Leadership
Clip
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.

More From Leadership
Michael Dowling and Charles Kenney headshots

Rebooting Health Care: An Optimistic Outlook

The U.S. health care system may seem broken, but it’s on its way to greatness, according to the authors of Health Care Reboot. They discuss their optimism for U.S. health care reform, particularly on the social determinants of health, payment, consumerism, and technology.

Action Steps for Risk-Share Contracts for Medical Devices

Challenges and Best Practices for Health Systems to Consider When Implementing Risk-Share Contracts for Medical Devices

When done right, value-based contracting for medical devices can ameliorate shrinking margins at health systems, leading to a virtuous circle.

Health Care Organizational Culture Emphasizes Patient Care Only Slightly More Than the Bottom Line

Survey Snapshot: Who Should Lead Culture Change?

NEJM Catalyst Insights Council members feel that culture change at their organizations is heading in the right direction, but differ on who it should come from, and reveal too much balance between emphasis on bottom line and emphasis on patient care.

Culture Change Within Health Care Organizations Is Changing for the Better

Leadership Survey: Organizational Culture Is the Key to Better Health Care

Although three-quarters of Insights Council survey respondents say culture change is a high or moderate priority at their organizations, survey results show a lot of work on organizational culture remains to be done.

Metraux01_pullquote - dinners to combat burnout in the health care community

“Breaking Bread” to Combat Burnout

Can a simple dinner create community among health care providers?

IHI HPMS Visual Management Board Example

The Answer to Culture Change: Everyday Management Tactics

Adoption of a clear rhythm-of-performance measurement and communication via huddles and visual management can affect a culture of staff engagement and continuous value improvement.

ajor Themes from Cleveland Clinic Town Halls 2016

Reigniting the Passion to Practice Through a Multi-Pronged Approach

Cleveland Clinic formed the Practice Innovation and Professional Fulfillment Office to create and sustain an environment that allows clinicians and scientists to thrive through barrier removal, culture change, and support for personal well-being.

Percent in Highest Bracket in Patient Satisfaction Scores - Pre-Post Arm Differences for Hospitalists - Duke Coaching Communication Skills Study

Coach, Don’t Just Teach

The effect of one-on-one communication coaching on clinicians’ communication skills and patients’ satisfaction.

Two-Thirds of Organizations Have a Nurse Leader Career Path

Survey Snapshot: Do Nurse Leaders Need Advanced Degrees?

Though NEJM Catalyst Insights Council members acknowledge a lack of advancement opportunities for nurse leaders, two-thirds of their organizations have a nurse leader career path.

Nurse Leaders and Physician Leaders Should Be Considered Equals in Care Delivery - but Views of Nurses and Non-Nurses Differ

Leadership Survey: Nurses as Leaders: Broad Acceptance, Room to Grow

Nurses are traditionally the backbone of patient care. They form the largest percentage of the health care workforce, far outstripping physicians. But are nurses leaders as well as doers?

Connect

A weekly email newsletter featuring the latest actionable ideas and practical innovations from NEJM Catalyst.

Learn More »

Topics

Team Care

104 Articles

Six Modest Proposals for Health Care…

From measuring only what matters with the “give a darn” test to warnings about the…

China’s Health Care: Public Benefit, Enormous…

Though demand for health services in China has outpaced the development of management systems to…

Quality Management

176 Articles

China’s Health Care: Public Benefit, Enormous…

Though demand for health services in China has outpaced the development of management systems to…

Insights Council

Have a voice. Join other health care leaders effecting change, shaping tomorrow.

Apply Now