Leadership
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What Health Care Leaders Should Stop Doing (03:56)

To create a culture of grit, health care leaders need a goal hierarchy, a growth mindset, and to live their organization’s values. But what are some things leaders should stop doing?

“What we should stop doing now is coming in and fixing things or teams,” says Steve Swensen. “Even if it’s the right thing to do and we know the answer.” Rather, the best way to address issues and opportunities is to first listen to the perspective of those in the trenches where those issues exist, and then fix it together.

“It’s like how we should care for patients. We don’t do things to patients or for patients most of the time anymore, we do it with them. And we should do that with the human beings with whom we work,” he says, adding that if health care leaders fix things for their teams, they’ll end up with a very different result than if the team identifies and fixes things together.

Mary O’Connor flips the question to what health care leaders should do more of: celebrate the positive accomplishments of their teams. “It’s human nature for us to see the negatives before we see the positives,” she says. “That’s another aspect of my own personal journey I’m working on: to recognize, consistently, more and more, all the good stuff that teams are doing.”

“What feeds the team is the recognition that we’re making a difference, we’re doing good,” she adds. “Celebrating that is very important.”

Tom Lee adds that one thing health care leaders should stop doing is defending the status quo and defending colleagues out of loyalty. He describes something he said around the time the patient safety movement began and the first IOM report about catheter-associated blood stream infections was released. “I said, in part because I believed it and in part because I was loyal to my colleagues, in a panel with the press there, that as long as catheters were going from the outside to the inside, there were probably going to be bloodstream infections,” he recalls. “We had a pretty low rate, and I thought that it was about as low as it was going to go. And I was so wrong.”

“I still cringe when I think of that, and I understand the root cause of why I did it,” he says. “I was loyal to my colleagues; I thought we were doing a good job. It was the opposite of a growth mindset.”

From the NEJM Catalyst event Essentials of High-Performing Organizations, held at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation, July 25, 2018.

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