Ready to ‘LEAPS’ Forward

These truly are crazy times for all of us as leaders in healthcare. COVID-19 has upended our daily operations, how we do business, how we provide care for our residents and how we are positioned in the marketplace. It has disrupted our already ever-changing world in long term care and all of its challenges prior to the pandemic. COVID-19 has challenged our leadership abilities, forcing agility and creativity in our new world! How do we move forward? Lead. Inspire. Action.

Re-igniting your passion and leading transformation and innovation requires new mindsets and behaviors, for leaders themselves and for the organization. I ask you first to take a step back, breathe deeply and look within yourself.

Today’s leadership style is different and can be fun! Being a coach (a leader) starts with understanding and acknowledging what is happening, what I can control and how I can engage, mentor and lead my team through change.

Leaders don’t change how people behave; they change how people think—and they do it without ever telling them what to think. Leaders change the way people think about the future, change, and opportunity, in essence, the way they think about the fundamental concepts that inform their worldviews, plans, ethics, and life strategies.

The ability to lead is directly tied to our ability to inspire confidence. And to earn the confidence of your team in a world of transformational change, we as leaders need to learn how to identify the driving forces that are shaping the future.

Gaining further insight and knowledge of your organization is key to setting the stage for innovation and inspiration. To begin the process of reimagining, or redesigning, and re-igniting our passion, we as leaders need to look within ourselves, our organizations, engage our team and design a plan.

LEAPS, developed by author Soren Kaplan, is a model I have used for many years to help leaders engage their team and determine a plan of action for innovation for your organization. This model includes five key strategies to address the inherent uncertainty of disruptive change and innovation:

Listen – Start with yourself, not the market. As leaders, we need to understand the marketplace, our customers, new technology, the landscape of healthcare and perceived constraints. Use your organization data and outcomes, however, think beyond. Leading through disruption (like the COVID -19 pandemic) involves determining what one values and where we want to make a difference, both in what we do and how we do it. Using what we have done really well, building upon it as well as looking at what might be different or unique—positioning the organization in a different way in the “new normal” healthcare world.

Disruptive innovations come from people and organizations who “innovate for themselves” because they want to make a difference for others, not wait for the regulators or marketplace to tell them differently. What does this mean to you as a post-acute care leader? Listen to your organization and your team and you will find that the answers are there if you ask. Your team has the answers and ideas for the future. Engage them in the process. If your team believes that they can help the greater good, not only will it help you with your strategic vision and your position in the marketplace in the new norm, it will also help with your retention of great talent. Remember, you cannot do this alone. You need your team and they need a way to think, plan and move beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.

Explore – Go outside to stretch the inside. Leading through disruption requires an agile mindset that appreciates ambiguity. While our industry is highly regulated and under-appreciated by some, now is the time to “go outside to stretch the inside of your organization.” Transformational leaders and organizations who embrace disruption know that uncertainty contains as much opportunity as it does risk. However, to make this mindset practical, it is essential to re-ignite yourself personally, your team, and your partners. Re-engaging with your partners is a key step to LEAPS forward in order to visualize new opportunities, leverage what you have learned through this pandemic and to meet the needs of consumers as they re-enter our market space. Our partners are redesigning how they do business in 2021 and beyond, and now is the time to be at the table. Having the conversations, engaging your team and observing and visualizing will help you see the possibilities, seeing connections and patterns that most others don’t see and find the most creative opportunities.

Act – Take small simple steps again, and again, and again! Leading with disruptive innovation involves simultaneously focusing on your own intentions and motivations to make a difference, while at the same time gathering as much external input as possible from employees, partners and others. I like to say that disruptive leadership involves putting a flexible stake in the ground around a specific opportunity, and then taking a series of actions to intentionally challenge assumptions and rapidly change direction as many times as necessary. Leading change does not have to be big steps. It requires a mindset of continuous agility and adaptation, small steps, to get to your goal. Prioritizing and determining which small steps will have the greatest impact.

Persist – Take the surprise out of failure. While few leaders want failure when creating and implementing strategic direction, positioning or innovation, they realize that setbacks are a natural part of the process. These setbacks can lead to great opportunities. Engage a cross-functional team in the process. Their keen insight will turn obstacles into opportunities.

I am reminded of when my team and I wanted to open up a new unit that served a specific disease state, similar to what many of you have done for COVID-19. I thought I had a great plan—worked with a cross-functional and cross-department team of employees and gave them what I thought was great insight into the need and the challenges. I thought we were truly prepared, down to creating SME nurses as well as direct care staff. When we started to promote the new unit and our services, it didn’t go as planned. Admissions were slow, and we couldn’t get our heads around as to why. We found that we had a glitch in our messaging and our communication to decision-makers. The team went back to the drawing board and reinvented a very innovative messaging and brand campaign. My team was not defeated as they knew failure was a possibility, but they took it as an opportunity to change and innovate.

Seize – Make the journey part of the (surprising) destination. As leaders, we need to recognize the potential power of surprise when we receive unexpected changes or challenges to our strategies, plans and assumption. Often times some of the “surprises” in our plans became the best course of direction for our organization. COVID-19 has made all of us look within ourselves and our organizations and ask “why.” It has caused us to execute many series of pivots as facts, operations, support, outcomes and operational context shifts. It is during those pivots, we can identify surprises that can help our team and organization prepare for the new normal (e.g., emerging leaders, creativity, communication, clinical competency, collaboration and more!).

Re-Ignite your Enthusiasm and Passion for LTC

Now is the time to look at your organization through a different lens. As you re-ignite your enthusiasm, think how your organization will look in 3 months, 6 months or a year, and what type of services you need to look at providing, what the community needs in this new norm, how to engage staff at all levels to redesign our organization, and what partners need from my organization in 2021.

You cannot inspire unless you’re inspired yourself. Every inspiring leader is abundantly passionate—not about the product itself, but what the product means to its customers.

Passion is contagious. When leaders display emotion, others will follow. Igniting passion starts with defining your personal and company purpose: your beliefs, values, passions, principles and connection to the company’s mission. Purpose isn’t what a group does, but why it performs. Defining your purpose is just the first step. Leaders must activate people’s emotions and desires.

When you begin to let your passion shine through, your team will follow. Every inspiring LTC leader is abundantly passionate and that passion is contagious. When you begin to let your passion shine through, your team will follow. They need a leader to set a course, increase their knowledge and understanding of the who, what, where and why and how it impacts the residents, the organization and themselves. They will watch you and emulate your passion and actions, moving your organization by LEAPS and bounds into 2021!

Lisa Thomson, BA, LNHA, CIMT – Chief Strategy and Marketing Officer