The little things really do make a difference and today’s blog is proof. In the spirit of the “busyness” of the day, I thought I’d share little leadership bits that make a huge difference.

I’m proud to say each of these “littles” come from this amazing team I get the privilege to work with every day. Feel free to use these “littles” with your team. I hope they are helpful. They make a difference and they don’t cost a thing.

Thank You

One of our leaders, to close her huddles every few weeks, gives her team members time at the end of their huddle to leave their neighborhood and thank other team members. It takes 10 minutes and is felt for hours. Team members whom you don’t see every day run around our campus thanking other team members. The energy is contagious, and our spirits are all renewed.


When a new employee starts working here we ask them fun questions. What’s your passion? What’s your favorite hobby? What’s always in your fridge? Cat or dog? This gives us all a chance to get to know new employees. An email goes out with their picture. Not just their name and where they will work, but that little something extra so we know our team members.

Ask more questions

During many of our campus huddles, we often start or end with fun questions. You can find fun little icebreaker questions anywhere. This morning’s question was: What are your three favorite sounds? Lots of rain, baby laughs and silence but also some really cool sounds like a wooden baseball bat striking a ball, beats to ’90s rap music (that was mine), cello music, and a child whispering. A very simple thing but it helps build trust with our team and reminds us all simple sounds can make us feel a certain way, regardless of our age.

Slow Down

As I was writing today’s blog I watched one of our leaders walk alongside a resident and his daughter. It was just a walk outside. Nothing earth-shattering. It’s a beautiful day and she took the time out of her crazy busy schedule to go for a walk. The conversation was important, but it was also a great way for her to continue to build the already great relationship she has with this family. This is a little leadership lesson, because we all need reminded relationships are the most important thing we build.

Get down

When we talk to residents in wheelchairs we meet them at eye level. That means we also sit in a chair or kneel. We look them in the eyes and we don’t stand over them. Personally, it’s getting harder to kneel, but it’s necessary. It’s respectful and it makes a difference. It may seem like a little thing but it’s important and we need to take the time and energy to do it.

What’s your name?

Finally, a non-negotiable for us is to wear our name tags. This is a simple practice for us, but it goes a long way. We call each other by name. Our residents know who we are. When something goes well, we know who the team member is, and when someone needs to be held accountable, we also know who that team member is.

We don’t use titles on our name tags. Instead we put a line on them to let people know what our passion or purpose is. (See the photo for mine.) This proves to be a great conversation starter for other employees, guests and residents. After all, leadership has very little to do with title and everything to do with who we are.

These lasting leadership littles are not difficult. In our field we can each create simple habits to influence our culture.

These half dozen suggestions are just a few of the littles we practice. I’d love to hear some of yours. Through good ideas we tend to come up with more good ideas.

Good leadership ideas don’t have to cost a thing. They do take time and commitment, but in the long run can influence your culture more than you would ever expect.

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 life plan community in Fort Dodge, IA. 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 LeadingAge Iowa’s Mentor of the Year. She is currently a mentor in LeadingAge Iowa’s Emerge leadership program.