By Pam McDonald

Often referred to as the “drama-free guy”, leadership expert Dennis McIntee urges us to view the pandemic-caused new normal as happening FOR us, not TO us. With this powerful mindset, we can move forward with ”choice abundance” instead of “choice poverty”. The following are takeaways from our podcast interview with Dennis. He also provides a link to 20 coaching questions to help senior living leaders navigate change and guide their teams through it without drama. Stay tuned for Part 2; listen to the entire podcast here.

Most people say, “I don’t like change.” But I’ve realized that it’s not that they don’t like change, they don’t like change they’re not in charge of. I think one thing we’ve got to work really hard at as we walk through changes brought on by the coronavirus, is not to get mad at reality.

Accepting Reality Is One of the First Steps in Managing Change

We’re now in a new normal. We can go, ‘I had this picture in my mind of the future.’ I mean, I’m a keynote speaker, I’m an author, and so, in the span of four days, I had over 20 events canceled. I had this idea that these events were going be so great and it was going to be all this impact. But honestly it was just make-believe, right? It was all made up in my mind anyway. 

Maybe it really wasn’t going to be as great as what I thought it would be. I’ve seen that people go into some sort of drama when they argue against reality. The change is there. It’s important just be honest and go, ‘This is what it is.’ I think that’s sort of the first step in managing change – just tell the truth, just where things are at.

That requires observing a little bit, learning to be alert and responsive. Look out on the landscape, be aware, and then work to be responsible. In times of chaos, crisis, and change, I ask myself, ‘How could I be useful? How can I be useful to residents and families? How can I be useful to people?’

‘Your Mindset Determines Your Methods’ 

Many times, in crises, we have to step back and realize this is happening for me, it’s not happening to me. This whole crisis that we’re in, this whole change is really happening for me, and, if I take that stance, then I can really be powerful. If I think the change happens to me, then there’s nothing I can do, I can’t fix it. I’m at a loss. I think that’s the thing that really is tragic at this time, when people just feel lost or like ‘I don’t know what to do’, and really there’s a lot you can do.

The thing about it is, your mindset determines your methods and so, I think the thing for leaders right now is to really work at, first of all, just managing your own mindset and then continue to help others manage their mindset. 

You’re Always in Control of 4 Things

When you think about it, with change, people go into drama because they feel like they can’t control anything. But really there are four things that you can control as you manage change. I call them AIRE, A, I, R, E, almost like the air that you breathe. This is the AIRE at this time that leaders have to breathe. So, “A” is attitude. You have to manage your attitude. It’s, ‘I can’t control a lot of things, but I can control my attitude.’

And the “I”, I can control my inputs. So, I’m telling leaders, turn off your favorite news channel. Watch what you input, especially if it’s going on in the background 24/7. You have to be very careful that you manage your inputs, what you’re feeding your mind, because whatever you’re putting in is what’s going to come out. So, manage your inputs.

And then “R”, you can manage your response. You can’t manage the events. The events are out of your control, but you can manage your response and that response really will determine the outcome.

And then “E”, you can manage your effort. I’ve never worked harder than in the last four weeks. I mean, I’m almost doubling down on my effort. So, one of my coaching clients told me this story: she opened up a McDonald’s in Brazil. She opened the whole country of McDonald’s for Brazil. She said during the 2007-2008 financial crisis, McDonald’s cut their advertising budget by half. Pizza Hut and Taco Bell increased theirs by 40%, and, by the end of the crisis, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell had taken over 60% of McDonald’s market share.

Provide Amazing Value and Results, Then Tell Your Story to the World

It’s almost like when people are pulling back, it’s time for us to press forward. I think for senior living, it’s our time to shine. It really is. This is our time to really provide amazing value and amazing results and outcomes for our residents and our families.

The thing that we’re really in control of is the stories we tell ourselves and the stories we tell the world, right? Whatever story I’m telling myself, it becomes true to me. It can actually be a false narrative; it can absolutely actually be not even true. But the one thing we can control is the stories we tell ourselves and the stories we tell each other.

For People to Take Action, They Have to Believe We Care

Sometimes for our clients we do something that’s basically a customer service transformer. We step back and talk about the results that we want families and residents to have. But we can’t really control the results. What’s producing those results are the actions that families are taking. I can’t control people’s actions, right? People are going to do what they do. But, for people to take actions, they have to believe certain things about us.

They have to believe that we really care, that we really have big hearts, that we want to be a blessing to seniors, and that we want to help families. But I can’t really control what you believe about me. But the experiences I provide shape your beliefs, and that’s what I can totally control – the experience that I provide for you.

So, I think it’s really important to just watch what kind of experiences we are providing and talk about the story of those experiences, because that’s what’s going to shape belief. If we can step back and go, ‘Hey, what kind of experiences can we provide?’ My company does a lot of Disney Experience Training with senior living, where we come in and help people and organizations craft those experiences. That’s what Disney does amazingly. We’ve got some people on my team from Disney and so we do a lot of Disney work. 

What Are the Experiences You Create for Residents and their Families?

Disney’s great at telling the story and creating the experience, and so I want to encourage everybody to step back and think about what are the experiences that you need to create and then how do you tell those stories? I would go back, and I would look at your community and go, ‘Hey, what’s really, really working well?’ Because there are always things that are working well. Find what’s working well and craft a story around that.

And really, story is all about emotion. It’s all about how do I share that emotion? One of my favorite authors is Donald Miller. He talks about his StoryBrand concept where you have a hero character who has conflict, who meets a guide who gives him a plan. I think you craft your stories just like that. You make it about the resident, you make it about the families, you make it about your team. You don’t make it about you, we’re just the guide. We are the people that helped them along the journey. Make the families, make the residents the hero.

We want to work to join the conversation that people are already having in their head. The people are already thinking about this. So, join that story, enter into that story with them, and continue to give them hope. See the positive and see the good. The best storytellers are the ones you’re reading and go, ‘Man, are they reading my mail? That’s exactly what I was thinking. These people get me, these people understand me.’

Sharing Stories Helps People Feel Understood

Part of the idea of telling stories is so that people feel like they’re understood. There’s a big need out there, people want to feel understood. And so many times just starting off with a question like, ‘Hey, have you ever thought this? Hey, has this been going on in your mind?’ And people read that, and they go, ‘Heck yeah, I was just thinking about that yesterday.’

And then they’ll enter into that story because they feel like, ‘Hey, you know, you got me, you understand me, you’re one of me.’ Then when people open up their hearts, then you can really help them. But the whole goal with the storytelling is really to help people open up their hearts. When you open up your heart to me, then I can really serve you in a deep and meaningful way.

Click HERE to read Part 2 of this article.