937 Strategy's Anton J. Gunn takes aim at fixing the "toxic workplace culture" in healthcare

Anton J. Gunn
(Graphic by David La Cava/Image courtesy of 937 Strategy Group)

Anton J. Gunn, CEO of 937 Strategy Group

Age: 48

Education: Gunn earned a bachelor’s degree in history and a master's degree in social work from the University of South Carolina, Columbia.

About him: In his role as chief diversity officer at MUSC Health, Gunn led a team of 28 employees responsible for education and training for healthcare staff, supplier diversity, pastoral care and language services.

Last year, Gunn’s team achieved a $69 million spend with diverse businesses while constructing a children’s hospital. In addition to conducting 7,500 pastoral care visits with patients and families and accepting 23,700 requests for language services, the team set up a COVID-19 screening phone line for low-income, rural, homeless and other people without access to the internet.

Within the organization, Gunn’s team hosted and facilitated seven off-the-record listening sessions for Black and Brown employees of the health system in the wake of the killing of George Floyd, creating a safe space for employees to share their responses and help each other heal. The team followed this work with a masterclass for healthcare executives, equipping them to become allies for racial justice in the workplace. In January 2021, Gunn left MUSC Health to launch 937 Strategy Group, a management consulting and leadership training company with a mission to serve 1,000 healthcare executives and at least 100,000 employees they lead as they build a workplace culture where every employee and patient feels visible, valued, respected, included and empowered.

In addition to his work with 937 Strategy Group and MUSC, Gunn has served as an adviser to President Barack Obama, and as a resident fellow at Harvard University. He has written a best-selling leadership book, “The Presidential Principles,” and has been featured in TIME Magazine, Bloomberg News, The Wall Street Journal and Inc. Magazine, and has appeared on the BBC, NPR and Good Morning America.

First job: He worked as a community organizer working to ensure a local hospital merger was in the best interest of the low-income, underserved and minority communities of Columbia, South Carolina.

Proudest accomplishment: “Being a husband of nearly 21 years and the father of the most amazing 16-year-old daughter. They are the best things in my life.”

Problem he’s most passionate about trying to solve: “The biggest problem in healthcare is toxic workplace culture. A toxic culture characterized by unfairness, incivility, and mistreatment is destroying the morale of America's healthcare workers. I have seen it spread like aggressive cancer throughout multiple organizations. Global pandemics, structural racism, civil unrest, economic calamity, and other damaging events are compounding the toxicity in the healthcare workplace. This results in low engagement, low productivity, high turnover, and incivility. A recent survey of 10,000 doctors-in-training found one in three had either witnessed or been targeted by toxic behavior in the workplace in the last 12 months.

“According to SHRM, American employers lost $223 billion over five years due to toxic workplace culture. We have to end injustice in the workplace and recreate the environment that builds a world-class culture with diverse, high-performing teams and great leaders that everyone can admire. This environment will lead to higher engagement, increased productivity, and a culture that will inspire leaders to focus on the real mission, improving the health, safety, and well-being of patients, families, and communities.”

Book he would recommend to other healthcare leaders: “As an avid reader I read between 50-60 books a year. There are a lot of good books out there. However, I have never found a book that spoke to the challenges of leading a racially and culturally diverse team as a healthcare leader, so I wrote the book I wanted to read. The Presidential Principles: How to Inspire Action and Create Lasting Impact. The CEO of MUSC Health gave it to every healthcare executive in 2018. I also believe that every healthcare executive should read it as well, it will help you be more effective as a leader. I wrote it to your boss.”

Advice he would give his younger self: “Spend as much money on your personal development as you do on your car payment each month. Professional development has been the key to my success as a leader.”

What he’d do with his career if it wasn’t this: “I would either be a Hip Hop Artist or a Minister. I love Classic Hip Hop and my faith guides my decisions.”

Biggest lesson so far from the global pandemic: “The American healthcare system has not done nearly enough to address the impact of race and income on healthcare outcomes for people of color, particularly black people. We must have a seismic and systemic solution to this seismic and systemic problem of race in healthcare.”

937 Strategy's Anton J. Gunn takes aim at fixing the "toxic workplace culture" in healthcare