Leading Change is Tough from the Back of a Limo

Philip Betbeze, for HealthLeaders Media , February 10, 2012

Let's stipulate that for the record, a stretch limo isn't going to add to your leadership cachet. But you knew that already. A lot can be learned by the way the new CEO is being so open about cleaning up the culture at the hospital.

Rodriguez came to lead Wyckoff from the Brooklyn Work Group for Health Systems Redesign, which is charged with the aforementioned state directive to merge and restructure the group of hospitals. He's been an open book about what he knows about the past misdeeds and vows to make sure that going forward, there's not one set of rules for the connected and another set for everyone else. But it strikes me that those changes may be too late for the community to save what it sees as an important institution.

So what's the key lesson to take from all of this? As a senior leader, you can be bold and visionary with quality improvement projects. You can work hard on changing culture from one of suspicion to one of collaboration. You can install the high-tech software and services to keep track of your billing and collections, you can make huge investments in your electronic medical records, you can hire all the physicians you want, and you can even remake your hospital as an accountable care organization.

But none of it will work if your colleagues don't trust you and your intentions, and certainly not if you're suspected of being on the take. The necessary but not sufficient tool you need to make any of this work is your good reputation. All the rest is window dressing—or, in a more appropriate metaphor, a stretch limousine.

Philip Betbeze is senior leadership editor with HealthLeaders Media.
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