Living Leadership

Living Leadership

Early is the new on-time

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Julie Thorson
Julie Thorson

This week I had the opportunity to speak to a local high school coaching class. The teachers asked me to come and speak to the aspiring coaches about how my job as CEO related to being a head coach of a sports team.

It's no secret I sincerely enjoy speaking to high school students (although I don't know if I would have the ongoing patience for that audience). It's a great way to start the week and remind myself the simplest of leadership principles and how they apply to more than our industry.

The three very simple (but seemingly difficult reminders):

• Shake hands. Don't extend a flimsy grip.

• Make eye contact. Nothing worse than roaming, non-engaged eye contact.

• Be on time. If you don't respect my time, why should I respect yours?

These are my three go-tos. They make as much sense in our professional lives as they do to high school students. They aren't difficult. They, in fact, are pretty simple. However, for whatever reason, people have a very hard time practicing them.

The coaches seemed to pay particular attention to being on time. That must be an issue with classes and practice. Good habits such as being on time start early in life. That doesn't mean bad habits can't be changed, however.

One of my teammates a while back stated, “Early is the new on-time.” It helped and people made a point to show up to meetings on time. If anything people were embarrassed to show up late and knew they were going to have to walk in with their head down to a meeting.

It hasn't always been this way in our work culture. People used to walk in late with a badge of honor hanging around their necks because they were “so busy” they couldn't possibly break away to show up on time.

Those days are gone. We show up, we show up on time and we are ready to work. The only acceptable excuse is, “I was with a resident or their family member.”

If for whatever reason we are going to be late, we do this simple thing (which goes a long way): We let the meeting organizer know! I know it seems simple and should be easy to do, but how many meetings were you in this week and someone strolled in late, like they couldn't be bothered. It happens and if we don't set the expectation that we are going to be on time and be present, it will continue to happen.

It struck me as I was speaking to these high school students that no matter how much leadership training we have, the simple things hold true — at any age. People who strive to model leadership consistently practice the three traits I mentioned above.

So quit reading this blog and get to your next meeting on time!


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.


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