One of the advantages of making a bold and compelling public statement about who you are as an organization is that you are now accountable for what you declare about yourself. In other words, you have to walk the walk because, if you don't, you will compromise your reputation.
Toronto East General Hospital (TEGH) has a clear and compelling understanding of who it is at its core. As a community hospital, its goals and services are supposed to be relatively modest, especially when compared to the prestigious, full service University Avenue hospitals. However, TEGH has never been content with staying inside the "community hospital" box. It is an innovator to the core and has developed initiatives that are the envy of both community hospitals and their larger brethren.
In a strategic planning process we lead the hospital through, it captured its operational philosophy and its practices in the expression "Creating a new standard," the proof of which comes from many of its existing programs, policies and achievements, such as:
- TEGH is a provincial Centre of Excellence in Thoracic Surgery (surgery of the lung, chest, and esophagus) and performs all thoracic surgery for Sunnybrook's Odette Cancer Centre, North York General and Royal Victoria Hospital in Barrie
- A collaboration between TEGH and Sunnybrook enabled TEGH's Division of Urology to acquire the da Vinci Robotic Surgical System, with surgeons from both hospitals sharing the device. In partnership with the University of Toronto, TEGH will train the next generation of robotic surgeons.
- 12 years with a balanced budget
- And fundraising, too, as you can see below
In an era when fundraising galas are dying (goodbye Brazilian Ball and Fashion Cares, two of Toronto's biggest galas), TEGH's "Laughter Is The Best Medicine" gala is thriving and raising lots of money. Two years ago, the hospital decided to go high or go home and hired Jerry Seinfeld to be the guest star. Talk about creating a new standard!
Hiring Seinfeld was a huge risk because there was no guarantee the event would cover its costs. But the hospital's bold move inspired the who's who of Toronto philanthropy (individual and corporate donors) to show up, they saw all of their counterparts there and concluded this was a happening event by a happening hospital. It put TEGH on the philanthropy map and it was highly profitable.
The recent announcement by TEGH of next year's guest star -- Chris Rock -- is a great demonstration of how it is staying true to its guiding ethos of creating a new standard. Like Seinfeld, Rock is a top comedian and is already creating a buzz in the philanthropy world. No doubt, the March 2014 gala will sell out quickly, make a lot of money and become another high profile proof point of the hospital's commitment to create new standards.
Clearly and openly declaring "creating a new standard" as its core commitment makes TEGH publicly accountable to be true to its words. This accountability focuses and aligns the decision-making process for everyone in the organization, from the CEO to folks on the shop floor. The public declaration will compel all employees to evaluate every action they take and every decision they make against the question "Is this contributing in some way to creating a new standard?" As long as the answer is "yes," TEGH will make better business decisions.