“The crowd will follow a leader who marches twenty paces ahead of them, but if he is a thousand paces ahead of them, they will neither see nor follow him.”
– George Brandes

The people that work with you every day, on the front lines in senior living, have amazing stories, get to know each of them, learn their stories and you will be amazed and inspired by their passion and work ethic. By knowing your employees on a personal level you can tie that passion into the company’s mission and vision and amazing things will start happening. We had an evening receptionist and security guard at one of our communities, she was one of the friendliest people you could ever meet. She would always greet residents with a smile and a kind word. She was a problem solver whether it was an over flowing toilet, a power outage, or in one case a drunken family member on the skilled care floor. She always comforted the residents and handled whatever problem arose with grace and with as little disruption to the residents’ lives as possible. Her positive attitude no matter what came her way was an example to us all. Now as Paul Harvey would say, here is the rest of the story…

“Michele” had 5 kids ranging in age from 6 to 14, her husband was a police officer who was paralyzed from the waist down while on duty. Working at our retirement community was “Michele’s” second job that she picked up in order to help support her family. Her first job was a homicide detective in the inner city of Birmingham. One day I was leaving work and I saw her walking to the copy machine, she was limping. I stopped to ask her if she was OK and she replied in her normal chipper self that she was fine and what a great day it was at the community. I asked why she was limping and she replied that it was not a big deal but that while delivering an arrest warrant THAT MORNING she was stabbed in the leg which resulted in 20 stiches. A large part of her job requires making walking security rounds, which she did without complaint. I tried to send her home, she had plenty of sick time she could have taken. Her response was “Why would I not come to work? They released me from the hospital, besides, I love my job and the residents brighten my day. Not only that my boss was counting on me to be here and I couldn’t let him down.” The truth was she brightened the residents’ day and all those that she came in contact with. I could go on and on about how great “Michele” was but I think you get my point.

“My plan is to get the twenty-five guys to play for the name on the front of their uniform and not the one on the back.”
– Tommy Lasorda

If you can get all of your employees to have this type of attitude when they come to work then customer satisfaction is easy. I think the first step in achieving this is to truly show that you care about the people that you work with every day; in this PC world we live in we often make the mistake of equating “treating everyone fairly” with “treating everyone the same”; the reality is when we treat everyone the same everyone feels like just a number, there is no personal connection to their boss or the company they work for. It is important to treat everyone fairly but that does not equate to treating them the same. Get to know your employees, know their families and show genuine interest in their wellbeing, learn what motivates them and you will start to see this level of commitment among your employees. All of this has to be genuine though, faking compassion or a genuine interest in someone is worse than showing no interest at all, people know if you are genuine.

“Everyone is different. If you treat them alike you won’t reach them. Be fair with all of them and you have a chance. One you pat on the back and he’ll jump out the window for you. Another you kick in the tail. A third you yell at and squeeze a little. But be fair, and that is what I am. You can’t throw a fit once a month, go down and shake somebody and impress them much. They think “who the hell is this?” you are like a shower coming down: just wait and it goes away. If you are in the trenches with them every day, they will do anything you want.”
– Paul “Bear” Bryant

“There is no such thing as a “self-made” man, you will only reach your goals with the help of others.”
– Anonymous

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking as the manager you don’t need your team or that you somehow accomplished something great on your own. Respect your team and always give them the credit and respect that they deserve. Too often I hear managers talk about what “I” accomplished as if there was not a team behind them actually in the trenches every day pulling it off. When you talk about the things your team has accomplished do you talk in terms of “I” or “we”; when someone meets you for the first time do they immediately know you are the boss or do they just know you are part of the team? Do you work “with” the employees or your team or do they work “for” you? Do you give credit to the team when goals are accomplished or do you take the credit yourself? When the team falls short do you point your finger at the team or do you take responsibility yourself?

“Coming together is the beginning, keeping together is progress, working together is success.”
– Henry Ford