The 20-mile march in LTC

Share this content:
Elizabeth Newman
Elizabeth Newman

It's rare for smart leaders in any industry to not be familiar with Jim Collins, especially his signature work, "Good to Great."

But there are still benefits to hearing the author and speaker in person, as new aspects rang even more true to me than when I heard him in 2013. Collins was back at the AHCA/NCAL convention in Las Vegas on Monday as part of the opening general session, inspiring executives who likely feel exhausted by the past year.

Collins spoke about the “20-Mile March” and the idea of how those who wanted to walk across the United States can accomplish the goal faster by walking 20 miles every single day rather than walking 40 to 50 miles in good weather.

He used the example of his wife, who joined some friends in biking across the country. But a key to their success was booking hotels ahead of time.

Why does this matter? Because it means that you can't stop 30 miles before your destination because it's raining, or cold, or because your leg is cramping. If you stop you're sleeping by the side of the road and then are even further behind the next day.

“You have two choices, but the whole idea is that you don't give yourself an out,” Collins pointed out. “You manage yourself in a way that is not just in the short term but the long term.”

What I particularly liked about this idea was how much it resonates in 2017, in a world that often seems terrifying and an industry changing in a way that many worry about its survival.

“What will allow you to exert self control in a world that is out of control?” Collins asked

It's a fair question. We have little control over our politicians, our diplomatic strategies or lack thereof, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid or often even market forces. Perhaps we even believe we often don't have control over our relationships. But we do have control over our ability to participate in elections, push back against healthcare “reform” that slashes Medicaid and how we treat our employees or residents.

We can become paralyzed by what we can't control rather than remember what we can do on a 20-mile march. If the focus of this is profit, there are specific goalposts to set for each quarter. If it's improving quality ratings, the “cross country” goal may be a Five Star facility. But that likely requires specific programs, training and changes to hit that 20 mile mark regularly.

What Collins stressed is that many are capable of not only setting these metrics, but also developing the leadership skills to take a team there.

For great leaders, “it's never about them,” Collins said. “Don't take care of your career. Take care of your people.”

Importantly, great leaders generally don't come out of the box with pre-packaged leadership skills.

‘They grow into it,” he said. Occasionally there are “weird genetic freaks” who are automatically excellent leaders, but they are like discovering a new type of weird bug.

“You are just who are you. It's wonderful to discover that wonderful leaders didn't start as one of those weird freaky bugs but started like the rest of us.”

Follow Senior Editor Elizabeth Newman on Twitter @TigerELN.


Next Article in Daily Editors' Notes

Daily Editors' Notes

McKnight's Daily Editors' Notes features commentary on the latest in long-term care news and issues. Entries are written by Editorial Director John O'Connor, Editor James M. Berklan, Senior Editor Elizabeth Newman and Staff Writer Marty Stempniak.