One year ago, we all entered the unimaginable. As healthcare leaders, none of us could have anticipated the severe illness, loss of life and acute loneliness created by the pandemic.
The pandemic alone was enough to make us ask ourselves, “How can we do this better?” But on top of the pandemic and its economic impact, we also faced the magnification of health inequities, as well as a national reckoning on systemic racism. With all of this change and uncertainty, a yearning for stability and sense of normalcy is completely understandable. But as we move forward, let’s push the boundaries of the old “normal.” We should set our sights, our vision, on a better normal, and a better world for all.
We have an opportunity to create impactful solutions that will propel our society forward. We can reimagine health for our communities and build a better, more sustainable model of care and coverage. We also can reimagine our communities and create an ecosystem that supports and is supported by all. To accomplish this, there are several qualities that should serve as essential principles for leaders as we create a better normal.
Purpose. Our mission at Spectrum Health is to improve health, inspire hope and save lives. Like other healthcare organizations, we are mission-driven and focused on serving our community. However, never before have the words in our mission been so relevant and poignant. As an entire team, we could clearly see our purpose and our work connect with that mission. This mission guided our motivations and perseverance in meeting the challenges of COVID-19. The pandemic pushed each of us to really think about our collective and personal purpose and where we find joy. Our daily habits suddenly changed, shaking us foundationally and forcing us to consider what really matters. Let’s think about this issue of personal and collective purpose, as it impacts belonging, engagement, culture and, ultimately, the results we can achieve.
Courage. For nearly one year now, we have courageously faced the silent and deadly threat of COVID-19. We have also bravely approached other societal issues and agreed that silence is no longer acceptable. Whether reimagining healthcare and insurance coverage or acknowledging the virulence of systemic racism, we are challenging long-standing beliefs. The past year’s crises have helped us find the courage. We have practiced courage so much that it has become something of a muscle memory and we now have the strength, resilience and grit to embrace meaningful, necessary change.
Collaboration. The challenges we face are great and complex, but we do not have to address them alone. According to an African proverb, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” Albeit at a social distance, in many ways, the pandemic has brought us together. It’s led us to communicate more, and more effectively, than ever before. To go far, we must continue to come together, collaborate, communicate and support one another.
Empathy. We have gone a year with minimal interaction. And we found out how much we need human connections, whether it is a handshake, hug or simply being in the same room with someone. Relationships matter. People matter. To foster these relationships, we must have empathy, compassion and respect. We have learned to truly listen and engage with others in deep and meaningful conversation. And we must bring heart and humanity to every interaction.
Authenticity. As we all pivoted, many of us found that transparent, honest and vulnerable words and actions were valued and cherished. Being the “real us” mattered. On virtual meetings, we are getting a glimpse into our colleagues’ lives and households. Everywhere we look, this authenticity is fostering an enhanced sense of trust and belonging in ourselves and others.
We’ve learned this past year that we can achieve the unimaginable and remarkable by staying focused on a few priorities that matter most. These qualities can guide us to make people’s and our communities’ health and lives better. We cannot waste this opportunity to transform the status quo and create a better normal.