The EnsignPrize! home stretch

At Ensign’s 2011 annual meeting I spoke about some personal feelings re: hitting 10 years with the organization and in skilled nursing. It was a time of deep reflection. It was then that I developed some of the thoughts I’ve shared here about burn out, empathy, and a hunger to do more after surviving industry-common career crushing experiences. Some of those thoughts are found here.

As “luck” would have it, while I was in that very reflective mood, I was hit by some new, related ideas during a couple early morning rides. I love to listen to NPR podcasts during those runs/rides and back then I listened to a Freakonomics podcast that was like lighting a fuse in my mind. When I got to the office that morning, ideas started to crystalize, as seen on my whiteboard:

I don’t expect you can follow the train of thought there. But, with the help and input of my colleagues at Ensign, what started as some 10-year angst turned into the eprize! … our organization’s $150,000 competition to transform the industry by transforming the day-in-the-life of our residents. At that 2011 annual meeting, I shared with my friends and colleagues the story of how the idea of the eprize! was born and then challenged them to run with it. And … they did.

The executive directors and directors of nursing upped the ante to $150k and all agreed to put money into the ‘pot’ from their own facilities to fund the award. For more details about the competition and why we did it the way we did it, see this “halftime talk” I gave to the organization about it:

Well … the applications are finally in and uploaded onto the website and the contestant facilities are lobbying their communities hard to have them ‘vote’ for their application. The eprize! award winner will be announced in early April. As I’ve read through and watch the videos of some of the applications I’ve gotten emotional to see the small and big improvements in the systems we use to care for our residents and patients with more dignity, humanity, and choice. I hope you take a minute to go to the website and see what we’ve been up to for the last year as a group. And, please, by all means … share this with your friends. Better yet, challenge your own organization to do something similar!

A little inspiration

One of the critical yet oft-neglected responsibilities leaders have is to inspire.  That’s particularly important in skilled nursing.

Unfortunately, for various reasons, ‘we’ adopt coping defense mechanisms to adapt to the very unique workplace of a nursing home.  This is particularly true for those of us who weren’t ‘raised’ in a facility but who came to skilled nursing after college and another career.  We come with rose colored glasses of how we’re going to change the long-term care world and how we’re going to never accept the things that offend our dignities or our senses when we first got started.  We’re going to fix all that.  Then, for most of us, reality sets in.  Realities of the constant pressure to meet the regulations, customer demands, the ‘crazy’ family members, the employee dramas, organization expectations, etc.  And, before you know it we’re saying stuff like, ‘Did I hear that 25B had a fall last night?’ instead of ‘Did I hear that Virginia fell last night?’

One illustration I use to help visualize what happens to new SNF leaders is here …

The New SNF Leader Empathy Curve

One ex-colleague of mine suggested I add an inverted line to the illustration called BURNOUT.  Turns out to fit.

Back to how I started … needing inspiration.  We all need it.  We all get in ruts.  We all slip into routine and forget the bigger WHY we do what we do.  It turns out that it doesn’t take a complicated, strategically thoughtful approach to sprinkling a little inspiration over your teams.  At an all staff meeting or during your next stand-up simply bring up a video or two from youtube and share a thought about how this affects you and how you approach your work.  Tell your team where you’re at on the empathy curve and where you intend to be and what you’re going to do to get there.  In addition to sprinkling a consistent seasoning of inspiration on your team with videos or articles, poems, or thank you notes, if you’re really serious about bouncing back up the empathy curve and overcoming burnout, you can create a competition for your facility to develop a system or some change that helps everyone have more empathy and/or give the residents more choice.  More to come on that later, but here’s a sneak peek:

By the way, here’s the video that I saw this morning that got me thinking about this post.  Enjoy:


Radio Lab Podcasts

Food For Thought

I eat A LOT.

Literally & mentally.  I eat a lot of food throughout the day — mostly fruits, veggies, nuts, hummus, grains (I’ve sort of become a health nut) but that’s another topic for another day.

I also eat a lot of Food 4 Thought.  Over the years I’ve found a few sources of print & audio & video that feed that hunger.  These sources usually have nothing to do (directly) with providing world class service and leadership in long-term care.  BUT … I’ve found that by looking, constantly, outside our industry for the brightest ideas we’ll be able to apply them and improve our profession.  Some of my favorites …

First, the newest discovery: Freakonomics.

Freakonomics Radio
Freakonomics Podcasts

Many of you have probably heard of Freakonomics or evenread the book.  The authors haves a blog on the nytimes and a podcast that I started listening to just a couple weeks ago.  The pack a ton into about 20 minutes … discovering the ‘hidden’ side of all sorts of things.  In fact 2 recent episodes prompted me to start a conversation with my partners at work that I think may lead to huge steps forward for us.

  1. The No Lose Lottery episode prompted me to encourage our HR team to see if there was something we could apply to instigate more savings among our employees.  Of course we have a 401k like everyone but is there another, cutting-edge option patterned after lottery principles that would be more effective?
  2. The Reading Rockets and Rithmetic episode hit a nerve big time for me, in light of my recent post on wanting to dedicate my next 10 years to transforming the industry.  Got me thinking about how to involve many others in a HUGE way.

Second, RadioLab Podcasts.

Radio Lab Podcasts
Radio Lab Podcasts

These guys take on all sorts of issues through a scientific lens.  I’m not a science guy at all.  I hated chemistry.  I lean much more right brained than left.  But, the way they present really captivates.  Here’s a few that I’ve shared with others …

  1. about a Chimpanzee
  2. about WORDS
  3. about LIMITS (this one was incredibly timely as I had about 15 miles left on a 60mi bike ride when it came on my ipod)

Next, This American Life.

This American Life Podcasts
This American Life Podcasts

This American Life sort of started it all for me.  I needed a companion during my long early morning bike rides as I trained for my 1/2 Ironman in June 2010.  I’d be on rides for anywhere from 1.5 to 3 hours before work (hitting the road at 5am).  These podcasts were, and are, gold.  They totally get in my head and prompt new thoughts on work and family issues.

Lastly, TED Talks.  I discovered these a couple years ago and my wife still can’t get over how I can just watch talk after talk on stuff that’s usually way over my head.

TED Talks
TED Talks

Now.  Go.  Eat.