Bill Howden wanted to perform meaningful work for an organization he cared about. So, once he got the chance to join Hennepin Healthcare in 2018, he went for it and never looked back.
“They want to reach out to the community that they support,” he says. “They want to get feedback from them, so then the task is to work with all these different groups of people and come up with attainable goals for a project that meets the needs. Not everybody may get one hundred percent of their goal, but they were providing a better care service to the organization.”
Howden—who serves as the senior director of facilities, master campus planning, and real estate—fosters a hospital environment at Hennepin Healthcare that boosts patient outcomes. He leads a team that handles day-to-day operations ranging from design and project management to maintenance and sustainability. Plus, he manages relationships with vendors and contractors during construction and renovation projects.
“A hospital is like a ship that never comes into the port,” Howden says. “We have to do maintenance with people here 365 days a year. Day and night, 24 hours, there are challenges that come up, especially in buildings and aged equipment areas. The facilities team need to have some direction in how to solve things if there’s an issue that needs to be addressed.”
While he leans into the chaos, he shines as a facilitator on projects. Why? Because he takes the perspective of each project stakeholder and thinks outside of the box. Not only does he plan construction around their needs, but he also repurposes existing real estate. If he turns workspaces into visitor experience touchpoints or opens clinics off the premises, he still delivers.
“As we are replacing buildings, building new [facilities], or acquiring spaces, it’s really about getting to know what the community is looking for in those projects, and understanding what the care providers are looking for, and completing a seamless project delivery process,” Howden explains.
Instead of ruling with an iron fist, Howden relies on an affiliative approach to lead his team. He’s the kind of manager who believes that people come first and then proves it with his actions. By keeping his character intact, he forges stronger relationships with his employees and convinces them to rally around a common goal.
“I think that everybody has value, and everybody really operates on my team with positive intent,” the senior director says. “They come here every day at work wanting to make a difference. I think that’s extremely important for the mission of the hospital that we live in, and the work that we do.”
While his team enjoys the benefits of operating with purpose, Howden refuses to stop there. He spearheads partnerships with diverse vendors at Hennepin Healthcare events so it can offer more inclusive services. “I really heard the voices of the community and those we serve to help provide the compass heading into the future,” he says. “Working with the organization that has the heart to make it happen is something that you walk home at the end of the day full of pride [with].”
The senior director leads with a sense of altruism that does more than produce a feel-good story—it brings out the best in people. Even if it’s the only way he knows how to perform his job, he thrives when he lets his passion prevail. “Know your passion to understand what drives you, and understand where you add value,” Howden says. “I think that came a little bit later for me in my life.”
For professionals who want to change careers and enter the world of healthcare, he advises the following: “Are you just marching down a track because that’s what’s expected of you, or that’s the only option you feel that you have? Take a chance. I took a chance to get into healthcare.”
Wold Architects & Engineers is proud to partner with Hennepin Healthcare, Bill Howden, and the facilities team to make a difference in their community. For nearly 20 years our missions have been parallel, striving to maintain and enhance healthcare environments throughout the HCMC Campus. Hennepin Healthcare is transforming: we are humbled to team up with Bill to support building a better future, creating an environment for the next generation of excellent, and equitable healthcare.