By Kent Mulkey

Here are 11 surprising facts about executive directors that you may not know:

1. They live continuously with the tension to please the residents and the corporate office simultaneously.

It is a difficult balance to listen to residents, meeting their needs and wants, and to meet the home office’s needs and requirements. Executive directors want to do both. At times it is quite a challenge.

2. They hear more negative feedback than positive feedback.

It goes with the territory to be the lightning rod in the community, to be the one to listen to the problems and complaints. I will tell you, receiving a compliment, a note, or a kind email is a breath of fresh air.

3. They are on call 24/7, even when not officially at work.

Of course, some companies foolishly tell the executive director upfront that it is a 24/7 job, with no extra compensation for the duty. However, executive directors take what they do seriously and tend to make themselves available more often than is necessary or healthy.

4. They feel as though they are never doing enough.

The job never ends. My first boss in senior living urged me to just walk away at the end of the day the work would be waiting for me tomorrow. There is always one more email, one more resident to visit, one more employee to encourage, and one more report to complete.

5. They may be introverts but have to be extroverts at work.

Some executive directors would prefer to do most of their work from their office. But it is NOT an office job. It requires constant interaction with residents, families, employees, vendors, and referral sources.

6. They could make more money doing something else.

We all know that working in senior living is not the most lucrative career choice. Most people do it out of passion and to bring meaning to their life and work every day.

7. They mostly don’t want to be involved in sales.

The truth is that the executive director is to be the sales leader in the community. They are accountable for the occupancy and revenue. I am continually surprised at how many executive directors don’t want much to do with the sales department.

8. They thought the job would be easier than it is.

When I was a rookie executive director 23 years ago, I was naive to think that the job of leading people and caring for residents couldn’t be all that hard. The CEO of my first company told me that it would be the hardest job I ever had. He was right.

9. They hate walking through the dining room at mealtimes.

If you want to hear complaints, spend time talking with residents while they are eating. Of course, the big complaints will be cold food and meat that is too tough. Not to mention how cold or hot it is in the dining room. The truth is that this is one of the most important activities an executive director can be involved in.

10. They experience more stress and pressure than they show to others.

I remember at times being barely able to hold it together, so I took a lot of walks in the neighborhood to gain perspective and calm my nerves. It takes an emotionally intelligent person to manage the pressure.

11. They find untold joy in the enrichment and happiness they see in residents.

The most rewarding job I have had is that of being an executive director. I loved hearing the laughter, the chatter, and residents enjoying live music and painting classes. Nothing in my career brought me more joy.

Perhaps there is something more you can do to support your executive director. Let them know you care and are in it with them.