The Kindred Conversation: My Journey Begins...

By Steve Cunanan

My journey begins. . .

It’s hard to believe it’s been over three months since I joined Kindred. It seems like only yesterday that I was sitting in Philadelphia researching Kindred and trying to learn more about Louisville. In this short time, I’ve been amazed by the talented and committed people I’ve met throughout our organization and by the warm reception I have received.

The Kindred Conversation I decided to begin blogging because I wanted to share my experiences and create a relationship with my colleagues at Kindred. Not that my life is so exciting, but I do have the privilege of serving all employees and my position gives me a unique perspective on issues that are important. This is a big organization with locations scattered throughout the country; it’s difficult to meet and speak with over 70,000 people! I want to bring everyone into the world of a senior leader in this company and share some of the challenges, successes and frustrations that come with being the first Kindred Chief People Officer. I also hope to share some of the lighter moments; it’s important to have fun and enjoy our work. This will be the first of many posts.

Let’s take a step back. I first heard about Kindred in February of this year. I got a call from a friend and she said there was a “fantastic” healthcare company in Kentucky that was looking for a Chief People Officer and my skills and experience fit the job exactly. My first reaction was no thanks; nothing against Kindred or Louisville, but I liked what I was doing and Louisville never made the “I would like to move there” list. Up until that conversation I had not heard a lot about the city or the company. After the call, I never gave it a second thought. A week later, I received another call and my friend said I should really reconsider. She told me about the culture and about the Kindred mission. I was intrigued and decided to visit Louisville and meet with Paul Diaz and Ben Breier.

It was a cold, rainy day in late February when I first visited Louisville, not exactly what I would call chamber of commerce weather! My first exposure to Kindred was when I attended the Support Center town hall meeting. I thought it was a great opportunity to see the business strategy and get a firsthand feel for the culture. I was amazed at how comfortable I felt sitting through the presentations. I have attended hundreds of town hall meetings with previous companies and this one gave me an overwhelming feeling of déjà vu. Yes, there were opportunities and challenges, but I started to think this was a company I could be part of. I next met with Paul and Ben. I really liked their leadership styles and we had great debate and discussion on the people issues facing the company. I found myself taken in by the opportunity and excited about potentially being part of the organization. I thought I could make a positive impact on the organization and it was a place where I could learn and grow as a professional. When I got home, my wife immediately asked, “How did it go?” I replied, “Really well.” The look on her faced changed and she asked, “Does this mean we could be moving to Louisville?” In 20 years of marriage we have moved seven times, this would be our eighth move. We had lived in the Philadelphia suburbs for eight years and it started to feel like home, so you can understand my wife’s apprehension. I also have two kids, 12 and 13 years old, and they had great friends, loved their schools and we had a wonderful support structure.

I came back to Louisville a few weeks later for additional meetings (hiring for these jobs is never quick or easy) with members of the leadership team and also took my family along to look at the area. We got a tour of the city and were impressed; Louisville felt very comfortable and had a lot to offer.

In late April I received the offer to join Kindred as the company’s first Chief People Officer. I was unbelievably excited about the opportunity, the fit with the culture and the leaders, but at the end of the day, it had to be a family decision. During the last few years I have become very aware of the importance of my role as a husband and father. I’ve taken on many challenges in my lifetime, but none more daunting than being a great partner, father and role model. It was important for everyone to believe this was a good move. After much discussion, debate and a few tears, we all agreed to pack up and leave Pennsylvania. Leaving behind friends, your home and a lifestyle to which you’ve become accustomed is never easy. However, I firmly believe you never grow or get better by staying in your comfort zone; you need to take risks and try new things. Growth through change is never an easy lesson for a 12 and 13 year old, and there’s no playbook for raising great kids. At the end of the day, you weigh the alternatives and make the best decision you can. The best decision for my family was to join Kindred!

I’ve been spending my work time getting to know the organization, meeting as many people as possible, understanding the business and familiarizing myself with our HR systems and practices. I’ve also been visiting our facilities and meeting the people that are on the front lines of providing patient care. I’ve been overwhelmed by their care and commitment, but more on that in my next post.