Leadership Perspectives: Leading Through COVID-19 into the “New Normal”

What can we learn from this temporary new normal and not wait for?
“One might say the ‘fear factor’ of COVID 19 is partly gone and the reality of a ‘new normal’ has settled in. This pandemic does not seem to discriminate between providers and much of what leaders and managers are doing today feels out of their control. Senior living has been hit by a perfect storm with the virus being both contagious and spread by asymptomatic and symptomatic staff or visitors to these congregate settings serving a frail and vulnerable population. The field is fighting for enough PPE, testing, and the necessary staff.”

“To say that colleagues in this noble profession are heroes is true yet may even be an understatement for what colleagues see in each other. Leaders today have also been described as advocates, champions, listeners, warriors to name just a few of the terms used by people. Management teams have had to pull together like they have not been required to before during these turbulent times, and a sense of pride fills the inner circles of leadership in senior care.”

What advice do you have for Senior Living leaders?
“Successful leaders today must be tuned into many of these reemphasized facets of organizational life when running their healthcare businesses. It has taken extra energy and insight to navigate these uncharted waters. A few of these are highlighted below:  

  • A new essential perspective is required of leadership—To take care of the caregivers, care recipients, and families of both—is a broader view of the individual and the organization’s role in their lives. A holistic view by leaders and managers is a skill set that will endure but takes additional energy.
  • The stakes of communication are high – Communication both internally and externally for management teams. Sharing news, updates and decisions are being done with multiple stakeholders, residents, families, employees, families of employees, community, regulators and other partners is required on a daily and weekly basis. Clarity, transparency and empathy are required elements of effective communication.
  • Reconsidering past paradigms of service that may require a new perspective or would benefit from a new approach – This has been thrust upon us. Single rooms and communication technology are two current examples. Change is happening to respond to the current environment, yet the truly effective leaders are sorting out what should stay in place as a result of the best interests of the consumer, staff and public.
  • Relationships – They are being crafted with existing and new partners that have required commitment, resources and a certain level of trust. The continuum of care and services between senior care, acute care and the public health community has seen both incredible progress and yes, some setbacks. New partnerships will emerge stronger in the years ahead.”

What are the next steps for Senior Living leaders as we define the “new normal”?
“One can only begin to scratch the surface of some beginning ideas that may propel forward after we get through this difficult, tough time. The future is hard to predict, although often strife and turbulence has advanced changes that were inevitable.”

“Leaders and managers need to support each other and reach out for help when need be, because we need each other during the pandemic. We cannot wait for all of America to make the choice that the elders of today and tomorrow—and all of their caregivers, support staff and leaders across the country—deserve appreciation, respect and resources for their heroic actions day in and day out. As we press forward and share the good news, they will discover that the actions of our committed, incredible group of people speak louder than words.”


Douglas Olson, Ph.D., MBA, NHA, FACHCA
Senior Advisor

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