Living Leadership

Living Leadership

It's hard work having this much fun

Julie Thorson
Julie Thorson

How does that saying go? Some people live to work, and other people work to live? The day I don't look forward to coming to work because it won't be fun, is the time I look for something new. Why be miserable?

I've run into a few people over the years and it seems as if they are dragging a ball and chain around their ankle when they walk into their work. I don't get it. Life is way too short. I know it's easy to say, and circumstances may prevent some from leaving a job they hate, but I believe that other people simply choose to be miserable.

Chances are you are thinking of that person right now. Always complaining. It's always someone else's fault. And they have nowhere else to go.

It's not easy staying positive. But even on the toughest of days as leaders it's our responsibility to stay as positive as possible.

Smiling when you want to scream inside is a learned skill. Sometimes it's necessary to take a walk, take a deep breath, do some jumping jacks, just do whatever it takes to keep smiling.

As leaders, we set the tone. Others react to how we react. That can be a tough burden to bear, but again, it's necessary. Unless you have decided your attitude has nothing to do with the culture of your organization, that is.

If you believe that to be true, you are wrong! Sorry. I thought about sugarcoating it, but bottom line: You are wrong. As leaders, our attitude, our ability to smile, our ability to connect with residents and employees is paramount.

There is still talk about “culture change” in our industry. Resident-centered care. People outside of our industry don't know, and quite frankly don't care, what that means. I bring this up because I believe as leaders we have everything to do with helping create the culture of our organization. It starts with us — having fun, laughing and smiling at work. Yup, it's that simple.

I was reminded of this today when a teammate who's worked with us only for one year looked at me at the start of a very “fun” meeting; we were analyzing our Medicare Cost Report. You know — fun, sexy stuff. Not.

She looked right at me and without batting an eye, she said, “Smile.” I hadn't even realized I was frowning. I was embarrassed. The pressures of the day got to me and I let it show on my face.

Luckily we've done the work to create an atmosphere of truth telling and support. She recognized my tension and anxiety and simply reminded me it's not that bad by reminding me to smile. How lucky am I to have teammates I can count on for reminding me to smile?

We wrote it into our standards of personal performance. We've actually made it an expectation to smile and have fun at work. We laugh, we joke and we have fun with each other and with the residents we serve. We are committed to that.

We would like most, if not all, to come to work because they want to, because they want to make a difference in someone's life and have a good time while they are doing it.

I love to work. I love to have fun. To me, they are one in the same. We sometimes take ourselves way too seriously. Being a leader means allowing the work to happen in an environment that's exciting and fun whether we live here or work here. It's not easy, but it's so worth it.

Cut the chain loose and go skip down the hall! I guarantee people will ask what you are doing and you will start a chain of smiles and maybe even a few giggles.

Julie Thorson is the president and CEO of Friendship Haven, a continuing care retirement community in Fort Dodge, IA, that earned the Governor's Award for Quality in 2014. A coach's daughter at heart, she is a former part-time nursing home social worker who quickly ascended the leadership ranks. A licensed nursing home administrator, she has been a participant in LeadingAge's Leadership Academy and was recently named LeadingAge Iowa's Mentor of the Year. 

close

Next Article in Living Leadership