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Thank you for being here on the Aspire for More with Erin podcast. Today, I have the incomparable David Hopkins, and I think that we are going to talk about some amazing things. Hello, David. How are you? I'm great, Erin. How are you? Doing good. I am a little nervous, as you know, we've talked about it, because when you have two people like ourselves, non conformists, successful, willing to talk about anything, leaders, it can get a little wild. I'm excited about that. What are your thoughts? I completely agree. You know, when rebels come together, big things happen. You know, if we think about the United States, the last time a whole bunch of rebels got together, we told England to go back home and pack it up because we're going to form a new country. God knows what's going to happen out of this podcast. I know. Just so everybody knows, our goal is for the two of us to have a conversation once a month, at least for the next 12 months. As a way to offer support to our leaders inside of the community. I think 1 of my new ways of thinking is there's a lot of attention on the C suite, which is very important. But David, where do you feel like the senior living industry? Is really like, where do you think the industry is really successful at? Yeah. each community is so different. You're in Alabama and I'm in Florida, we're a state away and you would think we'd be pretty similar. Not even close. There's communities in Florida, and you could go right down the street, not even half a mile, and the community is different. Why? Because of the people. The leadership, the people that make up your CNAs, your nurses, all those dichotomies of people's personality and how they interact with each other and where the trust is. Each one's different. And, I think we get into a senior living is sexy right now. Because it's, we've got this big silver tsunami that's crashing on our shores. We're going to be influx with all these people. It's private pay. We're going to make money hands over fists and all these private equity groups are jumping in and trying to get involved so they can capitalize on this. And each one as our good friends, James Lee says is a heart decision with financial implications, right? And I always want the best for my mom when she goes in, but maybe I can't afford that. So I've got to lower my standards to see where I can place her so that she's well taken care of. And so each community has its own lifeblood. And the problem I'm seeing is we have these larger companies and in REITs and management companies that are trying to. Manage all the same way across multiple states across multiple time zones across multiple demographics from Medicaid to private pay luxury end and you can't manage that the same way every time. So I think we're seeing that strain that pull from a community leadership, even in that regional area to the C suite at this point in time. What do you think? I think working in Alabama, if you've ever been a part of a company who had one or two communities inside of Alabama, you really understand what you are talking about, because Alabama has very different regs and there's not a lot of the big players in Alabama because to operate that way inside Alabama is hard. There's a lot of push and pull and people don't like that push and pull. So I know what it's like to try to be conformed into something that you really aren't even allowed to be and that friction is hard to manage sometimes. And I also know, just through my experience. Leadership should be about authenticity and each community should be allowed a level of authenticity because the personality of your community is what's going to attract the people to live there, you know, period. You have a leader who may be more in the office and not necessarily available. Then you have family members who want to talk to the leader who want to be have a relationship with a person who may be making those decisions and that family member is not going to be happy. Because they don't have that connection, right? So it's important, I think, for companies and also for leaders to know that you do have a right to leverage your own strengths inside of your community. That should be your domain. 100 percent agree. So for me, as a leader, as an executive director, like I hate doing financials If you're a Dave Ramsey fan, he says, especially in the couple industry, right? There's the nerd and the free spirit. I'm the free spirit. My wife's our nerd. She keeps the books. Everything's lined up perfectly indexed, color coded, cross tabbed and everything. I would rather watch paint dry than do that. So for me, I hire a super strong business office lady who can help me. With my deficiencies, but it's funny, and I don't know if you've seen this. I was looking at some E.D. Job descriptions for the postings. It's you got to be Superman or something, right? Oh, you should be able to create a marketing scheme. That's so engaging. And, now, all of a sudden you're on tick tock and you have a million followers following all your residents and you're, budget conscious and you've Cut costs down 10 percent and you've increased your revenue and you found different streams all the while you're preparing this delicacy of a meal. Your community is spotless and all your numbers line up. Oh, and don't forget the clinical stuff too. And it's like those people don't exist. As an E.D., I think you have to build a team around you, not only to support yourself, but to support the community and what it needs. So sometimes you need a stronger nurse, sometimes you need a stronger business person. Those things have to be relegated. And that comes at the community level. It's funny you say that, a good leader, who's not scared of hiring the competent people, the ones who are smarter in those areas that you may not be will be more successful than someone who does try to do it all themselves. I was promoted at 28 years old to be an executive director. And these crazy women who I love dearly, who thought that I could be an executive director at 28 years old when I've never managed one person in my life begged me to take this, even though, of course, I wanted it, but I was scared of it. And then shortly after I took the position, they both left the company. So I'm just like, left to my own devices. And I fumbled my way through it through lots of trial and error, but then there was this quality enhancement survey and all of the things were great, except for the nursing department. And it, there was a lot of things that weren't right in that department. And I had an RN who was older, who led me to believe that everything was okay. But at 28 years old, I didn't understand the dynamics. That I was going to be held accountable for that. I didn't understand that. Nobody told me that. Why would I be held accountable for the nursing? I'm not a nurse, so that experience, because that did not go well with the new regional director, who I was scared to death of, by the way. He was really like the Bella Corolli of, the industry in my world at that time. He basically, showed me that it was my responsibility to be a nurse, that I was responsible for that, but no one had told me that I was responsible for that. And so what I learned was that I had to be responsible for everything. So that became this negative force of, I have to be a control freak now. I, if I'm going to be held responsible or something that I have no idea of, then I need to learn it. So then I started learning every role because now he's going to hold me accountable for everything, which worked right in the long run. But in the short term, it stunted leadership growth because I was responsible for it. Like me. And that isn't necessarily the case. There is that happy medium to where you know enough to lead the team, but you trust your people and I didn't learn that until a little bit later when I did have a solid person who looked at me and said, why are you all up in my grits, and I'm like, Oh. You've got this, I can back up. So it's those experiences that teach you the right and the wrong ways to do it. And you have to have that ability to let go when you do have an amazing team. And how many times do you see that, right? Even from your leader, if you're an ED to the regional side, right? Something goes wrong. I'm going to come focus on you. Otherwise known as micromanagement, let's call it what it is, right? Okay, we have issues. No community's perfect. Every time, you have to learn, adapt, and change. And part of that becomes that trust environment. And I think as EDs, there's a lot they promote somebody into it who is not ready to accept a responsibility. And then they throw everybody else under the bus, right? I got a community and I was the fifth executive director in a year and a half. Since it opened and it took a good two months for me to prove A. I wasn't walking out the door and B. I had my team's back because the nurse was used to being thrown under the bus. Every time something didn't go right. Oh, it was her fault. It was her fault. It was her fault. No, I got it. Now that might come from me being an only child. And you know, if the lamp broke and my mom walked in the room and she looked at me and said, who broke the lamp? It's just me. So I can either try and lie and get out of that. And then I get in trouble for lying and breaking the lamp, or I just take the responsibility and I broke the lamp. So maybe that was my buildup of tolerance of, you know, what my boss says about me doesn't mean that's me. And I think so many times as leaders, we take that to heart because we feel like they know so much more in reality they're in the same position you are. I had a regional that was just promoted when I took over an E. D. position and she came out of an E. D. position. She didn't know how to be a regional. She knew how to be an E. D. So it was great for my training purposes and questions and how a community works. But from a leadership standpoint, that wasn't helpful for me. That was a Companion right more so and somebody who just did the job really successful for a few years and I could take those nuggets and implement that into the kind of corporate structure that existe d that was great, but from a leadership standpoint doesn't work because they're in that same panic position of oh my god I gotta do all this stuff and you get into that and then you have to try and micromanage it because you're responsible for everything well if I'm responsible for it's easier if I just do it and that's hard when a leader has to go I trust you because then it's on you. But if it fails, you take the responsibility, you just saying that the comment about we think that other people in different positions know more than you. We assume that and that's like where that imposter syndrome comes in, which I never heard in my life until actually I walked out of a community and I started studying this kind of stuff. Did I realize? Half the battle that I had inside of the community with mindset and stuff like that was I Believed and I assumed that people at a higher position than me knew more than me. That's just the way that I was raised. That was just the way that I thought. And there is so much disappointment and resentment that comes when you realize that they don't necessarily, and that you as the leader inside the community, this is the number one advantage that you have as a leader inside the community, you understand the nuances of your community. Somebody who has 15, whatever communities do not understand the details inside of your community. And so it's our responsibility as executive directors to learn the fine balance of when to fight for things that benefit your community and when to go with the flow. And. As a passionate being that sometimes had more passion than wisdom, and sometimes had more wisdom than passion, and sometimes they were equally yoked, which was a great time. I learned what to do and what not to do through the hard knocks in life. Because when you have passion, people will use that to their advantage, and then people will turn around and use it in a way that is not good. You don't get to use my passion when it benefits you, and then use my passion when it doesn't, because I'm the same person. The entire time, you know, you just have to learn to speak my language and then you can, I'll give you it. You tell me what you want in a way that I need to hear it. Then I'm going to make sure that we make that happen. important because I know my community. I'll run through the wall for you. Right. The minute this doesn't work or something. Don't turn on me. I got to know you're in this together, right? Because I'll do my best with it. I'll do everything I possibly can to get this to the goal line over that to hit the extra point and make it successful. But it's so funny. We've gotten so complicated and so nuanced on. Oh you didn't do this way. And that's not going to work in this community like that. Those are. Is that I know, trust my expertise. It was funny. The first community I ever had, we had problem with signage, super basic and coming from Disney, like that's huge. We always start at the beginning of the experience. How do we, they get in the door, all these things. And I remember I got my first corporate visit, right? And of course. I'm new. I don't understand. I am believing this higher power has awesome knowledge and experience, right? And they show up in Florida and it's August. I'm there at 4am making sure everything's spotless, ready to go. I'm so excited. And I get them in the building. And I said, okay, so tell me how this works. First one. I'm super excited. And the owner looks at me and goes, you run it. Okay, so to me, that says, I need to show you all the opportunities we have. So we were on the side of a hill, you had to take a left, you had to take another left to come in, and I took them all the way out, walked them outside at 930 on an August morning in Florida, 98 degrees with 148 percent humidity, and they showed up in high heels and pantyhose and... jackets We walked all the way up to the top of the hill. It's quiet the whole walk. Nobody's saying anything. So I can feel the uneasiness. And we get to the top and they look at me and they go, why are we starting here? I said, this is where our experience starts. If you come to our community. Driving down this hill, you see our sign, but how do we get in? We don't know. And it was that light bulb moment, but we came around the corner and they said, Oh, and it had an initial, just one letter, the starting of our name. And they're like that's how you get in. I said, but if I'm brand new and I don't know what you're called or anything, and I'm visiting three other communities today, how does that stand out to me? Do I really know what that letter is supposed to stand for? You've got to make it so simple for them to get in the door so that we can then get a sale or get a move in. But we couldn't even do that. We couldn't even get them to our driveway. And it was very interesting. At that point, I'm like wait a minute. I thought you were supposed to be the experts. And it was interesting because they were very focused, obviously, as all senior livings are on sales. And the problem wasn't the sales. The problem was the community and the people in it. And I had to clear some house. I had to hire some new people, establish a culture that was going to be what we could deliver. And I said, we'll get to the sales, but right now we've got to fix the problem inside because I can't deliver on anything that you're talking about right now. There's not a compassion, there's not a caregiver out there that's trying to really focus in on your mom or your dad and give the outstanding care that we want. We have to fix that first before I go out and promise something I can't deliver because you can't recover from that. Oh, okay. We got to stay here. Okay. Because this is the perfect opportunity to bring in sports. I love it. All right. We're going to talk about cricket. Talk about what? Cricket? No, we're not going to talk about cricket. I don't know anything about cricket yet, but we both like football. We do. And there was a great weekend last weekend, which would say the first opening weekend of football season. And we got to talk about Deion Sanders because he did basically what you just said, right? So I want to talk about from my perspective, what fascinates me about Deion Sanders. And this is a lot of assumption here because we don't know what the rest of the season is going to be like. But I want to talk about from my female perspective, my female leadership perspective, what I see his leadership to be, and then. I want you to have your takeaways from your perspective. And for those who don't know, Deion Sanders is a flamboyant leader who has a proven track record of his own success on the football field and the baseball field. He has always been somebody who talked the talk as loud as he could and then walked the walk as loud as he could. So he has a spotlight and a track record that is unlike many people and then he has now come into the leadership role in coaching the head coach in a very unique way, unlike others, and he has a track record now of winning championships and historically black community football league, and now he's at the University of Colorado, and he beat a#17 ranked team, which is the first time in a long time for that school. And he did just what David said. He had to clean the house in order to create the culture that he wanted, which is risky and it's controversial. And all throughout him doing that, he spoke his truth, his belief. This is why we're doing this. Because your track record shows me that you don't want to work. And I love his one liners. When people are trying to come at him with negativity, like it's the same devil, just another level, you know, and that's in a way, like a motto that we should have as leaders when we come up against resistance, but his confidence in himself, even when he doubts himself, he still speaks highly over him and he outworks his self doubt. He stacks the evidence. of his proof of success, and he doubles down on that. And he knows the things that he has to do in order to be successful as a coach and to get his team aboard. And because my seven core concepts in Aspire for More Leadership, the first one is belief. And what I saw on those videos that he did, that's what he talks about all the time. Do you believe? Do you believe? Do you believe? And if you get asked that question that many times, whether you fail or whether you win, you are going to believe. And it's just the repetition. Of his core principles, his leadership, which is so inspiring to me, so inspiring to me and his passion and his audacity and his authenticity just lights a fire inside of me because he stands out in a crowd of people who blend in. And I think that it really is a synonymous to senior living leadership. And the idea of conformity and the idea of what we were just talking about how it is not a one size fits all a we know we have states with different regs be every leader is different with different strengths and we have to know as leaders to leverage what is our passion, what is our strength. So that is what's inspiring to me. A, on my own authenticity journey and the value journey, which I have been very open about. And I hope that leaders inside senior living see that and can water it down a little bit because, you know, we can't speak like that, but take his principles and run with it, even if he doesn't win another game, Because he does have a lot of things stacked against him this season. He has come out and showed us that really all things are possible with belief and great leadership. So that's my take. What's yours? So I watched a little bit of the game, and it was interesting to watch his players. They moved together. And that was his big thing, is we're building a team. It's not Deion's team, it's not, you know, it's the University of Colorado. This is our team together. And that's what he's talking about. Everybody on that team had to believe. And I think from some of those players that were getting cut, they didn't believe. They were just there to try and make the next step to the NFL. It was all a money thing. And Deion came from the time when you played for a team, you bled for the team, right? It wasn't about what's your next shoe deal, how much more bonus can you make, or anything like that. And he built a team, and even them walking on the field, you go back and you watch some of that. It's in sync, and you know that, right? We walk into communities and you're like, What the heck is going on here? You can just feel the disruption. And I coach my families when they come in. I'm like, even if you don't choose us, that's okay. And I know that freaks everybody out, right? Oh my God, you can't say that. No, it's true, because if I'm not the best fit for your mom, she's not going to be successful here. Make the best choice for her and having done that family journey five times. If I had somebody say that to me. Oh, my God. Okay. Now we've got a different level of respect at this point in time. It's not just a quick sale, get the move in and move off on that. And I think what Deion did is when he came in and he shocked and awed, right? Cleared house, cleared coaches, cleared players, removed scholarships, all that stuff in a matter of trying to turn it around and get ready for this opening season in a significant short period of time, let's call it for a football season. And then he stepped up and he believed, and then even to put his son as a quarterback. Because he, you knew if that game went bad, everything was pointed to Deion. Why'd you make your son the quarterback? Was he the best choice? Do you wish you could go back and do all those negative Nelly's? The second armchair quarterbacks are coming in hard and heavy, but he knew and he believed he's we've got this. He walked on that field a winner walking out. If you watched him walk on the field, there was an air and a confidence, not a cockiness. And there's a fine line. I've had a portion of my career, let's say, where I have danced across the line multiple times on many occasions. And sometimes you have to, but I also knew that came with repercussions and that's okay. And he did to walk in on that field. You could see the teamwork. You could see the gelness and it's the same when you walk into a senior living community, right? You walk into one and go oh, my God. I want to move in here when you feel that energy, you feel that vibration going through. That's that thing in your gut that you just can't deny. And when you have that as a leader, no matter what's coming at you, You believe in yourself and you believe in your team. You believe in your community. You're going to be successful. Yeah, you can feel the presence of great leadership and you can feel the presence of poor leadership and like you said, when a family member walks in. You should really take note of what their first impression of the energy they feel, you know, that to me is the core of how successful your community is. I think that's another tail sign of a great leader. when you allow people to see how hard it is. And still you're moving forward, then they will have a greater buy in to your system too, because it's not easy. Nothing about it's easy. Nothing. The same with being an executive director in senior living, right? You're expected to be this calm, cool, everything's great, no worries, we're at 100%, everybody's happy. Is there a community like that? I don't think so. At some point in time, something's going wrong somewhere. You know, it's funny I, people are like, how are you doing? Every day's a holiday. And I'd steal that from Disney. And it was funny because some people were like, Oh, that's so great. And I'm like, yeah, sometimes it's Christmas. Sometimes it's April fool's sometimes it's groundhog day over and over again. And it's it was my way to say, some days are good. Some days are bad. Maybe it's good. Maybe it's bad. And those are the things that. You have to regulate that out and have your team help you with when you're having standup not everything's going to be perfect that day. There's going to be a toilet line that's going to burst and flood somebody's apartment. There's going to be somebody's steak who's overdone or undercooked or something that happened, you know, and you're going to have to deal with it. I love the phrase every day is a holiday because I never thought about Groundhog's Day. Okay, so we just dove into this episode and we did not talk about your history, your experience. Can you tell that we're excited about this? David, tell us about you. Give us all your stats. Give me all your stats. All the things that people want to know and then dismiss right away, right? Yeah. Yeah. Born and raised in Massachusetts, so I'm a lifelong Boston fan. Yes. I grew up in Cape Cod a little town called Sandwich, Massachusetts. No, I did not live at the corner of Turkey and Cheese Lane or peanut butter and jelly. Small high school left there. I traveled in a group called Up With People. If you want to see some awesome YouTube videos, you can go on there and see that it's an international group I got to meet. I traveled in a cast of 163 people from 33 different countries. My best friend still lives in Vienna, Austria, and have a great time with a lot of different people from all over the country, which was awesome. Then I came to Disney. I started working at Disney and entertainment, moved up into management. That's really where I got my management training. And then after 9 11, left Disney. And I went back to school and I got a degree in healthcare, because I thought healthcare needed a lot of fixing, and I had a lot of good Disney ideas, so I figured it was going to be easy. I've been 15 years in healthcare now, and mostly hospital operations, large physician practices, and the last, I guess it's eight years now, it's been in senior living. Stumbled onto it. I had a mentor I was complaining to when I was having coffee one day, and I said, you know what, I'm going I had to drive. It was an hour drive every time and lots of traffic and I was really frustrated about that. And he slammed down his coffee and he got mad at me and he said, either work where you live or live where you work. I'm like, and he's and don't call me until you figure it out. This is my mentor. I really respect this guy. He was a senior vice president at Walt Disney World. And I didn't want to disappoint. So I started looking. I found a senior living community that was hiring for an executive director. Unbeknownst to me, I emailed him on LinkedIn and said, Hey, not sure if you'd consider me. The COO flew in on that Monday. I interviewed with her, got the job on Wednesday and started the following Monday and haven't looked back. For me and my ADD brain, having been through the family journey five times, removing life support, dementia care for grandparents It was a chance to understand the journey from a different side, but also inspire that side to be better at what they were doing. And stayed with my first location for over four years, have gone from super high end to Medicaid facilities. I've enjoyed the leadership part on all of that. And now I am embarking on that second journey. So it's a lot of fun. And when you're suggesting this and two EDs getting together to talk, you know. You get that occasionally at conferences and it can get really dangerous really quick. So hang on to your hat for the next 12 months because God knows what's going to happen here with the two of us. And you know, the rebels are coming out and we'll initiate some change, but I'm super excited to be with you here Erin. Your personality, who you are as a person, is so engaging, so warming, and it's exactly what senior living needs. I tell everybody, you know, they're like why didn't you get a nursing degree? I'm not that compassionate. It's okay. I know where my strengths are, so I'm not going to delve into that piece of it. When I have to be, I jump into crisis situations and I'm compassionate, but I'm not that ongoing compassionate person. You have that piece and I truly envy that. It is something that I would love to attain, but I know it's a weakness and much like leaders, know where your strengths are, play to those, work on your weaknesses, but don't think you're going to fix those because everybody has them. Yes. Thank you for that. And I think that's one of the things that I struggled with through my career that I want, hopefully, conversations like this from people who have been in the arena, who have been beat up, who have been scarred, that we can tell them just what you said. Focus on your strengths and hire for your weaknesses. I spent too much time focusing on my weaknesses. Because of a lot of different things, like the value piece. If I just fixed this, then maybe this and. What I did was set myself up for an internal failure because I never ever flexed what I was really good at until I became confident in that. And it isn't until I think recently, but now I understand that doubling down on what I am good at is really where momentum is built. Inside of a senior living. So I think, yes this conversation is so important, this relationship, and what the two of us want to build in tandem independently to add value to people inside of a community who need that level of support, because The truth is, like you and I have discussed today, there are people who are in a support role who want to be this type of support, but who cannot be this type of support because of their own demands of that role. And I think that is what's missing. In senior living, period. Maybe back in the day, they had it more. There was that mentor, that coach role, but there's not right now and that's where people like you and I come into play with conversations like this, with one on ones, with You know, however, we can add the value and we want to open it up if you're listening or watching that you ask us, shoot us a message on LinkedIn about what topics, what experiences you want to hear from us, because we both have different experiences, different perspectives, and yet the success that people want. I think we both can say, honestly, that we have felt every high and every low that this industry has to offer. Would you say that's correct? I would agree with that. I would agree with that. And that's pretty powerful when 2 people are willing to talk about highs and lows. Absolutely. So we can find David and myself on LinkedIn. And more to come will be in the show notes. Is there anything you want to leave the conversation with today, David? Hold onto your your hats, it's gonna be a bumpy ride. Next, first person who tells me what movie that's from gets a really big gold star. I feel like I, I've heard it before, maybe I don't know what it is. And we got to get we're going to dive into more of his Disney experience because there's a lot of fun stuff there, which obviously we don't have time for today, but we plenty of stories to share. We want to hear your stories. We want to talk about things that are impactful and helpful to people, especially E.D.s out there because we've walked that road and truly once you walk it then there's a different level of understanding and appreciation for what everybody's going through. Yes. And we can say the things that you can't. All right. Thank you for listening. And as always aspire for more for you.