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Leadership Columbus: Sandy Carmichael

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Name: Sandy Carmichael

Date of birth: Jan. 7, 1949

Place of birth: Albany, Ind.

Title: President of Hospice of South Central Indiana, a nonprofit health care provider for the terminally ill.

Education: Bachelor’s degree in nursing from Indiana State University

Family: Husband, John Carmichael; two adult children; six grandchildren

Hobbies: I follow sports a lot, especially Indiana University basketball. I also love the Indiana Pacers and the Indianapolis Colts. I also attend a lot of events involving my grandchildren. I also love interior design, so I watch a lot of HGTV. On special occasions, I also write funny poems for our staff.

Q: What was your first job?

A: When I was 16, I worked at J.C. Penney in downtown Columbus. My mom was a school teacher, and she expected that all of her children would go to college and that we would have to pay for it. I worked Friday nights and Saturday behind the payment counter, handling things like layaway.

Q: What main lessons did you learn from that job?

A: I had to handle some people who sometimes got upset and argued over a bill, so I had to learn to be nice to people who are grumpy. But beyond the importance of customer service, I learned to be accountable, to be on time and not miss any work.

Q: What was your first leadership role?

A: I worked as a nurse at Columbus Regional Hospital after college and was named head nurse two years later, at age 23. It was tough. Everybody was older than me, and there were a lot of doubters about how a 23-year-old could get and do that job. Thankfully I had a nursing director who believed in me. I was challenged almost every day, but I learned a lot from that.

Q: What are some of the biggest leadership lessons you’ve learned?

A: I was involved in Hospice here from the very beginning, and I learned very early that the people who could best teach us how things should work were the patients and the families. That was an eye-opener. It’s so easy to want to go in and think you know how to make things better, but it’s more effective to seek other people’s opinions. Listen and learn.

Q: How are you different as a leader today than when you first took a leadership role?

A: I’m definitely more patient. I’m not in such a rush to conquer the world. I’ve learned to accept that things don’t get done overnight. Also, I spend a lot of time helping people through things that I’ve been through. I tell our staff that the biggest mistake that you can make is not admitting that you made a mistake. You learn from your mistakes, even if some are painful.

Q: What do you know now that you wish you had known earlier in your leadership career?

A: I wish I had been more patient and more respectful to other administrators. It’s easy for people who have never been in a leadership position to criticize how long it takes to accomplish something, but leadership is tough.

Q: What advice do you have for people who are just now entering the workforce?

A: I once had the pleasure to briefly speak with Cicely Saunders, one of the founders of the hospice movement, and she advised me to find a good brain and pick it. I tell people that if they find someone who is a good leader, manager or employee, find out what they do that makes them stand out from the rest. Also, get involved in your community. Network, network, network.

Leadership Columbus is a twice monthly Q&A with Columbus’ business leaders. If you know someone we should talk to, contact Boris Ladwig at 379-5712 or

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