March Madness!

Throughout the country, normally sane men and women, boys and girls go crazy over NCAA basketball in March each year.  65 men’s and 64 women’s teams compete in the annual tournaments to crown the year’s champions with millions of fans who haven’t attended a game all year tuned  to their TV sets.  “Bracketology” is THE buzzwordFinal Four 2013 for several weeks with folks who would never consider going to Las Vegas joining their local pools at work, in neighborhoods – even at church – to pick the winners at each level and cash in on the “big prize”.  EXCITEMENT abounds!

Yet, what about our senior citizens?  Did they retire from all this “hoopla” when they moved into a senior living community?  As a regional director for over 20 retirement centers, I learned that none of these buildings scheduled anything on their activities calendars related to these events.  Several factors potentially contribute to this omission:

  • Some senior living properties become so focused on providing for ALL of the needs of their residents internally, they tend to overlook the importance of keeping the residents aware of and involved in the mainstream activities of the broader community.
  • Some buildings still hold a “rest home” mentality with activity programs limited to the 3B’s:  Bible, Bingo and Birthday.
  • Many activity directors  consider sports related programming as only male-oriented activities and believe that they would not be well received by the majority of residents who are women.[1]
  • Finally, some may simply look at the tournament as something the individual can watch in their own apartment, overlooking the value of socialization in watching the game  with  friends.  It’s strange that we see the value in weekly movies in the TV rooms but don’t consider the benefit of watching and discussing other TV programs in a common setting.

     ACTIVITY CALENDAR TIP:

Because of the number of games in all time zones, there is an opportunity to schedule WEEKEND and EVENING events around the broadcast of these games on numerous days!

In keeping with the philosophy of enhancing marketability by improving the resident experience[2], I directed that March Madness be treated as a current event.

MARKETING TIP:

Identify “prospects” who are currently living alone and might be interested in seeing games.  Invite those individuals to watch a game on your big screen TV with your in-house residents.  Sell camaraderie and the value of their access to the large (and high definition if you have one) TV.

The following game was one of several activities initiated in my buildings.  [Please contact me directly to discuss other activity and marketing ideas that may be built around the March Madness concept.]

March Madness

(Seated Basketball Game)

OVERVIEW:

This is a TEAM sport with two 5-member teams.  This is an age-adapted, adult program designed as a low-impact physical activity suitable for all residents.  The game is played from a seated position to neutralize any height advantage and eliminate restrictions based on

Seated Basketball

Seated
Basketball

the ability to stand and/or walk without assistance.

It is based on the shoot-around game of “HORSE” with 5 chairs placed in front of the basket.  Each participant on each team will shoot from every seat with points scored for made baskets.

ACTIVITY OBJECTIVES:

  1. Promote independence in body and spirit.
  2. Help residents fulfill social & ego needs.  Several residents may achieve self-actualization by participating in their First basketball “game”.
  3. Create new Precious Memories as seniors get the opportunity to showcase their abilities to their families.

EQUIPMENT REQUIRED:

  1. An adjustable height basketball backboard and goal.    The goal works best at 6 feet for an 8 ft. or higher ceiling.  The model shown is manufactured by Little Tykes and may be purchased at Toys-R-Us for about $45.  Remove or cover any reference to the Little Tykes name, age group, etc. (e.g. Use a sticker with the community’s name or logo) to insure that the equipment does NOT convey a “juvenile” nature to the activity.

The manufacturer recommends that the base be filled with sand, but a) a staff member can hold the backboard with a foot on the base or b)  fill with water to make it easier to move / store when not in use.

2.  The set comes with a ball, but these are usually light weight and more of a playground ball than a true basketball.  More realism will be gained by purchasing several mini-basketballs which fit these goals.  These can usually be found on-line or at stores such as Dick’s Sporting Goods.

Several buildings found mini-basketballs with local school logos and purchased balls for competing schools (e.g. Florida & Florida State, or Tennessee, Kentucky & Vanderbilt).  They found that allowing their resident teams to use these balls gave their teams identity and heightened competition.  Ideally, the facility should have at least 3 balls for each team to speed up the game.

3.  Five straight-back chairs placed in a semi-circle in front of the goal, plus 10 chairs for the “bench” (players not currently shooting) and chairs for spectators.  The spread of the arc can be adjusted to fit the dimensions of the room, but the center seat should generally be placed no less than 5, nor more than 8, feet from the goal, with the others spread to the side accordingly.  At least initially, the “court” should be designed to facilitate scoring.  Creating a sense of accomplishment for the first contestants will encourage greater future participation.

4.  A flip chart on an easel with marker to keep score.  Both individual and team scores will need to be maintained.  A volunteer will be needed to serve as the Scorekeeper.

NOTE:  Tech-savvy communities may find it advantageous to use a laptop and flat-screen TV for keeping SCORE!

Preparation:

Set-up can be accomplished in about 15 minutes once the goal has been assembled.  The activity is suitable for on-going competition throughout the year, but initiating the program during the NCAA tournament adds the additional “spice” to encourage greater participation, selection of TEAM names, etc.  Some buildings may want to encourage residents to purchase TEAM t-shirts/jerseys for additional authenticity to the competition.

Tournament Play:

The style of the tournament will depend on the number of teams involved, recognizing that the principal objective is to generate as much resident participation as possible.  The following options may generate activity programming over several days and/or weeks:

  • Two Teams: Direct head-to-head competition.  This can follow the simple one-and-done philosophy of the NCAA OR utilize the series approach with the best out of 3 or 5 declared the overall winner.
  • Three Teams: Round-Robin competition with each team playing each other team.  If one team beats both the other teams, they will be declared the winner with the team winning the other game as the runner-up.  If each team wins one game, a final round will be held.  If there is no champion determined after that round, the three teams will compete in a sudden death Tie Breaker as outlined below.
  • Four or more Teams: Olympic style competition. Each team will play every other team in a preliminary round.  Then the two teams with the best records will play in a championship round for gold and silver medals.  If desired, the 3rd and 4th placed teams may play in a consolation round for a bronze medal.

ICE-BREAKER IDEA

Demonstration Event

5 Resident Volunteers

vs

THE STAFF

Beginning Play:

Each team will choose a Captain who will also be the first shooter.  After the ceremonial coin toss, the winner will take the middle seat and the first half will commence.

Play:

  1. The first player will shoot 3 balls from the center seat with 2 points scored for each basket made.
  2. The player will then move to the next seat to the right of the basket and the first player from the opposing team will take his/her place in the first seat.
  3. That player will take their 3 shots and then move to the next seat to the left of the basket.
  4. Play then returns to the first player who shoots 3 times and then moves to the chair on the far right.
  5. The first player from the opposing team does the same to the left of the basket.
  6. Then, the 2nd player from the first team moves to the center seat and takes their 3 shots.
  7. As they move to the second seat, the opposing team’s 2nd player takes over the center seat.
  8. Next, the 1st players take their shots from the far seats and then return to the Bench.
  9. This process continues until all 5 players from each TEAM have completed their 9 shots and the FIRST HALF concludes.
  10. After an intermission, the SECOND HALF continues in the same process, except that the first team moves to the left of the basket and the other team moves to the right.  At the end of the SECOND HALF, each player will have attempted 6 shots from the center seat and 3 from each of the other seats.
  11. At the end of the game, the TEAM with the most points (made baskets) is declared the winner.

Tie-Breaker:

In the event of a tie, the player from each TEAM with the highest personal score will be involved in a tie-breaker.  If more than one player on the same team has the same score, the team will choose which one will participate in the tie-breaker.

Beginning with the losing team of the original Coin Toss, the player will sit in the center seat (the “foul shot” position) and continue shooting until they miss.  The opposing team player must then beat the number of shots made by the first player to be declared the winner.

In the event of another tie, play will move to the 2nd highest scorer for each team and continue until a) a winner is chosen or b) all players have participated.

Should that happen, the foul shot line will be moved backwards in 1 foot increments until a winner is determined.

Advanced Play Options:

  1. A more complex scoring option is to record 1 point for baskets from the center seat (equating to a foul shot), 2 points from the middle seat and 3 points from the furthest chair.  It is generally best to begin with the simpler form of scoring until the participants become acquainted with the game and it becomes advantageous to increase the level of competition.
  2. Seats can be placed further away from the goal.
  3. Schedule an on-going competition or tournament with one or more nearby facilities.

    MARKETING TIP:

    • Contact a Senior Citizens Center, Church Group or other Seniors’ Organization and invite them to put together a team to challenge your in-house CHAMPS!

    • Add a social event, door prizes, etc. to tie in with the tournament and add participants and observers to your prospect list.

    Set up a home-and-away schedule with residents traveling to the opposing teams’ home court and vice versa.  Note: this is a great option when the same company has more than one property in the same geographical area – but may, in some instances, be also possible with competitor locations.


[1] These individuals should check out the popularity of women’s college basketball and Tennessee coach Pat Summitt who leads ALL COACHES in total career wins.

[2] Check out “Turning Residents into our Best Marketers” in the CATEGORIES drop-down box for additional thoughts on this philosophy.

Please leave a comment and share the March Madness activities you have implemented successfully in your building.

“Do not go gentle into that good night”

– Dylan Thomas

 

In the 1920’s, T.S. Eliot ended “The Hollow Men” with:

This is the way the world ends
  Not with a bang but a whimper.”

This became a philosophy of aging for 20th Century generations.  The senior living / care industry offered protective living environments to meet the expectations of these generations as they aged with increasing physical and/or mental frailties.

BUT the 21st Century is a different world and the bobby-soxers (born 1935 – 1945) and baby-boomers won’t be satisfied to simply fade into the sunsetas their parents and grandparents did.  They won’t “go gentle into that good night” and the senior living industry must evolve to meet the increased demands of these future generations.

Today’s senior living communities were designed to provide care and services for “The Greatest Generation[1]and/or their parents.  These individuals lived through the Great Depression and were molded by the experiences of World War II.  They worked hard and made a better life for their children who often became the first in their family to attend college.  Frequently, they worked for the same companies their entire career and were rewarded with generous retirement packages, including lifetime health benefits.  Others built their own businesses, anticipating that their children would join and then succeed them in operating the company.  In either scenario, the parents were expected to retire with their productivity and significant contributions to society at an end.

The general message from the adult children and even the government has been:

You’ve done enough.  Just sit back and let us take care of you.

Medicare and related programs in the mid-1960’s created the funding for the development of modern health services to “insure” adequate care for these elderly.  Nursing homes and home health evolved from cottage businesses into professionally managed multi-million dollar industries.   Assisted living, independent living and investor owned CCRC’s developed to supplement non-profit (primarily church-related) life care communities and traditional “old folks” homes.

Operators built self-contained communities and assured residents that all their needs could be handled within these enclaves.  Food and shelter, security and transportation for essentials such as doctor appointments[2] were provided.  Activity programs were scheduled to entertain and fill the residents’ days.

Today, prospective residents are told that their worries will be over if they agree to move-in and pay an all-inclusive fee.  Concerns about meals, cleaning and maintaining the house and yard, or paying insurance and utilities, etc. are eliminated.  Depending on the type of facility, care needs may be provided directly by facility staff or arranged with private caregivers / home health companies.

This comprehensive approach led one resident in a recent Tennessean article[3]tostate: “They really take good care of me here. . .  They do everything for you.  They would even make my bed if I wanted them to, but I said ‘No, I want to do something.’”

Progressive Dependency

This chart demonstrates the loss of independence and increasing dependence on caregivers as the senior progresses through varying levels of care.

For individuals who experienced the shortages and deprivations of the Depression and World War II, the value equation was fairly simple.     They understood that the move to a senior living community was a compromise as their health and support needs increased.  They were used to adapting so giving up some independence to receive service was an acceptable alternative and they were willing to live with restrictions such as standard meals at set times.

However, these generations are dwindling – e.g. World War II veterans are dying at the rate of 1000 per day. [4] The replacement generations do not appear as willing to accept this one-size-fits-all-mentality.

The industry has seen quarterly declines in average occupancy for more than 2 years with blame placed largely on the economy and specifically the real estate market.  It’s time for a wake-up call if the industry wants to rebound from this census slump.  Another hidden (or ignored) factor is the “changing of the guard” with new demand models and demographics for today’s aging population.

There currently seems to be an over-riding preference for “Aging in Place”.  The Tennessean[5] states: “Despite more alternatives than ever, the overwhelming majority of elder Americans choose to age in place — in their own home, within the communities where they have lived for decades or have family ties.”

At some stage in the aging process, however, staying at home may NOT be the best option. Health and care needs, financial considerations, safety concerns, marital situation, housing condition, proximity of family members and the availability of caregivers and other components of a strong support system are factors that will impact this evaluation.

Yet, many senior specialists[6] note that the elderly will often stay in their own home until a “crisis” arises.  As a result, the senior is often “placed” in a higher level-of-care than required, with an unneeded loss of independence.

This is obviously not the best for the resident.  Could a senior living community do something differently to encourage the individual to move in earlier?

First, recognize that today’s aging population demands more than three meals a day and the “3-B’s activity program” – i.e. bingo, bible and birthdays.  They are not willing to retire their egos when they stop working.  They desire many more active and productive years with the ability to control their own destiny.

Focus on lifestyle vs real estate.  A HOUSE is an “object that can be bought and sold” while a HOME has “meaning and attachment to … personal living space” that can’t be “bought or sold”.[7] It takes more than living in a Taj Mahal to generate enough value to prompt a move-in.

Apply a scientific approach to the structure and organization of daily activities for the residents.  Utilize Maslow’s theory and healthy aging concepts to challenge the residents to continue to age gracefully, achieve new successes and “CREATE PRECIOUS MEMORIES”.  Treat the residents with dignity and respect by developing imaginative programs that stimulate and challenge their mind, body and spirit, going beyond the kindergarten style Summer Camp for Seniors[8] or cruise ship mentality.

Become familiar with the research about the negative impact isolation has on aging and couple this with Maslow’s need for socialization to develop a powerful marketing tool – offering a SOLUTION for potential residents and, especially, their adult children.

Revise marketing strategies to include education about your scientific approach and other 21st Century initiatives.  Use these to differentiate your community from the competition, AND eliminate prior perceptions.

Train staff to PROMOTE INDEPENDENCE by “helping” residents with their activities of daily living, but not “doing it for them!”  A former resident related an incident where she was made to feel “helpless and incapable” because, at an outing, “everyone tried to get food for me as if I couldn’t do things for myself.”[9]

Finally, accept that the new generation is guided by the words of Dylan Thomas:

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.


[1]Tom Brokaw, 1998.

[2] Maslow refers to these as “basic” needs in his Hierarchy of Needs.  Select “Maslow” in the CATEGORIES drop-down box to access additional articles dealing with differing levels of needs.

[3] “Facilities offer convenience and care” by Jessica Bliss, 12/27/2009.

[4] Associated Press, May 24, 2008

[5] “Elderly forgo assisted living – opt to stay at home” by Jessica Bliss, 12/27/2009

[6] Click on this link to review comments posted in the Senior Care Services Companies group on LinkedIN.

[7] Courtesy of Jason Popko.

[8] By Ellen Brandt, Ph.D., August 1, 2009 on the Ellen Interactive blog.

[9] Essay by Betty Warren, Hickory, NC, 2006

PROPERTY UPKEEP – in a challenging Environment

“How long can an organization postpone renovation/rehab and not risk losing move-ins?” asks the ALFA[1] Case Study: “When Looks Really Matter”. In response, there is no universal right answer, as each company and its situation are different.  Factors that may influence management’s reaction to occupancy challenges include the type of business (i.e. acute hospital, SNF, ALF, IL, etc.), type of clientele, level of competition, census level / amount of decline, and the organization’s overall financial condition.

As a former CFO, I understand that the company must live within its means and that there are often financing considerations behind decisions and timetables for rehabbing a building.  But, unlike a hospital or nursing home where admissions are driven by need and paid by third parties, independent and assisted living communities have a greater requirement in maintaining their properties to remain competitive and continue to attract private pay clientele.

SHOULD MANAGEMENT CUT OR SPEND?

Traditionally, organizations tend to do nothing extraordinary for a 1–2 % change in census, but cut costs and eliminate expenditures as occupancy drops 5–10 points.  Then when the occupancy decline hits 10 points, management panics and starts spending more money, bringing in outside sales/marketers and doing more advertising, special events, etc.  At 12 – 15 points, they call out the National Guard!

So, why wait for it to become a crisis before responding?  No matter the state of the economy, if the census drops, management should do something POSITIVE for the community instead of cutting costs.  Create value-added services[2] to increase the satisfaction of existing residents and marketability for potential residents.  In the private pay world, you must overcome inertia to obtain a move-in and CUTTING COSTS IS NEVER THE ANSWER!

[In fact it can become a “self-fulfilling prophecy” as the company continues to cut costs, reducing the perceived “value” of the services, thus leading to still lower occupancy.]

RENOVATION CYCLES

Many organizations schedule total renovations for their properties on an 8-12 year cycle.  This process generally includes an updated color scheme with new upholstery/furniture and furnishings in the building core and other common areas.  A conventional approach in difficult times is to delay these major expenditures until a) the census improves or b) the economy turns around.

The problem with this strategy is that the appearance of the building may be a CONTRIBUTING FACTOR to its census challenges, so management must look at each situation individually.  For instance, a well-maintained building with consistent local management might require a rehab for only cosmetic purposes and could likely postpone its renovation without adverse consequences.

On the other hand, a property that clearly shows wear and tear – regardless of age – needs attention NOW!  Executive management must convey support for the marketing efforts of the local management team.  In addition, efforts to instill “pride of ownership” in the local staff will be negatively impacted if it appears that management doesn’t care how the place looks.  This will only make the wear and tear cycle worse in the future.

Yet, in this economy, financial limitations are a reality.  No one expects everything to be fixed at once, but the key is to DO SOMETHING! Additionally, PLANNING, PRIORITIZATION and COMMUNICATION are essential for successfully managing renovations.

So, suspend the traditional cyclical renovation program and focus on extending the life of the existing color schemes with repairs and partial replacements.  At the same time, communicate to all properties and the residents in each of those communities that there is a plan and assure them that their concerns will be addressed in due course.  The key is to do a little something for everyone so that the management and residents of the “good” buildings are recognized and shown appreciation for their efforts in maintaining the property.

You don’t have to spend a lot of money to do this.  We promoted a lot of goodwill in a turnaround situation by throwing away a couple of rickety park benches and spending about $500 to replace them with rockers for the front porch.  In another situation, we simply re-arranged the lobby furniture to create several conversation groupings in a less formal setting.

DOES REAL ESTATE SELL?

Roger Bernier, the President and COO of Chelsea Senior Living states in the ALFA Case Study:  “Our buildings are our single most important marketing tools …” and he makes a compelling argument for maintaining a community in good repair, even in hard economic times.  However, a superior building may not be enough to stimulate new move-ins.

Psychologist Abraham Maslow teaches that physical and security are the basic needs for all individuals and most senior living communities focus on meeting these needs.  But, the real potential is in helping the retired adult achieve social, ego and self-actualization goals, which Maslow identifies as higher level needs.

If management shifts its focus to providing a fulfilling lifestyle for their existing residents and then highlighting these activities and services in their marketing efforts, they will find their clientele to be much more accepting of a little normal wear and tear.

GROUP PURCHASING

Lastly, having worked for both large and small enterprises, I understand the substantial price breaks from group purchasing that Todd Kaestner (Brookdale Senior Living) discusses in the case study.  But, to think outside of the box, the operator may get a better return on their investment by purchasing locally! Yes, I know it will likely cost more, BUT . . . you are only doing partial renovations and any exposure within the local community is good and provides inexpensive advertising.  A local owner-operator to whom you bring business (and even the local trades-people that do the work) can be turned into exceptional referral sources to “spread the word” as they visit your property and observe the level and quality of service you provide.  The fact that the company is putting money back into the community – especially in “tough times” – will produce positive public relations on MAIN STREET……one of  your targeted markets.

Again, these suggestions won’t work for everyone, but hopefully they’ll make you consider new options and maybe come up with even better ways to respond to the economy.


[1] Assisted Living Federation of America

[2] Please contact me via email at art@progressiveretirement.com or phone at 615-414-5217 to learn more about the types of value-added services that can be provided and how Progressive Retirement Lifestyles could help you with today’s challenges.

Do Senior Living Communities Need a Wake-up Call?

Although the housing slump may have “bottomed-out”,  occupancy declines, especially for independent living, are more widespread [1]. for-rent-sign-02.jpgWill the industry re-bound with a business-as-usual mentality?  Will new generations of customers be satisfied with today’s level of service?

There is no question that the real estate crisis and decline in portfolio values have impacted occupancy in senior living communities.  AND, it’s easy to buy into the concept of “We just need to hold on, the demographics are still there, and we’ll be OK as soon as the housing market recovers”.  The reality may be very different.

While the country has been in the economic doldrums over the past couple of years, several dynamics have been changing, largely un-noticed by the industry.  First, the demographics are changing – the target market is gradually moving away from the “greatest generation”[2] [World War II vets are dying at the rate of 1000 per day] – and the industry must prepare for the “bobby-sox” generation (as a prelude to the “baby boomers”).

This generation, born between 1935 and 1945, is affluent and benefitted from the medical advances and healthy lifestyle initiatives of the 20th century.  As a result, they will have longer life expectancies with more males in the target population.  They demand value and will be less willing to compromise than their parents and older siblings who were tempered by the depression and WW II.

In the 1990s, assisted living (“AL”) developed as an alternative to nursing homes, and independent living (“IL”) has in large part developed as an alternative to assisted living facilities.  The newest option is “aging-in-place” with various surveys documenting the desires for aging adults to stay in their own home.  In the past, this wasn’t practical for many people, but we are seeing the development of a number of new companies that use various enabling technologies to provide cost-effective alternatives to senior housing. For example:

image002A study several years ago indicated that up to 80% of AL admissions were driven by the need for assistance with medication management.  Yet, there are now numerous automated medication reminder systems for use in the home.

Numerous organizations have developed cognitive fitness systems to provide brain exercises and delay the effects of Alzheimer’s and other senile dementia.

Rosemary Bakker, a gerontologist with Weill Cornell Medical College has established the website This Caring Home to help caregivers and family members design a “smart home”, allowing individuals with early stage dementia to remain in their own home.

In addition to the psychological appeal of these options, the current economic malaise is forcing prospective residents – and their families – to become more value-conscious consumers.  These products and services will take market share from IL and AL communities by offering greater independence at lower costs.

As a result, the standard AL resident in the future may become a medically complex individual with multiple health/psychological conditions.

The impact on the traditional IL model may be even more dramatic.

Is Everything Doom & Gloom?

The answer is that it doesn’t have to be – IF operators heed the wake-up call and are willing to consider new options:

1.   Embrace new technology, instead of resisting it.  Future generations won’t appreciate things such as internet access, a social networking site for the community, etc. as an added value – they will expect it as a minimum level of service.

Technology should be utilized to promote independence (no matter what level the resident demonstrates at move-in).  View this as an investment in extending the higher functioning of the resident for extended periods of time, which should decrease the turnover rate, extend the average length of stay, and increase the occupancy percentage.

Offer the same technology services that are marketed for “at-home” care in a bundled package, so that the senior living community becomes the value-added solution.  Sell the advantage of having someone on-site who can and will MANAGE the technology for the senior, at the same time they are receiving other traditional services such as meals and transportation.

2.  Meet more than the basic needs for the residents. Abraham Maslow developed a Hierarchy of 5 levels of needs, as depicted in this diagram.image001

The senior living industry has traditionally done a good job of meeting the basic physical and security needs of the residents.   However, there is tremendous opportunity to offer and market services that address their higher-level social, ego and self-actualization needs.

In fact, programs meeting those needs could be the differentiators that trigger the move-in decision.  Interestingly, these needs are the most difficult for the senior to achieve while living alone in their home.

Too often society has assumed that seniors forgo these higher-level needs when they “retire”.  Yet Lasell Village, a CCRC located on the campus of Lasell College in Massachusetts was created around the principle that retirees would move into an independent living setting where they would be committed to an annual continuing education curriculum.  This program is clearly helping the “villagers” achieve their “Peak needs”[3]!

Senior living communities must adjust with the times and add these value-added initiatives if they wish to overcome the inertia caused by the economy and plan for the future generations.

What initiatives are you taking to use technology and/or meet your current or prospective residents’ higher level needs?  Please add your comment by clicking on “Leave a comment” below:

Additional Links for New Technology Options:

Good Design Age Well

Center for Technology and Aging

CareData Trak

CogniFit

Dakim, Inc

GrandCare Systems

MyFitBrain

TheCaringStore.com

.


[1] NIC MAP®, 9/1/2009

[2] “The Greatest Generation” by Tom Brokaw (1998)

[3] “Peak – How Great Companies Get Their Mojo from Maslow” by Chip Conley (2007)

Building a Winning Culture

The first step for success is creating the belief that you can achieve your goals; whether speaking of a sports team, getting to 100% occupancy in a senior living community, or creating a service level that exceeds customer expectations!  This belief becomes the nucleus of a Winning Culture, building on the principle that it is a lot more fun to win than to lose.

Tug McGraw

Tug McGraw

“Ya Gotta Believe!”

1973 New York Mets

The following is a proven, 10-step process to building a winning culture and a winning team in business:

1.  Recruit the “right people” for the team.

In his book “Good to Great”, Stanford Professor Jim Collins asserts that a common trait of successful 20th century companies was “getting the right people on the bus”.  Chip Conley, the founder and CEO of the Joie de Vivre boutique hotel chain takes this concept to another level by relating employee behavior to Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.   He states, in his book “Peak”, that the needs of employees may be categorized into 3 groupings:  compensation (base needs), recognition, and meaning.   Quoting Peter Drucker, he suggests that the company must go beyond meeting the base needs of the employees if it wishes to instill loyalty and motivate employees.

Chip also classifies employees into 3 categories:  superstars, silent majority and weak links.  Interestingly, he doesn’t suggest that a successful organization must have all superstars, but recommends a 2 to 1 ratio between superstars and weak links.

Thus, the right people don’t have to be superstars, but they should be capable of being motivated by and committed to the underlying mission of the organization.   Even with superstar skills, they will not contribute to the winning culture unless they are motivated by more than pure money.

2.  Establish a vision with clear goals and expectations.

Henry Ford said “If you think you can … or if you think you can’t . . . you’re right.”  The team will follow their leader.

Employees look for a leader with a sense of where the organization is going and what is expected of them in that process.  That leader must possess a winning, “can do” attitude to inspire team members to stretch their efforts to meet goals.

3.  Create a Team Concept where everyone’s contribution is important.

Professor Collins doesn’t go far enough in his analogy; success depends on not merely getting “on the bus” but in working together as a Team to achieve common goals.  I prefer the example of a racing scull to illustrate that all members have to pull their weight AND work together.

Again, everyone doesn’t have to be 42-15488358a superstar and often a GREAT TEAM is made up of people with different strengths so that the total is greater than the sum of the parts.  A classic sports example is the strong defensive player on a baseball team who is not the home run hitter but contributes by advancing another runner while “sacrificing” his own “at bat”.

Together Everyone Achieves More!

4.  Implement a Rewards Program that gives tangible as well as intangible recognition of Team and individual achievements.

It is easy to identify accomplishments and provide rewards for the superstars, but the really successful manager will find a way to recognize all of the players, such as the batter who “sacrificed” to advance the runner above.  A critical component is recognition for achievement of Team, or company, goals, not merely individual successes.

5.  Assess each individual’s knowledge base, strengths and weaknesses, and then assign them to roles where they can / will be successful.

One of the worst mistakes a manager can make is to expect everyone to be a superstar, which is somewhat like looking for a poker hand with 4 Aces!  The art of management is the ability to mold a group of committed individuals, with differing strengths and weaknesses into a cohesive team working towards – and achieving – exceptional goals.

6.  Provide each individual with all the technical and management training and tools they need to successfully accomplish their job and mission.

The organization must make a commitment to training and dedicate resources to support the team.  Nothing kills the winning spirit more than a lack of tangible support from the organization!  Building the winning culture is a process involving a number of group dynamics that can only be achieved in a collective training setting.

7.  Establish defined benchmarks to attain small, manageable targets in reasonable timeframes.

Athletes are taught to take one game at a time.  In a fill-up or turnaround situation for a senior living community, simply stating the goal at 100% occupancy would be over-whelming and non-productive for local management.  Instead, they should be given daily, weekly and monthly targets for number of new contacts, follow-up phone calls, in-person visits, special events, etc.  These targets are within their control and should lead to increased occupancy.

8.  Empower the “players on the field” (i.e. local managers) the autonomy and opportunity to execute the game plan and the latitude to make adjustments when the need arises.

Management should avoid over-managing.  If you have followed the previous steps of hiring the right people, and giving them the proper training and tools to do their job, you must display confidence in their ability to deliver.  Otherwise, you would be like the football coach who refuses to allow his quarterback to “audible” when he sees that the called play isn’t going to work.

9.  Recognize and celebrate successes when targets are met.

Coach Vince Lombardi said “Winning is not a sometimes thing; it’s an all the time thing.  Jeffrey Gitomer, motivational author and speaker points out that “positive attitude is contagious” in his book “YES! Attitude”.

How do these concepts apply to Building a Winning Culture?

image001The answer is to find every possible reason to CELEBRATE A SUCCESS – no matter how small!  Publicly acknowledging those accomplishments creates recognition and helps employees achieve their higher level ego needs as defined by Maslow.  That image001recognition will motivate them, as well as other team members, to strive harder to achieve even more difficult goals.

10.  Build on those successes to “raise the bar” and reach the next plateau, helping to motivate other team members to succeed.

Winners Lead to More Winners!