Ethos: The Foundation of Extraordinary Teams

  • October 18, 2018


One hospital partner with tremendous potential, doing some of the hardest work in America, was struggling with morale issues, unprofessional behavior, and patient safety metrics. Our conversations with staff – from the newest hire to senior physicians – indicated a shared, gritty passion for work and for being part of a world-class healthcare organization. What was not apparent was how this spirit was reflected in organizational attributes such as mission, standards, accountability, tribal view, or environmental prompts for purpose in life-saving work.


Ethos is Greek for “character.” At Arena Labs, we recognize Ethos as the critical foundation that separates extraordinary cultures from the rest. Ethos is the vital grounds for standards of behavior, and inspires action and purpose, especially under stress. Despite the rare mission of modern health care, it is easy for medical teams to overlook the sacred nature of their work – their Ethos.

We took a dedicated group of approximately 35 staff members from all levels of the offsite for two days, leading them through a process designed to capture Ethos and its distinct expressions in their organizational attributes and operations.


This group took back to their hospital an Ethos statement and plan that was as readily-identifiable as it was actionable. Built on a common set of values, it provided guiding principles for expectations and accountability. The organization rolled out a plan to bring Ethos to life, embedding purpose into key processes, trainings, courses, awards, environmental aesthetics, timeouts, communications, and standards for how they work through conflict and build teams.

These staff-driven Ethos innovations became an asset to the organization, a guiding force to which they can reliably default in the tempo and stresses of everyday operations and in crisis.