Senior management would espouse core values at every opportunity, but in practice, especially the further down the management chain things went, it was virtually unrecognizable.

The other day I was surprised to listen to a voice mail on my cell phone from the owner of our company. It’s not every day that the owner calls to inquire about who is working over the weekend as he could be bringing some folks for lunch.

After listening to the message, I called him back as requested. He was pleasant and friendly, asked me about the community, challenges, updates on occupancy, and even complimented me that though I expressed there is a lot to the job, he has heard that I am up to the task.

It was a nice conversation. He let me know he’d confirm the lunch and tour with me the next day. Saturday evening I got another VM from him saying they wouldn’t be coming the following day after all as their plans had changed. He also passed along that he hoped I was feeling better (I mentioned the previous day that I had a cold).

Mission and Values

I share this personal illustration because it’s a great example of company culture in action. I’ve worked for a few other senior living companies and other organizations that serve the senior populace, and they all have a mission and core values. I’m happy to report that in most of my experiences, those companies were, by and large, seeking to exemplify that mission and put those values into practice.

But in at least one of my experiences, that couldn’t have been further from the truth. Senior management would espouse core values at every opportunity, but in practice, especially the further down the management chain things went, it was virtually unrecognizable.

The Ripple Effect

What do a couple of voice mails and short conversation have to do with all this? A lot. As the owner of the company, he could have very easily given a directive and had someone else handle the task. He could have sent an email or called the office, but instead he took the time to call my cell phone and personally connect with me.

This from a man who presides over a company with more than 50 senior living properties and nearly as many hotels. The fact that he took time out of his day to do so speaks volumes. It was encouraging to me, but it also left me with a renewed appreciation for what Jen Shirkani refers to as a leaders downstream impact. In her book “Ego vs. EQ,” she explores the fact that as leaders we often lose sight of just how much our behavior is being watched by others and also how our actions have a ripple effect. My owner’s call was a perfect example of that to me. It was a very ordinary call, but the fact that it was made by the owner of our company made it extraordinary.

A Little Introspection

That same surprise call from the owner of our company got me thinking about my own leadership. If I was so impacted by a simple phone call, how am I impacting those I lead? Am I using my influence for good, or is it lacking? I asked myself the following questions:

  • Am I making an effort to connect with my employees? Not just business   conversation, but to really get to know them?
  • Am I striving to be consistent with our companies mission and core values?
  • Am I seeking to be consistent in my daily practices and subsequent interactions?
  • Am I alert to potential blind spots and seeking to grow in those areas?

By asking those questions I’m seeking to ferret out areas where I am not as effective as I could be at leading others. In turn, this gives me the ability to have a greater impact within my sphere of influence. The greater my impact, the greater my opportunity at multiplication: that is, grooming and mentoring new leaders to take up the challenge of leading a successful community. This ultimately has the greatest impact upon the most important people of all; our residents.

Passion Isn’t Enough

Many of us got into senior living because we have a passion for the older population. However, most of us probably figured out just as quickly that simply being passionate about seniors isn’t enough. You have to know how to lead people and effectively work through others. If you don’t, the results can be disastrous.

That’s why it’s refreshing and inspiring to have a very easily delegated task of a phone call reveal that a leader recognizes the power of a personal connection with his employees. It made me want to follow suit and examine my own leadership practices to find areas where I can continue to mature. I encourage you to take a few minutes to mull over the questions above and be really honest with yourself. If you find yourself answering unfavorably to even one of them, take it as an opportunity to grow. Seek ways to improve your emotional intelligence, which will arm you with the tools to be a more effective leader. And who knows, you just may impact one of your employees with a 7-minute phone call along the way.