The finalists for WashingtonExec’s Pinnacle Awards were announced Oct. 8, and we’ll be highlighting some of them until the event takes place virtually Nov. 12.
Next up is Healthcare Industry Executive of the Year finalist Thomas Naughton, who’s president of health services at Maximus Federal. Here, he talks key achievements, career turning points and other advice.
What key achievements did you have in 2019/2020?
A key achievement for myself in 2019/2020 was assisting Maximus in our response to COVID in not only responding to client needs but also to our internal needs. Although all organizations were significantly impacted by COVID, I believe Maximus was in a unique position in that all of our programs were deemed essential.
A combination of COVID and essential contracts necessitated that I move thousands of employees to remote in a matter of weeks while still providing clients high-quality services and in a number of instances for programs that were significantly expanding staff. This was an extremely challenging task, but one that was successful and resulted in the protection of our employees while continuing to serve our customers effectively.
As the reality of COVID was taking shape in late February, I realized that there would be a significant need for federal and state clients to access public health expertise. We quickly developed the concept of Maximus Public Health and hired a team of highly credentialed epidemiologists and public health experts.
The implementation of Maximus Public Health allowed us to assist public health clients in addressing the largest public health emergency in a life time. Since March, Maximus has deployed thousands of employees supporting federal and state agencies with COVID testing, contact tracing, technical assistance and has helped thousands of citizens understand the impacts of COVID and how to best avoid COVID.
What was a turning point or inflection point in your career?
A turning point in my career occurred in 2011 when new leadership was installed at Maximus Federal. The new executive had a more aggressive approach to growth and expansion and instilled confidence in his leadership and allowed for greater autonomy. Under this new leadership, I was significantly responsible from growing Maximus Federal from and $80 million company in 2011 to a $380 million company in 2014 to $550 million in 2018 to $1.3 billion today.
Working for a motivating leader who had confidence in my abilities and allowed me drive growth strategy has made the most significant difference in my career.
What are you most proud of having been a part of in your current organization?
There are many things that make me proud of being a part of Maximus. If I had to pick one, I would say the culture. At Maximus, we are focused on ensuring and maintaining a healthy culture that all employees find rewarding and motivating. We strive to maintain a culture of openness, transparency and inclusion where all teams and employees feel psychologically safe.
Psychological safety creates an environment in which all staff are comfortable speaking up, sharing their ideas, sharing their mistakes and taking risks without fear of punishment and/or humiliation. From my experience (and as I believe is underscored in industry), psychologically safe teams outperform and outdeliver.
Looking back at your career, what are you most proud of?
I am most proud of working with the State of California in crafting and implementing workers’ compensation reform legislation. I began working with the representatives of the state in 2004 and the legislation was not passed until 2013. It was a lengthy and involved undertaking, which required the buy-in of various stakeholder groups including labor and industry as well health care providers.
As part of the legislation and Independent Medical Review program was instituted for the California Workers’ Compensation program, Maximus was lucky enough to be tasked with implementing and managing the IMR and the impact IMR has had in California is significant.
Since the implementation of the IMR program, California has recognized more than $1 billion in medical claims cost reduction annually, opioid prescriptions for injured workers’ have decreased by 93% and injured workers are getting back to work faster than any time in the last 25 years. This is a program that has improved a government program and benefitted stakeholders in ways that cannot be measured.
What’s your best career advice for those who want to follow in your footsteps?
My best career advice is for folks to read and understand Rudyard Kipling’s poem “If,” which begins “If you can keep your head about you while all those around you are losing theirs…” The lesson this poem teaches me and that I believe can teach others is that when challenges arise you have to keep your cool and not be reactive — to listen and to understand the challenge so that as quickly as possible you can address the challenge in the most appropriate and effective manner.