By Steve Moran

I know a handful of amazing senior living CEOs. These are leaders who consistently have high occupancy; they are able to fill all their staffing slots. People like working for them, often describing them as the best boss they have ever had.

The Thing They Don’t Get

I love interviewing them; I love asking them about what they are doing. But they nearly universally have one trait that actually makes it even harder for others to be like them. Here is what it is:

They have no idea how they got to be excellent.

A bit more about them:

  • They think every leader is more or less like they are, meaning they don’t see themselves as unique.
  • They likely think their success is simply hard work with a dose of luck.
  • They imagine that most CEOs, most leaders, think like they think and act like they act.

Ultimately these are people who were born destined to be great leaders. It is not that they didn’t learn how to be the way they are, but the learning was all about excellence and curiosity, not about establishing a goal to be a leader who creates great cultures.

What this all means is that when I ask them how they created the great culture they have, I always get blank looks. Because they see themselves as nothing special.

2 Kinds of Great Organizations

It is rarely talked about, but there are two classes of great organizations:

  1. Those that have high financial performance and great cultures.
  2. Those with not such great cultures but that are cool to work with. Not naming any senior living companies, but outside our sector, think Apple, Google, Oracle — companies that are doing really cool and interesting things, which makes them cool to work for, but that at the same time have very tough cultures.

And Your Point?

There is an even smaller number of leaders who started out not really being all that great but who made a conscious decision to be great leaders, and this is something that is available to all leaders.

It is super hard because it means being willing to admit to yourself, “I have some significant work to do.”

If your culture is struggling with things like …

  • Occupancy you are not happy with
  • High staff turnover
  • Difficulty recruiting great team members

… it can be better. As a starting point, you can:

  • Create a purpose statement that means something — one that every team member can own.
  • Tell stories about living out that purpose statement, over and over again.
  • Get to know all your team members.
  • Listen to your team members — asking things like: What would make your job better? What is one thing we could be doing better?

Yours can be an organization that everyone wants to work for.