WHCC20 | Articles

Neil Meltzer
President & CEO
LifeBridge Health

A New Kind of Leadership: The Care Bravely Movement

An organization's culture is invisible, yet its effect can be felt, seen, and experienced in tangible ways. When culture is undefined, everything is more difficult. However, when it is clear and crystallized for employees, the organization can be transformed.

As the CEO of a large and growing health system, I recognized that, as we added new facilities and more people, we needed to take the time necessary to reexamine our culture. We wanted to do something bold to galvanize our employees first, then share our message more broadly with the communities we serve.

Culture change is often the most challenging part of any organizational transformation. It demands new leadership skills and behaviors. We wanted to create a clear movement that resonated authentically with our employees, giving a voice to the meaning they find in their work and our purpose of "Caring for Our Communities Together.""

To do this, we launched what we call the "Care Bravely" movement. We brought in an outside firm that led us on a journey to rediscover our purpose. Over several months, we talked to dozens of team members at every level of our organization about our culture and our purpose.

The goal was to capture "how we do things" at LifeBridge Health. The words "Care Bravely" were born after listening to our team members describe the way they approach their jobs and the people they serve. They see each person as an individual, not simply a patient. They go "above and beyond" every day no matter what. This is Care Bravely, mirroring our values and serving as a rallying cry for our entire organization.

We brought the movement to life with a clear stand, including a proclamation of beliefs and values. We launched with actions and training (including creating a team of influential internal "igniters") as well as a powerful communications campaign, featuring our own employees - inspiring them to take on the Care Bravely mantra.

Since our launch, hundreds of people have submitted their Care Bravely stories on our website. These range from simple acts of kindness to grand gestures, from a physical therapist who fostered her patient's dog to a cafeteria worker who reopened the kitchen late at night because a hospice patient wanted bacon and toast. It turned out to be the patient's final meal. The Care Bravely movement allows us to showcase, celebrate and engage our amazing caregivers.

Public spaces in our facilities feature massive posters of our team members with powerful statements such as "I CARE BRAVELY." In our communities, there are billboards and digital/TV advertising. We have produced Care Bravely videos, stories and social media posts.

The true test of a movement, however, is not only whether it is met rapturously when leaders unveil it, but whether frontline staff still use it months later.

Since the launch of Care Bravely last spring, we've seen a dramatic deepening of engagement, with a record number of staff completing their engagement survey. We also earned certification as a "Great Place to Work," and I credit our Care Bravely movement as a big part of that. Modern Healthcare honored Care Bravely with a Healthcare Marketing Impact award in 2019.

What I have learned through this process is creating movements internally can be a powerful tool. It's a move from the traditional top-down leadership to a more egalitarian, cross-company leadership: "Let's do this because we all want to do it - because it's something that really matters to us."

By engaging our teams with this movement, they are helping to build this new culture. We are creating a new sense of ownership and excitement as our Care Bravely movement inspires action daily. I am proud to Care Bravely.

Neil Meltzer is president & CEO of LifeBridge Health, a regional health system based in Baltimore, Maryland. He has held the position since 2013 and has expanded the system through alliances with organizations that provide medical transportation, retail pharmacy, urgent care, health insurance, assisted living, and more.

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