I had the great pleasure of attending two retreats last week.

The first retreat was with the leadership groups of the WVU Health Science Center and West Virginia United Health System. The second was with a diverse group of leaders from WVU Medicine, our healthcare system.

Watching diverse teams of people come together to form a single larger team is fun.

This process is about leadership and commitment to a common purpose.

Luckily, we have both.

The first retreat focused on culture building. You know the saying that culture eats strategy for breakfast. It is the lifeblood of the best organizations in the world.

Culture makes Apple and Nike sought after brands. Remember, a company’s brand is their promise to their customers.

Our second was about building family – together in spirit, in activity, and in compassion for our customers.

We reviewed the experience of Russell Honore, a general in the U.S. Army. A Louisiana native, he was brought into the chaos after Hurricane Katrina to organize rescue and relief efforts and restore order. His instruction? Treat everyone like your family. If you would do it for a family member, do it for a survivor of Katrina.

We also reviewed the magic that makes Southwest Airlines soar. Herb Kelleher, when newly chosen as CEO of the airline, decided that his “secret sauce” would be to focus on employees first and customers second. His idea was that happy employees treat customers well.Guess what? Simply caring and showing it to others counts.

What is our culture and brand at WVU?

Our culture reflects our state today – strength of character, honesty, resilience and pride. Our brand reflects where we want our state to be in the future – going first, being a beacon for others to follow.

Jay Barney, a very successful business school professor points out that the only true sustainable advantage is cultural – organizations that successfully manage complex interactions between people will succeed where others falter. Consumer goods can be recreated, mimicked and imitated.

I believe the reason why we can lead, can go first, is our culture.

I have never met more people without ego and with a driving passion about helping others. No other health care system could come together and act as one. No other state could either.

Acting as One – One Family, One Healthcare Network, One WVU, One West Virginia.