It never ceases to amaze me how many companies in our industry simply do not resource this incredibly important skill for leaders and employees.

By John Gonzales

I recently conducted a training session for a mid-sized senior living company and had the opportunity to address approximately eighty licensed nursing professionals. Not being a physician or licensed nurse — and with my Red Cross CPR certification having just lapsed — I was a little nervous about the value my presentation would have for these clinical specialists.

Emotional Intelligence

The presentation was on my favorite subject, Emotional Intelligence in Senior Living. While I am confident and well-versed on the subject, I was concerned that the material would be redundant to many of the attendees. After all, these were senior living clinical experts. I was concerned that many of them would be bored, having heard it all before.

When I asked how many of them had attended any training on this topic, I was honestly shocked to see only three raised hands. Three . . . out of almost eighty senior housing clinical professionals.

The Training We Need

It never ceases to amaze me how many companies in our industry simply do not resource this incredibly important skill for leaders and employees. It’s not as if there is any scarcity of books, tapes, etc. on the subject. Wait, do people still buy tapes? I don’t think so, and that’s because of “disruptive innovation.”

This is another subject I am passionate about and something that is rapidly beginning to affect our own industry. But I digress. That’s a topic for another article. I get really excited about that topic too, and sometimes I allow it to affect me and impact my behavior (see what I did there?).


So why is it that so many leaders and employees in our industry are still not provided the training and opportunity to hone this skill? A skill that would provide them the ability to deal effectively with the vast spectrum of emotions with which they are faced. It doesn’t matter how big or small, every community deals with this issue and has this need.  

Am I exaggerating? Do you know of any Independent, Assisted Living or Memory Care community where tears are not shed regularly . . . where residents, families, and staff alike do not experience grief, guilt, fear, anger, among many other emotions as part of a routine day?  

Why then, are companies not equipping their most valuable assets to recognize, effectively process and manage through these powerful feelings, both in themselves and in others? Not with any small degree of sarcasm do I refer to this problem as Emotional Stupidity.

At best, it’s Emotional Ignorance. But if you are in a position of leadership in our industry and reading this article, there is no excuse for continuing to omit this topic from future training sessions and to be part of your employee onboarding and orientation program.

The Most Important Things

We teach our Executive Directors and Department Managers how to read a Profit and Loss statement, how to implement assessments and rent increases – our marketing staff how to sit-tour-sit and, of course, close. But does your staff know how to handle an angry daughter yelling profanities at them because mom is still in bed at 1 p.m. and hasn’t had anything to eat (not because that’s necessarily the reality, but because that’s what mom told her)?  

How do they react to a resident who is clearly depressed or despondent because of having recently lost their lifelong partner, or to the adult child who is struggling with the profound and oppressing guilt because of having moved mom into your community – against mom’s will.

When faced with these situations, does your staff know how to recognize and manage these emotions in others? How about how to recognize the rising anger in themselves when they are wrongfully or unfairly accused of being neglectful, uncaring or unfeeling because “mom has no more money and you’re giving her a rate increase?!”  

Getting yelled at is bad enough, but getting cursed at by someone who is dealing with these strong emotions and is ill-equipped to handle them — much less manage them effectively — isn’t just misguided, it’s wrong.  

I hope and pray that you and your staff also experience the very powerful positive emotions in your day to day work: joy, laughter, compassion, and yes, even love. It’s just as important that our team members are trained to recognize and deal with these too! It’s part of having our people see the value in what they do – the impact they have on people’s lives – and to be able to recognize these moments, validate their feelings and celebrate them.  

If you’re not – you’re missing out on a profound opportunity and cheating your staff of the same. And for the C-Suite readers — on a more practical note — you’re missing out on a powerful marketing and sales tool that will drive resident satisfaction and occupancy. Truth.

Emotions are powerful things, and they make us who we are as individuals. Because of what we do, of what our business is all about – shouldn’t this reality be something that’s prioritized, something to be addressed? The alternative is to be stupid about it because you’re no longer ignorant.