Living Leadership

Living Leadership

Lighten up, Francis

Julie Thorson, Friendship Haven
Julie Thorson, Friendship Haven

Remember Psycho from the movie “Stripes”? He was so serious, so intense, borderline nuts. He wanted to make sure his bunkmates knew who he was, what he stood for, what he would tolerate … blah, blah, blah.

Sgt. Hulka's response was classic and one that has been instilled in me since I was a teenager. Remember? “Lighten up Francis.”

No exclamation, no drama, no further discussion just simply “Lighten up Francis.

I used to hate it when Sam Moser, AKA my dad, tossed that line my way. I would be going on some tirade or overacting about something. He would listen for a while, much like Sgt. Hulka. After a bit he would without question come back with, “Lighten up, Francis.” [Or maybe in my case, “Frances.”] Boy, I used to hate that.

Fast forward 20-plus years and I get it! One of those life lessons your parents gave but we never believed. When does that magic age come around and we realize they were right? Not only for our personal lives but this is true in our professional lives as well.

Sure, in our field we deal with life and death. There are days that we are dealing with tough stuff. There are also those days, however, when we take ourselves and our work way too seriously. We need to step back, pause and even laugh to get through the day.

What are our options? To blow up? To run around yelling at people, stating how busy we are and how bad we each have it, like it's some type of competition? No, the answer is to get out of your head and laugh a little.

We just had a meeting where one of our leaders came in a tutu and a princess crown along with a fairy wand, spreading fun! She could laugh at herself and let us laugh with her. All to remind us that we should have fun at work. In the most tense, uncomfortable settings there is still an opportunity to find humor.

So the next time one of your team members is acting like Psycho from the movie “Stripes” remind him or her to “Lighten up Francis!”

Julie Thorson's “Living Leadership” blog was named the 2016 “Best New Department” Bronze Award winner by the American Society of Health Publication Editors. 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, Thorson is a coach's daughter at heart. She is a former part-time nursing home social worker who quickly ascended the leadership ranks. Now 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. 

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