“These are really tough problems and very complicated to solve, with so many moving parts…”

By Steve Moran

I have a lot of conversations with a lot of senior living professionals from the C-Suite to the frontline, vendors, residents, family members, and pundits. More often than not, we get to talking about problems in senior living; right now primarily occupancy and staffing, about 90% of the time it drifts in the direction of . . . 

“These are really tough problems and very complicated to solve, with so many moving parts.”

When I hear this, I kind of shake my head, (most of the time mentally) like my dog does when his ears are hurting like this . . .

Because I find myself thinking, “I am must be crazy because I actually don’t think it is all that complicated.” A few weeks ago Steve Monroe posted a fireside chat titled “CEOs and Other C-Suiters: It’s Time to Roll Up Your Sleeves” in which he — in effect — made a case for it not being that complicated. There are some others who also agree with me, John Cochrane and Fara Gold and Kimberly Green . . . and I know there are some others.  

The Big Secret . . . That Is No Secret at All

The truth is what needs to happen is that top leaders, middle leaders, community level leaders need to slow down, stop talking and listen. It is the easiest thing in the world to do and the hardest thing to do. It is easy because all it takes is time and an open mind. It is hard because it takes time, is not very ego boosting, and hardest of all, it can be brutal to hear what you are not doing as well as you should and not get defensive.

Except that your team, your residents, and your families — at least most of them — want you to succeed. They are on your side when they tell you what is wrong it is because they are trying to be helpful, not hurtful.

As someone who tackles tough topics in senior living, I get three kinds of responses from readers:

  1. “That was a great article you published, spot on.” — As you can imagine these are the most fun comments to get, so keep them coming.

  1. “I think you got it wrong.”  — These come in mild forms like, “I think you got it wrong” to the mean and nasty, “I think you are an idiot.” My ego hates these, I learn the most from them, even the ones I don’t agree with. They always force me to think harder about what I do.

  2. Unsubscribes. — Now if you think I am boring or irrelevant, I get that but I am pretty sure that most of the time when people unsubscribe it is because they hate it when I “talk smack” about senior living. While I think it is not okay to just write smack about the industry, I also think if we are not willing to have discussions about the areas we could be better, we will never get better.

How to Make It Work

This formula is so stinkin’ easy that I honestly don’t quite get why it is too rarely used:

  1. Tell me what we need to fix.

  2. Fix the fixable, explain why the other things are not fixable, apologize, and mean it, when you had a fail.

  3. Report on what you fixed and what you tried. Celebrate the successes and tell the truth about the failures.

  4. Rinse and repeat.

Honest, it is this simple. No real secret sauce, but not so glamorous either.