Living Leadership

Living Leadership

She needed this shot in the arm, and you might too

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Julie Thorson
Julie Thorson

This week started rocky. I doubted myself, like many of you do on Monday mornings. I got caught up in the pressures of the work and failed to hold on to the leadership principals I hold true. I kept giving myself a pass. After all, I have a lot going on. I can give myself a break.s

Fast forward two days. I drove across the great state of Iowa to our annual LeadingAge Iowa fall conference. Truth be told, I wasn't looking forward to another conference, another keynote speaker, more breakout sessions to remind me of how quickly things are changing and how much more work is to be done.

Forcing myself into the right mindset, yesterday's keynote speaker was hard to ignore. In fact, he made it impossible. The message was simple but the lessons were necessary.

Christopher Ridenhour spoke on purpose, specifically the power of purpose. The takeaways made a difference and for me reaffirmed that doing the right thing well can and will make a difference.

All the complex issues we have facing us in this field are overwhelming. If we don't have the basics down, the other stuff will never work or be sustainable. The basics start with you. As busy as we all are … we have time.

Don't believe me? Do you have 30 seconds? Christopher reminded us we all have periods of time every day in which we can choose to make a positive difference. Heck, not even 30 seconds. You have 5, 10, 20 seconds during the day where you can make a powerful difference.

Let me explain. Perhaps the biggest monster facing all of us today is our workforce. Finding and keeping good employees should be keeping us all up at night. It does me. What program, incentive or plan should we implement to make a difference? How do we make sure people feel valued and appreciated at work? How do we get people to show up for work, not just show up for work? (Hint: There is inflection in my voice that, verbally, would make each “show up” sound different.) Christopher did a great job of driving this point home.

All the programs and plans don't matter if our culture doesn't promote genuine value in appreciation, belief and enthusiasm.

Do you think it's fun to go to work every day? If your answer is “no” or “sometimes,” how can you expect the people who work with you to feel any different? If you aren't smiling and greeting your team members with genuine enthusiasm every day, how can you expect your team members to smile and make a resident's day?

It doesn't take a lot of time; it takes seconds to spread positive energy. It takes less than a second to smile — and a smile does go a long way. Daily positive interactions with team members are important. It's that simple. It makes a difference.

Christopher told the story of how a tangible incentive is good but it soon becomes not enough. His story involved an employer who thought it was a great idea to give every employee a turkey. After a while, the comment received from employees was that these turkeys keep getting smaller and smaller every year. Genuine appreciation and interaction between employees is bigger than a turkey; it creates momentum and perpetuates positivity and it helps to build an organization where people want to work. They want to stay working and they want to come and work. This is not rocket science. It's basic stuff.

If it's so simple, why is it hard to sustain? It takes focused energy, consistency, and most importantly ... (pay attention now, this is profound) … We have to have passion for the work we do and we have to show others that passion every single day. We can't afford to take a day off.

Sometimes a good keynote speaker at whatever conference is near you might help. It may just give you the kick in the fanny you need to refocus and realize the basics are important.

Smile, laugh, have fun at work and let people know you showed up for work today.

Thanks for the reminder, Christopher. A boost of positive energy is just the shot in the arm I needed this week.

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 under her, 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. 


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