7 Points On How To Create And Sustain Change

July 21, 2015
Virgil Thomas, ChangingAging.org

Take a walk

The Harvard Business Review has an excellent article out about how to lead change in your group or organization. Change can be very tricky to affect. So many road blocks exist in the world of of eldercare; from institutional norms, to policies and regulations, to the existing culture of a home, to simple human inertia (an object at rest tends to stay at rest). On top of that a leader must be able to work through a maze of complex personalities.

We suggest you read the full article here. But we have taken the 7 points on leadership and transcribed them to fit the genre of eldercare.

First, we should discuss the two strategies that tend not to work so well.

  • Being Nice – few of us want to be the bad guy, and we have been raised since childhood that you catch more flies with honey than vinegar (it was never fully explained why you want to catch flies, but that’s beside the point). Having a warm relationship is great, but remember that bodies at rest stay at rest unless acted upon by an outside force. Sometimes you have to be that force, and being a force isn’t always considered nice.
  • Push Push Push – Also known as nagging. Pushers can get the job done in the short run, but they tend to create resentment and this tactic rarely leads to lasting change. Be a leader not a pusher.

If you have had different results please let us know. It should also be mentioned that we still encourage you to be nice/polite however, don’t let that be your only tactic.

  1. Inspire Other – This is the converse of the Push method. Legitimacy is very important to people in this field. They want to know that you know what your talking about, and they want to see you walk the talk. Inspire by example. The Eden Alternative has always maintained that anyone can be a leader in culture change. Anyone from the nursing home administrator, to the CNA, to the elder can inspire others simply by showing how it should be different.
  2. Noticing The Problems – Every organization and every home is different. The obstacles to culture change may vary from place to place. Being able to correctly identify these problems and fix them is crucial to setting your team up for success. For example, maybe after some time you notice the care partners still have yet to become well-known to the elders and visa versa. This may not be due to a lack of person-centered care implementation, but rather the fact that you do not have consistent assignment. Testing that change could be the key you were looking for.
  3. Provide a Clear Goal – We understand that in the world of eldercare there are a thousand competing priorities on a daily basis. But the people who are best able to institute culture change are the ones who make it a priority, a point off in the distance where you can always strive. Start out small, perhaps you first goal is as simple as “train three new Certified Eden Associates” or “Complete Milestone One.”
  4. Challenging the Standard Approach – Possibly the most crucial one of all. Unlike many other industries, nursing homes are so reliant on an institutional model that most people cannot imagine anything else, let alone strive to change it. It can be incredibly difficult to ask people to go against something they’ve spent the better part of their career doing, but sometimes that is exactly what is required. If you need support, The Eden Alternative has numerous resources on how to sidestep aspects of the institutional model.
  5. Build Trust In Your Judgement –  Change is scary. Doing something different is painful. These are the facts of life. In order for others to follow you they have to know that you try your best to make sound and timely decisions. It also helps people to know that you seek others’ input when making a decision. Building a positive balance of trust is useful in times when you have no better reason than to just say “please, trust me on this.”
  6. Having Courage –  As we’ve already discussed, in our industry especially, change is scary, messy, and painful. Sometimes to do what is right we need to have the courage to push through the discomfort.
  7. Make Change A Top Priority – There are a thousand things that compete for attention on a daily basis. The danger being that losing focus and coasting can easily lead to change efforts sputtering and dying. The inertia of a changing culture can carry you for a while but without continued effort all those little roadblocks will bring your efforts to a standstill.

We hope you find this list useful. If you have any other suggestions or insights please drop us a comment.

1 Comment. Leave new

Bennita Yellowknee
August 3, 2015 5:36 pm

This was very informative and I am glad I read it.


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