As a leader, sometimes you need an opportunity for rework. I recently tried to reverse a decision I made in 2017 when we removed non-diet sodas from Intermountain Healthcare facilities. Intermountain has made changes to its dining experience, including replacing sugary soda in cafeterias, cafes, retail outlets and staff lounges.
One of the original goals of getting rid of non-diet soda was to encourage dialogue about the role of organizations in promoting healthy lifestyles, and that’s exactly what happened. But it also created a shadow economy in our factories for those who wanted sweetened soda as local vendors offered to deliver it to our hospitals and clinics. Many of our guardians have taken full advantage of this offer.
I thought the change we made back in 2017 was the right one in terms of health. I am still doing. But was this decision my own or was the decision made by the people themselves?
Numerous caregivers and patients have shared their thoughts with me on this topic through surveys, internal social media posts, and round-ups. The message was loud and clear: they wanted the regular soda back. The overwhelming theme of the feedback we received from them was the desire for more choice.
At this stage, I had a choice. I could ignore the feedback and adhere to my decision. Or I could listen, study, and humble myself to make a different decision. I chose the latter. We recently announced that non-diet sodas will be returning to Intermountain Healthcare soon.
In an era when our hospitals are gripped by a pandemic, talking about soda and choices can seem trivial by comparison. In many ways, this is true. But this decision to change course has to do with respect for people’s individual choices. Moreover, it is about respecting them as individuals.
In any case, it is not a perfect decision when we are trying to help people live as healthy as possible. But choosing for others about soda consumption didn’t help. In our days, tensions are only growing in society. I hope that even the smallest gestures like this can lower the temperature a little.
After sharing this point of view on the Internet, I received a lot of support from other leaders. And I got some criticism too. It has to do with the territory of the leader. But my North Star does not fully agree with my decisions. Instead, my goal is to serve patients, carers and communities. I can only do this by listening to them and respecting them, even if I disagree with them. A dose of humility never hurts either.