C’mon Man … Where’s Waldo?

Source: C’mon Man … Where’s Waldo?

Published in: on October 28, 2015 at 9:49 am  Leave a Comment  

C’mon Man … Where’s Waldo?

“Where’s Waldo” children’s books[i] ask kids to locate the red-and-white-striped Where's Waldo 2shirt character in a series of camouflaged illustrations.

You won’t find Waldo or any residents in these pictures sampled from senior living websites around the country[ii]. Each depicts a “place” (e.g. main lobby) in a community, and many are very elegant…

BUT, “C’mon man … we’ve been talking about selling LIFESTYLES and not just real estate for over a decade! These pictures – and many more like them on the internet – SCREAM REAL ESTATE SALE!

Who are we trying to impress with these photos?   OURSELVES? (i.e. Look what I built?)

C’mon man … this swimming pool is NO different from the pool at the local multi-family apartment complex. This dining room could be at a nearby campus dormitory and the other shots could be in a hotel lobby. WHERE’S WALDO?

I know, I know: the experts say that you shouldn’t show elderly people in your ads; that the prospects won’t relate to the images of the showcased older residents or the advertised community.   They’ll say, “I’m not like them; that’s not the level of service I need!” If the depicted residents appear to need assistance with their daily activities, the concern is that “higher-functioning” prospects will say “I’m not READY YET!” Other views of active adults may be criticized as “unrealistic”.

Thus, we default to sterile pictures of the real estate features and leave it up to the prospects to use their own imagination to picture themselves in that setting. That approach may work for family housing when buyers customize their “new home” to fit their individual tastes.

WE ARE DIFFERENT in Senior Living! We provide “communal living” and should SHOWCASE what we offer. Do we really expect people to want to live in a museum-like environment where you can “look but don’t touch”?   Isn’t that the message that pictures without human beings conveys?

The Progressive Retirement Lifestyles (“PRL”) program is built upon an interactive lifestyle for all of our residents and advocates the marketing of a robust lifestyle to attract newer generations of prospective residents. We believe that senior living communities should depict scenes with a feeling of warmth and positive aging through social interaction and activity that provide benefit on an on-going basis:

  • Residents actively participating in a water aerobics class (if you are lucky enough to have an on-site swimming pool) is much more meaningful for a potential resident and their family than the passive picture shown above.
  • Residents sharing a meal with their new acquaintances in the dining room would be more appealing than the picture of the empty dining hall.
  • Residents using the common area spaces by participating in an activity there – or at least sharing a moment in conversation with other residents – shows that the building is ALIVE!

I’m ART CARR and understand that this is a controversial topic, but am convinced that my Progressive Retirement Lifestyles concepts create Superior Senior Lifestyles that promote increased occupancy. I welcome your contact at 615-414-5217 or via email at art@progressiveretirement.com to learn more about the potential of the exciting Progressive Retirement Lifestyles program.



[i] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Where’s_Wally%3F

[ii] These are just a sampling of the vast number of similar pictures posted on community sites and are offered as a representative group for the industry as a whole. For that reason, specific communities and/or companies are not identified.

C’mon Man … Show Some Respect!

Source: C’mon Man … Show Some Respect!

Published in: on September 24, 2015 at 2:58 pm  Leave a Comment  

C’mon Man … Show Some Respect!

Over the past decade, I’ve had success in building occupancy[i] with a focus on activities to demonstrate a superior senior lifestyle. It is encouraging to see more operators utilizing activities to convey LIFESTYLE CHOICE in their ads, but “C’mon Man”, we need to show more respect for our customers than is displayed in this direct mail piece:

“… we offer a lifestyle that allows you to focus on the fun things in life. You never have to worry about what to do today because there’s always something going on to keep you engaged. Join us today for one of our activities and stay for lunch. It’s on the house!


5 Things “NOT to Like” with this Marketing Technique


  1. This independent living ad targets prospective residents, and/or their families, who are ready to turn lifestyle management over to the facility. This “needs-based” approach has contributed to higher average-aged residents, older residents at move-in and shorter lengths of stay.   It has also led some experts to question whether the recent building boom in senior housing will create a supply that outpaces demand[ii], even with the influx of baby boomers into the “senior” classification.
    • We must promote independence with dignity and respect to meet the positive aging demands of newer, higher-functioning generations and attract adequate numbers of potential residents.


  1. This ad is synonymous with the “cruise ship on land” marketing concept that assumes “old folks” will be happy toCruise Ship on Land just sail off into the sunset and be happy as long as they get plenty of food and have something to entertain them between meals. Unfortunately, this is good intentions masking a form of benign ageism as identified by the MacArthur Foundation Study.[iii]
    • The dated “rest home” mentality was based on this principle that older adults no longer contribute to society and must be “cared for” in sheltered facilities at their end of life.


  1. Current and prospective residents have been responsible adults for most of their lives and don’t want to just have “fun” all day.   They lived an active and productive lifestyle BEFORE deciding to move into a senior living community and most desire to retain as much normalcy in their lives as possible.
  • Progressive Retirement Lifestyles (“PRL”) draws its scientific basis from Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.   In order to continue satisfying the higher level needs – e.g. EGO – of older people, our senior living 3b Activitiescommunities must provide mental and physical challenges for their residents with a diverse array of activities. The “3 B’s”[iv] – Birthday, Bible and Bingo – simply won’t cut it anymore!
  • Our programs respect and foster the desires of many residents to continue “contributing” in some way – by helping others within the community, by volunteering and/or by providing service to others “less fortunate”.


  1. “Worry” is a natural part of living and most mature adults don’t want to be treated as though they can’t “act” or “think” for themselves. They don’t expect to just “sit back” and be treated like children with every minute of their day planned for them.
    • The PRL concept has proven successful by offering multiple daily lifestyle options, while allowing the residents to make their own independent choices.


  1. The only specific “activity” highlighted in the flyer was a “Chef Showcase: Waffle Bar”, which is more “demonstration cooking” than a true resident activity.
    • At best, this is a passive event with residents and other spectators being entertained by the Chef.   Although entertainment is an important ingredient, PRL emphasizes interactive lifestyles with active participation by the residents in activity programs.
    • Unless the “waffle bar” is available every week, there is a risk that current residents will complain that the activity is just a marketing ploy and NOT a lifestyle feature.
    • PRL is a combined operations and marketing approach that enhances operations first and THEN invites prospects to participate in on-going programs.

The PRL program was developed to adapt to the evolving market and promote additional demand by respecting the prior life achievements and recognizing the on-going capabilities of newer generations of seniors. PRL creates positive differentiation from the competition by providing and marketing a more robust lifestyle with a greater quality, quantity and variety of stimulating age-appropriate activities than was frequently the case in the past.

I am Art Carr, the creator of the unique Progressive Retirement Lifestyles program and welcome your comments. PLEASE POST YOUR OPINION about whether you agree or disagree with these observations and share this article with those who might appreciate it.

Please contact me at 615-414-5217 or via email at art@progressiveretirement.com to learn more about the exciting Progressive Retirement Lifestyles program and its potential to enhance operations and serve as the foundation for improved occupancy.


[i] This approach enabled me to build a regional census 6 points higher than the national average and lead the fill-up of several new buildings, as well as stimulating turnarounds of other under-performing communities.

[ii] http://www.wsj.com/articles/new-senior-housing-raises-concerns-supply-will-outpace-demand-from-baby-boomers-1439285401

[iii] See “Successful Aging” by John Rowe, M.D. and Robert Kahn, Ph.D, published by Masterpiece Alliance Foundation, Inc., 1998

[iv] With a thank you to Sara Elizabeth Hamm who first “coined” this phrase.

Rewards for “Participation”

Trophy - Participation DownsizedNFL and Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison recently sparked a lot of controversy when he publicly returned participation “trophies” that had been given to his two young sons. Mr. Harrison stated on Instagram that trophies should be earned, and not awarded for simply showing up.

I admit to having a number of conflicting thoughts regarding this issue and Mr. Harrison’s actions, including:

  • IGNORE IT – this is just about kids and has nothing to do with management and/or providing care/services for aging adults.
  • It’s easy for a “jock” to take that attitude. He was probably always a “star” at every level from Pee Wee Football through college and into the pros. HE was one of the guys who always got the glory → trophies, awards and recognition. He has never had to “walk a mile” in the shoes of a bench-warmer who maybe tried just as hard (or harder) but wasn’t blessed with the God given talents of the trophy winners.
  • On the other hand, as one of those with lesser physical skills, I can’t recall ever resenting the fact that some of my teammates received prestigious awards. In fact, I was proud when they received scholarships to major colleges.
  • I do agree with Mr. Harrison that our society is gravitating towards too much “entitlement” instead of earning “it” the old-fashioned way by working hard. To that extent, I applaud his parental stance.
  • I have always been more driven by TEAM awards than individual accomplishments. With this focus, there is a place for recognition of the players who show up for every practice and make silent contributions to the TEAM’s success. If you doubt this, watch the movie “Rudy”.

This carries over into my CORPORATE LEADERSHIP philosophies in which I place the greatest emphasis on TEAM (i.e. Corporate, Region …) achievements.

  • Maybe the focus should be on the method – or in this case the use of a TROPHY – instead of the concept of rewarding participation. Maybe trophies should be reserved for accomplishments whletterman jacket War Jrile other means are used to recognize participation?
  • Haven’t we always had some form of participation rewards? Wasn’t the letterman’s sweater or jacket always a recognition of some level of participation?
  • Just having the chance to put on the team uniform – wear the colors – always gave me a sense of pride AND recognition amongst school classmates and the community. Are we just over-doing it?
  • That said, I believe there is still room for individual awards that recognize – when appropriate – unusual contributions such as “Best Teammate”, “Hardest Worker” and maybe even “100% Attendance”. It’s easy when you are the STAR to show up for practice every day and get most of the attention. It takes a special person (again I refer you to the movies “Rudy” or “Invincible”) to show up every day just because you love the game and want to participate. Any coach who doesn’t recognize the value of these participants, isn’t a very good Coach.

Then, I decided to take this a step further and question whether these same issues should be concerns in my professional life and senior living leadership approach. After all, one Company President anointed me as the “Master of Employee Recognition”.

I earned this title by being a little “wild & crazy” when the President attended our 100% occupancy celebration after we set the company record with a 71-day fill-up for a new building. Consistent with my TEAM philosophy, my entire region attended and then participated in a regional meeting the following day. To start the meeting, I arranged for the President to stand at the front of the room and then had my “starting team” march in as I announced them individually and bragged about their highlights and positive accomplishments while they shook the President’s hand. This process gave each manager recognition amongst their peers as well as an unparalleled introduction to upper management of the Company.

Manager Team w Pres croppedSome might dismiss this as “hokey” and I would probably agree if it was attempted out-of-character to the normal management style. It worked for me – and provided a lot of EGO satisfaction for my managers – because I had spent several years in building a regional TEAM and implementing my unique coaching management style.

One of my responsibilities as a COACH was to promote the capabilities of my TEAM members. By doing this – and letting the TEAM know that I’m doing it – I minimized the frequent disruptive competitiveness that occurs when the individuals feel the need to fight for the attention of senior management. Because some people are naturally more aggressive in self-promotion than others, a natural friction develops. Conversely, my TEAM emphasis and public recognition of each person’s traits made the “pre-game introductions” seem like a natural process.

I should also point out that every one of the managers in the region – plus regional support staff – was introduced so this was an example of an informal participation award – BUT without a trophy!

On the other hand, I did recognize the superior performance of the crew that set the fill-up record.  The Company gave a substantial financial reward, but I chose Slugger Bob“wacky” awards instead of trophies. For our lead salesman, I presented a customized Louisville Slugger baseball bat inscribed with “Slugger Bob” to recognize his ability to hit home runs with his closing rates. [This was also something he could take to his next new community assignment.] The local managers chose a “Gone with the Wind” theme for the 100% celebration in suburban Atlanta. To recognize the achievement of our female managers and sales team, I ordered Vermont Teddy Bears custom-dressed as Scarlett O’Hara.

LG Presentation

Probably the closest we get to the Harrison situation in Senior Living is periodic Occupancy Contests where targets are set and recognition and rewards granted as incentive for achievement. Frequently, this includes financial rewards but tends to cause dissension for those who improve but don’t make their goal and/or fall behind early in the process and then lose all motivation. So, do we reward participation or only superior achievement?

I faced this situation with a not-for-profit whose culture didn’t support performance bonuses (except for limited commissions paid to the sales staff). I took over a number of occupancy-challenged buildings with census as low as 50% for the past five years.

Obviously, setting targets at acceptable levels (even 85% or higher) wasn’t going to work. In fact, the staff was so beat-down by not meeting company expectations, it was questionable if any target could be motivational.

I recognized that I would first have to build some self-confidence and get the local management and sales staff to think outside of the narrow box they had built for themselves. I also decided that I had to “reward participation” because ANY MOVE-IN was a positive step forward.

Plus 1 PinIn this situation, I devised the “+1” Occupancy Challenge and constructed a high-energy training program to kick-off the program. I stimulated teamwork within each community by including the Chef and Activities Coordinator with the Executive Director and Sales & Marketing Staff. I challenged each community to add just one net move-in (i.e. +1 move-in over any move-outs) each week and asked the other departments to add 1 additional feature (e.g. new activity program or special dessert) to improve the resident experience and marketability of the community.

I also introduced the concept of “Participation Participation BucksBucks” where trainees were awarded for their participation in the training session. At the end of the session, they had the opportunity to convert their “Bucks” into prizes for their facility.

The communities then earned “funny money” over the next quarter for each “+1” weekly goal attained with bonus “Bucks” for exceeding the target. There were additional awards for achieving cumulative goals. Even if a building missed their goal for one week, they would still earn an award whenever they increased the census by 1 over the prior week.

Big Board ChartI had “Big Boards” printed for each community with their “+1” weekly targets. These charts were updated weekly with the actual performance and then prominently displayed in the Executive Director’s office and during their daily department head meetings.

I also maintained a chart for the group as a whole and shared the results with the region during a weekly conference call I initiated. We applauded and celebrated every community’s “+1” success on these calls while treating challenges the others faced as learning opportunities.

This was a highly successful program that generated turnarounds in a short period of time. The most outstanding performance was at a 154 unit independent living property that had hovered around the 50% mark for over 5 years. As shown by this chart, the “+1” Challenge Courtenay IL Census Growth Worksheetconcept drove a 33% improvement in 6 months of concentrated “brick-by-brick” progress. The key was in getting the first positive step and then building on it.

At the next regional meeting, I obtained a number of items that would not normally be purchased by the communities, but would be beneficial in the on-going operations and marketing of the communities. This also gave me an easy way to introduce certain new concepts, activity programs, etc. to the communities. Each building was allowed to bid in an auction based upon their accumulated “Bucks” with the strongest performers having the best chance of securing their desired prize(s). BUT, everyone was allowed to “win” something!


I believe these were far more meaningful awards with long-lasting benefits than trophies. They did reward participation but also recognized superior performance.

DO THESE IDEAS INTRIGUE YOU?   WOULD YOU LIKE TO LEARN HOW we utilize a “PAY FOR PARTICIPATION” concept as a key tenet of the Progressive Retirement Lifestyles program for residents?

PLEASE LEAVE YOUR COMMENT IF YOU WOULD LIKE FOR ME TO WRITE MORE ABOUT RECOGNITION AND REWARDS and/or CALL ME at 615-414-5217 for an in-person conversation about how these concepts might be applied to your organization. You may also schedule a time for a discussion via email: art@progressiveretirement.com.

The Four Horsemen

What comes to mind when you hear this phrase?

4 horsemen of Notre DameFall football practice is starting around the country and fans of a certain age (e.g. many residents in today’s senior living communities), may be reminded of the Four Horsemen of Notre Dame[1]. The 1920’s are frequently called the Golden Age of Sports with Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb and Lou Gehrig in baseball, Bobby Jones and Walter Hagan in golf and Coach Knute Rockne in college football. Legendary sportswriter Grantland Rice[2] coined The Four Horsemen phrase for Rockne’s 1924 backfield and it has become college football lore.

The riders symbolized Pestilence, Famine, War and Death as the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse in the Bible[3].

Noted satirist and blogger Seth Godin introduced a new concept: “The four horsemen of mediocrity”.[4] He suggests that a business culture based on Deniability, Helplessness, Contempt and Fear will lead to a mediocre organization.   It is not difficult to extrapolate a history of mediocrity into the demise of the organization.

Do these traits apply to your Senior Living or Healthcare organization?

  • Did your occupancy and operating margin slide during/after the recession?

4 Horsemen 4

  • Are your managers accountable for their performance OR do they respond with “It’s not my fault!”? {DENIABILITY}
    • “Someone else (i.e. they) made the decision.”
    • “I didn’t do the budget.”
    • “Corporate raised all my prices.”
  • Do you hear “I wanted to do ______, but my boss wouldn’t let me”?

{HE4 Horsemen 3LPLESSNESS}

  • “We don’t have any money to fix (or improve) it.”
  • “We’re not allowed to do that per the State regs.”
  • “The IT department won’t allow us access …”
  • Nobody will like it if we change it.”
  • Management emphasizes Control more than Innovation.
    • Are you more Reactive than Proactive? More resources are allocated to solve a problem (e.g. legal issue, survey deficiencies) than in prevention.
    • Do you have more conference calls about Worker’s Compensation than about occupancy growth?
    • Corporate HR is viewed as the “personnel police”.
    • Does corporate govern wages with restrictions on starting salaries, increases and incentive payments? Have wages been frozen?
    • Managers are held accountable for individual line items regardless of overall performance. For example, management focuses on rental concessions – no matter how much occupancy has increased!

4 Horsemen 2

  • {CONTEMPT} You don’t believe you need to make changes because …
    • Customers will automatically choose you since you are a not-for-profit .
    • You wouldn’t be an industry leader unless you were doing it right.
    • Nothing has value unless you developed it (“not invented here” mentality[5] ).
    • “We’ve always done it this way” – worked in the past and should work now.
    • You’re doing enough to get by and the customers won’t pay for more.


  • Do you employ Leaders or just good Administrators?
    • Is your organization “slow to change” and proud of it?4 Horsemen Flying
    • Are new employees counseled to not “rock the boat”?
    • Is conformity to established practices valued more than originality?
    • How hard is it to get new ideas accepted?
    • Does all change occur
  • {FEAR} Your business decisions are driven by risk aversion (different than risk management).
    • “What if …?” concerns prevent the implementation of new initiatives.
    • Did you respond to the economic downturn by cutting costs, focusing on “need” admissions and stockpiling cash reserves?
    • Are there more repercussions for failure than rewards for success?
    • Do you require credit and criminal background checks for prospective residents?
    • IT uses the threat of scams, computer viruses, and HIPAA confidentiality to gain a stranglehold over new technology endeavors?
    • Do you track resident falls, complaints and incidents because of possible lawsuits?
    • Are you so afraid of criticism from charitable contributors that you avoid paying performance bonuses or investing in new technology?

Although these factors are included – to some degree – in an efficient, well-run company, too great of an emphasis on any of them can lead to mediocrity, loss of market share or even the ultimate failure of the business.

To counter these trends and effect positive cultural change, introduce the FOUR HORSEMEN OF EXCELLENCE to your organization.

RRecruitment. The first element of success is getting the “right people on the bus”[6] and then taking steps to Recognize, Reward and Retain those individuals who will become leaders in moving the organization forward. At the same time, naysayers and employees with habitual negative attitudes and approaches to change must be moved out of key positions in the company.


Innovation. A business should consistently move forwardIor risk sliding backwards. Implement a “WHY”[7] culture on the basis that there is always room for Improvement. The goal should be a process of “continuous improvement”, utilizing appropriate technology to enhance every aspect of the business. Changes should never be made just for “change’s sake”, but should be incorporated into an overall corporate vision (Insight). For instance, the company must try something new (e.g. different pricing models) to produce different results if occupancy or other metrics have declined.


Customer-centric. At its core, the business should be focused on “what’s best” for C-1the customer. In a PEAK[8] environment, that means anticipating the desires, as well as the identified needs of senior living residents. Companies with this characteristic tend to have a strong “YES! Attitude”[9] and “can-do” approach to their interaction with customers (the residents and their family). This culture must be inbred at every level of the organization and practiced on a daily basis; not just empty corporate platitudes. Ideally, a real caring relationship (Culture of Caring) will exist between the employees and the residents.


Empowerment. The 4th horseman arrives when the organization gives line managers the authority and resources to make their own E-Reverseddecisions and the home office focus shifts to support instead of control. Leaders inspire committed employees at all levels to “do their best” à not because of fear, but because that is what they want to do!   Local managers are empowered to make changes on a test basis in a controlled environment for what they believe is best for their local market. Senior management recognizes that those local managers (where the rubber hits the road) are frequently in the best position to determine changes in their target customers and their demands. They also understand that the company doesn’t have to always make broad, top-down, sweeping changes across the entire organization to be effective.

4 Horsemen of Excellence


NOTE:  This article was originally published as a Guest Article for Medical Blue Book.com, http://medicalbluebook.com, but is no longer available at that site. Therefore, it is being re-published here.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Four_Horsemen_%28American_football%29; Harry Stuhldreher, Don Miller, Jim Crowley, and Elmer Layden

[2] http://archives.nd.edu/research/texts/rice.htm

[3] Chapter 6 of the Book of Revelations: http://www.bartleby.com/108/66/6.html

[4] http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2014/01/the-four-horsemen-of-mediocrity.html

[5] “Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance?”, page 206, Louis V. Gerstner, Jr.

[6] “Good to Great”, Chapter 3, Jim Collins

[7] “Start with WHY”, Simon Sinek

[8] “PEAK”, Chip Conley

[9] “Little Gold Book of YES! Attitude”, Jeffrey Gitomer

Independence Day

Independence Day.

Published in: on July 4, 2015 at 11:13 am  Leave a Comment  

Independence Day



for the Seniors we Serve!

American Flag on pole - Waving

Happy 4th of July. We celebrate the courage of the patriots who fought for our independence over 200 years ago.   But, Please take a moment this long holiday weekend to appreciate all of the seniors in our US society who have contributed in some way to our freedoms and way of life today. Show them the respect they deserve and the right to maintain their highest possible level of independence — regardless of their current situation!


Are You Prepared to “Age-in-Place” ?

91% of seniors surveyed stated a preference to remainvine covered cottage in their own homes as they age in a study conducted by The Global Social Enterprise Initiative of the Georgetown University McDonough School of Business in conjunction with Phillips Healthcare[1]. This is a natural tendency because of the emotional attachment to our vine covered cottage/home where we’ve lived for up to 30 years and raised our families. In addition the equity in our personal residence is often a major part of our financial security.

On the other hand, 59% said that they were NOT interested in upgrading their home to assist with positive aging! 33% indicated that it would be “too costly” to retrofit their house or apartment to allow necessary mobility and provide the other support necessary to remain safely in their existing housing situation. Less than 10% of the respondents plan to “pay whatever it takes to stay in their own homes as they age.”

Smart Technology

The past decade has seen the development of significant technological advances in the A Smart Homeso-called “smart home” that could be beneficial in enabling an aging adult to stay in their home for a longer period of time before considering a move into a structured senior living community. Various technology devices (e.g. automatic stove-top shutoffs) provide additional security and peace-of-mind for the senior and/or their adult children. Yet, only about half of the surveyed individuals plan to adopt this smart technology in their homes. Of those declining to consider the use of this technology, 23% said that they “don’t even know where to start” with 42% stating that it is “too expensive.” The remaining 25% just said they weren’t interested.

MySeniorPortal.com periodically identifies smart technologies and other home improvements to enable adults to age successfully and connects subscribers with the providers that offer these services.

For example:

We know that 1 in 3 individuals over 65 will suffer a fall each year. These falls may necessitate a hospital stay and a rehabilitation or long term care stay during recovery from strains or broken bones. Unfortunately, a fall is often the precursor of a general decline in a senior’s health, forcing them to consider living options other than their own “home”.

We also know that older people tend to have more difficulty in sleeping and frequently get up at some time during the night to visit the bathroom. This is a prime time for a debilitating fall.

One example of smart home technology that could minimize these risks is a passive monitoring device that detects when the senior gets up out of their bed. That device then alerts a series of knee-height mounted LED lights that turn on to illuminate the path to the toilet. The senior (even one with a tendency to get “confused”) doesn’t have to turn on a series of lights (and get “blinded” by the bright light in the middle of the night), the light is directed to the floor, which minimizes the risk of tripping, and the light pattern guides them to the toilet – thus reducing the incidence of incontinence!

Smart technology and other home improvements and modifications can facilitate your ability to age-in-place in your current home.


NOTE: this article was first posted in My Senior Portal’s electronic Weekly Digest on January 24, 2015

[1] http://socialenterprise.georgetown.edu/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/Philips-Infographic11.pdf

Carpe Diem

Carpe Diem 1

a Leadership Lesson from

 “the Man from Ork!”

In the movie “The Dead Poet’s Society”, Robin Williams as Professor John Keating challenges his students to “learn to think for yourselves”.  As a demonstration of “out-of-the-box thinking”, he stands on his desk to remind himself and his students to not merely accept the status quo, but to challenge the ways things are.


Does this just apply to the ivory towers of academia, or do these concepts impact our everyday business lives as well?

  • Albert Einstein said that INSANITY is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
  • The tag line for a former boss’ email read: “If you always do what you always did, you will always get what you always got!”

Interestingly, these two quotes could be used to justify either constancy or change.   Consistency is one of the hallmarks of most organizations. Once a successful formula is established, management traditionally wants every operating unit to replicate that success and creates multiple policies and procedures to ensure consistent behavior and compliance with their business “model”. Everyone – management, staff, and even the financial community – is happy because they know what to expect → if we do it the waywe’ve always done it”, we can expect the same results!

Don’t mess with success!

As Simon Sinek discusses in his book[i], the tradeoff for this unswerving dedication to these business principles is that responsible dissent is discouraged. He suggests[ii] that organizations become obsessed with WHAT they do and HOW they do it. Employees are managed to accomplish specific tasks more than they are inspired to contribute maximum achievements based upon their abilities.

Yet, if we look at a couple of sports analogies, we’ll see that there are several missing elements to these business models:

  • A football team knows that they can’t run only one type of play and expect to have success.
  • A baseball pitcher understands that he can’t just throw one pitch to the exact same spot to every hitter throughout the game.

In both situations, the players must adapt to change, as we do in the business world.   Sooner or later, the defense is going to figure out how to stop the football play. The same is true with the batters in baseball — a key to success is not letting the hitter know what to expect! Sinek says that successful leaders inspire their organization with a culture of WHY[iii] that allows conscientious employees to challenge the status quo by asking WHY things are done a certain way.

That is the first step in seeing processes in a different way and fuels a spirit of entrepreneurship that will allow individuals in the organization to


making meaningful improvements in design, servicesOh Captain - My Captain and marketing approaches to counter evolutionary changes in the business environment, customer demands, etc.

[i] “Start with WHY”, by Simon Sinek, 2009, Part 1

[ii] Ibid, Part 2

[iii] Ibid



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