did!).
  4. How long does it last? I book Coffee Chat for 1 hour but no one (other than me) needs to stay that long. We’re all busy. Drop in and stay for a few minutes if that’s what you have. Stay for the whole hour. Come in and grab a coffee to go but at least stay hi.
  5. Will I cause problems if I give the CEO my honest opinions? Sharing what’s on your mind is what this is about. I can’t learn unless I know what people really think and experience working at Holland Bloorview every day. And I can’t lead without being a learner and a listener.
  6. Why do you do this? Okay so no one has actually asked me this but I bet some think it! I do it because it’s a great way for me to meet and catch up with people I don’t see every day. I like having a casual way to get a sense of what is top of mind particularly for frontline staff. I also want people to get to know me and feel free to ask me questions. Many do this in the hall or walking through spiral garden and that’s great too. And, well, I like coffee and it’s fun!

So that’s the 411 on “Coffee Chat with Julia.” Can’t wait to see you at one soon!

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