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Shola Richards


Shola RichardsShola Richards, manager of BRITE (Begin Right with Instruction and Thorough Education), UCLA Health

Shola Richards Shines BRITE for UCLA

Although Shola was promoted to department manager in January 2012, he continues to teach classes, inspiring adult learners throughout UCLA with his enthusiasm and passion for excellence.

What kinds of courses does BRITE offer?
Initially, BRITE focused on IT courses for our appointment scheduling and ADT patient registration systems. But we soon expanded our curriculum to include courses that focus on improving the communication skills of our employees in their dealings with their patients, their colleagues, and anyone else who they may serve. Our service courses include our flagship C-ICARE training course “Connecting with Customers,” our service recovery course “Dealing with Difficult Patient Situations,” and our communication course “Techniques for Effective Communication by Telephone and Email.” We also teach a three-course leadership series that covers critical leadership competencies such as how to give and receive feedback, how to coach employees for peak performance, and how to effectively manage conflict in the workplace. It doesn’t matter if you’re brand new to UCLA, you’ve been in a leadership position here for 20 years, or if you simply want to improve your skills, we believe that BRITE has something for everyone.

How do employees end up coming to BRITE?
If you’re new to UCLA, your manager will likely sign you up to learn the system and our service courses so that you’re prepared to hit the ground running as soon as possible. If you're a current employee and you are interested in taking a BRITE class to expand your skill and knowledge in a particular area, it is as simple as enrolling on our website or giving us a quick phone call. Our goal is to make it as seamless as possible for any employee in our health system to enroll in our classes and begin the process of learning the skills to be excellent on the job.

What’s your vision for BRITE?
My vision for BRITE is to help make UCLA Health the happiest and most productive healthcare provider to work for in the U.S., if not the world. That might sound ambitious, but I plan to fight for that vision every day that I’m here.

How do you bring excellence to your job?
I approach my job with a beginner’s mind. There is such a large gap between the novice and the expert and I know what it’s like to learn a new skill. My goal is to ensure that everyone who enters a BRITE training class as a new learner feels comfortable within seconds of being here. I always get to work an hour early on my teaching days because I want to be the first person to greet every learner who walks through our door. I smile a lot. I give lots of hugs and handshakes. I strive to connect with everyone I meet and make them feel important, because they are important. Most of all, I give all of me for every minute I’m entrusted with the honor and privilege of teaching others. These might seem like small things, but I believe that true excellence is all about doing the seemingly little things and doing them consistently.

What makes an effective leader?
Leadership is really an art. In my experience, the best leaders aren’t necessarily the ones with the most followers; they are the ones who create the most leaders. If I had to list the traits of the most effective leaders, I would start by saying that effective leaders lead by example, always. They know how to keep employees engaged in a spirit of mutual respect by giving corrective feedback in a way that’s not hurtful. They trust the people they are leading and trust in their ability to make decisions. They set clear goals and hold their employees accountable to those goals. They recognize employees’ achievements and do not withhold praise. Most importantly, effective leaders are humble. They recognize that no leader can do it alone. Personally, I will never lose sight of the fact that without the support of my amazing team, I am nothing. I am so thankful for to my team’s constant dedication to BRITE’s success, and I make it a priority to let them know how much I appreciate them every single day.

What is the best part of your job?
The best part is being around people and getting to see them grow professionally and personally. We’re pretty fortunate — we currently have a 99.2 percent approval rating from the students who have ever taken a class with us, so for the most part they really enjoy their experience with us. But even so, we’ll sometimes get a student who is completely uninterested in the idea of sitting in a customer service class. I love nothing more than helping an uninterested student to see how these new skills can make their job easier. It is a beautiful thing to see the imaginary dots in their mind begin to connect as they become more engaged in the class. The idea of “a-ha moments” might seem cliché, but believe me, these moments do happen. It is amazing to have someone enter our class as a reluctant learner and at the end of class, they walk away saying, “Thank you for this class, I’m excited to make a difference!” Those moments happen frequently here and I can promise you that it never gets old for us.

What is the most challenging part of your job?
Anyone who knows me will say that I’m a passionate guy. I work hard and I care about people. So it disappoints me when I run into maybe two percent of the employee base who lack that passion, who can’t wake up saying, “I’m going to make someone’s life better because of my conscious presence here.” I don’t think this is unique to UCLA, I know that it happens elsewhere — but I’m not concerned with elsewhere, I care about what we’re doing here at UCLA. We don’t work at a department store where the biggest issue on a typical day is dealing with a customer who doesn’t have a receipt for the sweater he wants to return. We’re talking about saving lives here and if that can’t get you passionate, if that can’t get you fired up, then this might not be the place for you.

What are your hobbies or outside interests?
I love to write and I recently started a blog that is focused on helping employees all over the world to become happier and more productive at work. It’s currently being read by people in more than 15 countries, and I’m pretty excited about that. I’m also a huge Lakers fan. I love sports, keeping in shape and spending quality time with my wife and my two young daughters.