Sharing responsibility for workplace culture

An organization creates brilliance by nurturing an environment where passion thrives and success comes through unified purpose. Brilliant organizations design sustainable cultures by aligning their people around a shared mission and vision—and by helping their teams trust one another’s skills and expertise to make it all come to life.

But this raises a more fundamental question . . .

Who owns workplace culture?

Traditionally, the CEO or C-suite is held responsible for an organization’s mission and values. And I agree that in many cases, this is where culture building starts. Leaders must embody the culture and inspire others to embrace its values, beliefs, behaviors and attitudes.

But what if that’s just the beginning?

I personally believe workplace culture is a journey, not a destination. And that journey accelerates and matures when culture building becomes a shared responsibility assumed by everyone in the organization. As a CEO, I’m passionate about bringing forward champions at all levels of Vituity to deliver traditional “leadership” messages. It’s so much more powerful to have many diverse voices telling our story than to have one or two executives parrot it over and over.

In order for this to happen, every team member needs to feel connected to the mission. This is where everyone, regardless of job title, can step up and lead. We should never expect others to follow us blindly. We must communicate, with intention and purpose, what we’re all here to accomplish and how we can get there.

But buy-in alone won’t evolve culture from top-down to communal. As leaders in healthcare, we also need to believe that our front-line people are integral to that mission—and that we can’t accomplish it without them. To successfully pass the culture torch, we must empower our teams to lead alongside us.

Elevating and inspiring the front line

Vituity’s Innovation Grant is a standout example of how our leaders engage and empower teams across the organization, and this program offers them opportunities to impact the lives of thousands—even millions—of patients. It’s a direct invitation for everyone at Vituity to own and share our brilliance by designing, producing and implementing solutions that can be replicated at our practices across the country— from 3D-printed sim kits to health literacy classes for Mixteco patients. Since 2014, this program has funded dozens of programs that have been rolled out to hospitals across the country.

Case in point: A grant-funded project from 2019 sparked the launch of Healthful, a patient navigation company. Adnan Hussain, MD, and colleagues noticed that many patients discharged from their ED struggled to find follow-up care. With support from the Vituity Innovation Grant, Hussain and the team designed a patient care navigation program. They demonstrated $500,000 in savings for health system clients in the first year while providing higher quality care. They were later excited to see this local pilot developed into a national program through the work of Vituity’s Innovation and Operations Team.

Growing brilliant together

Interested in nurturing your own culture of brilliance and wondering where to start? Here are a few concepts that flow through Vituity’s culture and positively impact teams in all departments:

  • Remember that “we” is always greater than “me.” Shared goals, incentives and metrics allow each individual to focus on the team instead of the self.
  • Help others rise to the top. In a true culture of brilliance, we need to celebrate the person who had the assist as much as the one who scores.
  • Recognize people for the value of their work. Showing authentic appreciation and gratitude may be the most important leadership attribute.
  • Cultivate a passion for what you and the team do. Passion and effort always outperform skill and competence.

Creating shared ownership of organizational culture won’t happen overnight. Arguably, it will be an ever-evolving process rather than a goal you can check off. Instead, look for daily opportunities to invite people into your life-changing work. And above all, make a difference.

About the author:

Imamu Tomlinson, MD, MBA, is Chief Executive Officer of Vituity and President of the Vituity Cares Foundation. Prior to his appointment as CEO in 2017, he served as Vituity’s President.

In 2021, Dr. Tomlinson was recognized by Modern Healthcare as one of 50 Most Influential Clinical Executives and selected as one of Fierce Healthcare’s Most Influential Minority Executives for 2021.

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