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

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The Four Horsemen of Excellence

The Four Horsemen

This article on Leadership & Management for Senior Living was requested by Medical Blue Book and published as a Guest Author on that site.4 Horsemen

CLICK HERE TO READ THE FULL ARTICLE

POSITIVE ATTITUDE — POSITIVE IMPRESSION

“Disney makes you wait on line for a ride even if the park is empty.”[1] Seth Godin uses this example because of the recognized marketing genius of Walt Disney and his organization.  He goes on to point out that “a full restaurant is more fun than an empty one”[2] as he emphasizes that creating demand is a complex process – because humans are complex individuals.

These concepts have several direct applications to the senior living industry.  But, first, a word about the placebo effect.  The past couple of years have delivered many marketing – as well as operating – challenges; and it is easy to slip into a negative attitude about the futility of your marketing efforts.  Of course, this can be a self-fulfilling prophecy. On the other hand, Seth observes that just as a placebo often produces positive results: “If we believe we’re going to get better, perform better, make the sale, etc., it often occurs that we do.”[3]

If you are the sales person (the individual interacting with a prospect), you must believe in your product and approach the tour, discussion, etc. on the basis that it WILL close!  We know that the sales cycle is a process, but you have to approach each contact as though “this is the one”; otherwise, human nature will lead to just going through the motions and neither you nor the customer will be satisfied with the interaction.

But, this goes further than just the attitude of the tour guide.  The attitude permeates the entire organization.  A classic example is whether to set all of the tables in the dining room for every meal, even when the building has multiple vacancies.  A cost-conscious manager will say to set only enough tables to seat the number of expected residents and guests for the upcoming meal.  They’ll point out that the residents will spread out to all the tables causing more effort in serving the meal and requiring additional staff time in clearing and sanitizing tables and cleaning unused table settings.  So, it’s certainly tempting to save time and money by setting only the minimum number of tables and place settings.

Now, let’s look at the same situation from a marketing / customer service viewpoint:

  • Wouldn’t the current residents be happier having the freedom to sit anywhere they want in the dining room?
  • Shouldn’t the building be TOUR READY every day?  Wouldn’t you prefer to have a table already set and ready if you have guests that you would like to invite for the meal?
  • Shouldn’t management convey optimism that guests will show up for a “tour and a meal” and be ready for them?  Maybe, that attitude will carry through to other staff members and encourage them to demonstrate “pride of ownership” in the building.
  • WHY ADVERTISE THE FACT THAT YOU’VE GOT A LOT OF VACANCIES by showcasing a “half-empty” dining room?

It’s human nature to assume something’s wrong with the choice that isn’t in demand.  Think about it. When one ride at Disney World has a line and another has none, don’t you wonder what’s wrong with the one without a line?  Is that the one your kids are going to want to ride? Probably not.

You create that same question in the mind of your prospective resident and their family when they see a dining room that looks empty.  So, don’t shoot yourself in the foot; create a positive atmosphere and be ready to be full today.


[1] Seth Godin’s blog article:  “Ethical placebos (stunning, but not actually surprising)”  http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2011/02/ethical-placebos-stunning-but-not-actually-surprising.html

[2] ibid

[3] ibid