By Pam McDonald

Nationally recognized leadership speaker, author, and consultant Dennis McIntee, often referred to as the “drama-free guy”, recommends asking your team different questions to create new capabilities. He also provides a link to 20 coaching questions you can use to help your team navigate change without the drama. The following are takeaways from our podcast interview with Dennis. You’ll find Part 1 here; listen to the podcast here.

I just want to encourage you, your best days are really ahead of you, and with any crisis, I always ask myself, ‘Okay, what does this make possible?’ And I think as department heads and as leaders, I just want you to step back and ask yourself, ‘Okay, well, we’re going through these changes and these immense upheavals in the industry, what does this make possible?’ Because it always makes something possible. And, in that way, I don’t want to waste the crisis.

What New Things Do All of These Changes Make Possible?

I think if we do the crisis right, we’re going to come out on the other side stronger, more efficient, more responsive, more alert. And I think we’re going to be able to create some other services, whole other services, whole other product lines. We’re going to find it through this crisis. Just like you and I are doing this on Zoom. I mean, how much has Zoom changed video conferencing?

I was talking to a doctor and he said, ‘Dennis, telemedicine is here to stay.’ For years we’re like, it’s going to be too costly. It’s going to be too this; it’s going to be too that. And now, once we go back to work, it’s going to be here to stay. So, I’m always asking myself as we go through these things, what are some things that are going to go away, and what are some things that are going to stay?

Pressure Doesn’t Make You, But It Reveals You

So, it’s a tremendous, fantastic time to be alive. And I’m just reminding people, we were born for this. You as a leader in senior living were born for this. And, just like the World War II generation, we’re a great generation. I think as we go through this, it’s like it’s going to reveal who we really are. Pressure doesn’t make you, it just kind of reveals you. And so, what I’ve seen in the industry is like, wow, we have some amazing people and I’m just so proud to be a part of the senior living community. It’s fantastic.

Dan Sullivan taught me that your eyes only see, and your ears only hear what your brain is looking for. And so, there are people who are going to sleepwalk through this crisis. There are people right now just bingeing on Netflix, watching TV, and using this time as a vacation. I’m okay with that, but if you learn to do it right and you just continue to ask yourself different questions, it totally shifts your thinking.

Ask Your Team A Different Question; Create New Capabilities

In the beginning of March, I got my team together and said, ‘Hey, you remember that one-year strategic plan we made? Tear it up. We have a new normal. Even though we had 22 or something events cancel, how can we still hit our goals this year?’ We didn’t stop trying to produce great outcomes. We didn’t say, ‘Oh, well, there’s nothing we can do.’ We just used a different question.

And my team got super creative. We’re doing six virtual summits over the next two months. I’m working with some of the senior living associations and we’re doing virtual summits. We’re hosting them for them and helping them get some of the information they would’ve gotten from our live event. That would’ve never happened if we wouldn’t have been able to go through this crisis.

If you go through a crisis and change, you create new capability. And so, I would just ask myself, what new capabilities do I need to create at this time? And if you do it right, you’re going to come out on the other side with a new capability and with a new set of skills. Then you’ll be able to walk into a new reality, a new normal, and make an even bigger impact. So, it’s continuing to take steps forward and ask yourself the right questions as you go through change.

Help Your Team See That They Have Choices

There are really two mindsets that perpetuate the drama. The first mindset is that you feel like you’re a victim. ‘There’s nothing I can do. It is how it is. Things will never change around here.’ Or whatever pet phrase that you use to play the victim. All victimhood comes out of choice-poverty. You believe, oh, there’s nothing you can do.

The reality is you’re choice-abundant. So, continue to help your team see that they have choices. People hit a roadblock and they feel like, wow, I don’t have any choice. And so, as leaders, we have to help people go, ‘Hey, you know what, your actions determine your results. Your actions determine the outcomes.’ So, if you’re not happy with your current outcomes, step back, and ask what else could I do? Because there’s always something you can do. Help people see a new reality. Stay out of victimhood. 

Taking Ownership Allows You and Your Team to Produce Results

And then the second mindset that perpetuates this drama is the blamer. People start to blame. And the key there is that people stop taking a level of ownership that really causes them to produce results. And so, I tell people all the time, you can either complain or you can create – you just can’t do both at the same time. 

If you’re not that obvious with your feedback, people don’t get it, right? I think change starts when we just tell the truth. And so, we just have to tell the truth about where we are and where people are. We can tell the truth and do it in a nice way. I mean, we don’t have to be ugly. Just tell the truth and just be honest. Honesty creates freedom. It’s sort of like mold; it grows in the dark. A lot of this drama is like mold if you keep it in the dark. But I think sunlight is the best disinfectant.

Confronting Issues Directly Shows You Care

We always teach leaders, never complain about what you permit. Sometimes, we’ve got crazy team members, we go home, and we complain to our spouses, right? But yet we don’t do anything to address the situation. And it’s like whatever you don’t address, you’re actually endorsing.

And so, it does leaders no good to play the ostrich. Sometimes, we play the ostrich, sticking our heads in the sand, and go, ‘Oh, as long as we don’t see it, it’s not there.’ In reality, just confront it. You don’t have to be ugly or mean, but just have these conversations because that’s really showing care.

Many times, we think, ‘Oh, I don’t want to do that because I don’t want to hurt your feelings.’ Well listen, that just means I probably really don’t care about you, right? Conflict is really a good thing. I’m not talking about yelling, screaming, and throwing things. But it’s like I have conflict with the people that I care the most about.

Help Your Team Do Conflict Right So You Can Serve Your Residents Well

I’ve been married 32 years and the person I have the most conflict with is my wife. We conflict about how we’re going to spend our money, where we’re going to go for vacation, what the kids are going to do, what they’re not going to do. We just have these discussions and these debates, and, at the end of the day, we’re committed to each other.

Part of what we do with our training is help people learn how to fight fair. We help teams learn how to fight, how to do conflict in a healthy way so that residents get the best outcome. Because, if you don’t do conflict right, residents suffer. Families, they’re suffering, and you’re not doing yourself any favors by not entering into the conflict. We help teams do conflict right so that at the end of the day, we serve residents well. 

I want to give your readers a free gift – something extra just to serve at this time. They can get 20 coaching questions to help their people navigate change without the drama; download the questions here.