Julie Thorson

When we consider our long lists of to does on a given day, how much time are you devoting to coaching? Wait, wait, wait — before I jump right in, let’s define coaching in our field.

Coaching in long-term care isn’t something we talk about very often or practice. It may be a term tossed around every so often as a way of reaching employees, but do we regularly practice coaching team members?

When we were recently together in this space, I wrote about offering hope to those we work with. I would suggest to you that if you are struggling with offering hope, you may consider coaching as a way or tool to do it.

When we think of coaching, most of the time some athletic venture comes to mind. In fact, coaching should be an everything venture. I happen to be an expect because I’m a coach’s daughter. (That is my self-disclosed qualifier.) Keep in mind, I have no initials behind my name to convince you I am a coach. All I have is my history, my word, my instincts and my strong desire to see others improve.

What I would like to invite you to consider is an acronym to help you remember what I feel is a great way to “coach” our teams in long-term care. I offer it in the way of long-term care, but there are certainly other professions that may benefit from this approach.

So here it is:


Consciously Offering A Caring Heart, Hand or Head

Be deliberate about giving feedback, do it with intention. Think about what you want and need to say to your teammates. Do it with thought and preparation.

That is what I mean when I say consciously. If you are going to offer feedback, do it on purpose. Don’t give feedback when emotions are high and you are trying to win points or, worse, personally hurt a teammate. Do it on purpose with the full intent of helping them grow as leaders.

The best quote to keep in mind comes from Teddy Roosevelt “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” In my experience, I have found this to be very true. Once teammates know that your feedback is coming from a genuine place of caring, they are most likely willing to hear it.

Offering is an invitation. Some team members may not be in a place in their lives where they are willing to accept feedback. They don’t want to be coached for whatever reason. Understanding where a teammate is can be half the battle. If they aren’t open to it sometimes there’s no point in pushing, until there is. (More on that another day.)

Caring. See the Roosevelt quote above. If we coach in the spirit of truly wanting our team to get better, it’s almost always well-received. Which brings to mind: Can you be friends with your team? My answer is we care about one another, so of course we will become friends. As long as trust is there and boundaries are clear, how can we not be friends? We all want to be respected, but isn’t it more fun when we are respected and liked?

Heart, Hand, Head. Sometimes the three-legged stool of heart, hand and head is just what our team needs. We care about one another; we work alongside one another and we have knowledge and experience to share with one another. Lean too much on one “H” and not the others AND coaching won’t work. If there’s a healthy balance of all three, and teams flourish.

This simple way of remembering what coaching is may not be anything groundbreaking, but I can tell you it works. The proof is when those whom you coach also find purpose and passion in coaching. A team that finds hope in the work they do, and when there’s ownership in creating a culture of leaders … that is when you know you’ve created something really special.

So as the to do list keeps getting longer, consider for a moment how much time you spend coaching. I guarantee the to do list will get shorter, fulfillment will grow and your culture will thrive if you spend more time coaching.  

Julie Thorson’s “Living Leadership” blog was named the 2016 “Best New Department” Bronze Award winner by the American Society of Health Publication Editors. Most recently, she was the 2018 recipient of the LeadingAge Dr. Herbert Shore Outstanding Mentor of the Year award. The president and CEO of Friendship Haven, a life plan community in Fort Dodge, IA, Thorson is a coach’s daughter at heart. A former part-time nursing home social worker, she is a licensed nursing home administrator and has been a participant in LeadingAge’s Leadership Academy.