Transforming Culture Means Transforming Yourself First

Around every hospital corner, you will find someone taking about burnout, engagement and decreased productivity. And you will find someone talking about how culture needs to change and the lack of effort from leaders to bring about that change. Oh, and you'll find someone else so burnt out they are tired of hearing about it...

The reality is, there's an enormous amount of literature on the high rates of burnout, of poor engagement and physician suicide.  

Does culture need need to change? Absolutely. Does that mean we pass the buck to leadership while we continue to complain? Absolutely not.  

Organizational culture change is a grassroots effort and starts with the individual. We need to change ourselves first, focus on how we can improve what we DO each day and thoughtfully implement change. Changing what we do can positively change our thinking and behaviors. When others see those changes, it snowballs and the culture starts to shift. I love this diagram highlighting that we cannot decide how to change culture and force people to adapt. We change first. Culture follows. 


I know, I know. I sound like another person blaming the individual. But, I'm not. Hear me out. 

I have been incredibly burnt out. As in "I want to quit my job and go work at GAP" burnt out. I struggled with this. I commiserated with colleagues near and far on how things need to change. And I waited. I waited for that change, but it never arrived in that pretty wrapped box I expected. It came after months of reading, investing in leadership and personal development. It came with more work, yet somehow, less burnout. How? Because I was empowered.  Because I saw positive results and it fueled me to do more. To be an ambassador of change, if you will. 

See, in all my time reading while waiting for change to find me, I became a catalyst for change. A voice challenging the status quo, asking "why can't we do it differently"? I inadvertently developed the skills needed to sit at the table and advocate for change. 

I urge you - do not wait for someone to change the culture. You'll be left waiting and increasingly dissatisfied. Start with yourself. How can you improve how you do your job? Manage your time? Live your life? Start there. Find small successes and let it snowball. It will pay-off.  


Here are a few references: