Aspire for More with Erin

Risk it for the Biscuit- a Conversation Between 2 Executive Directors (David Hopkins)

October 12, 2023 Erin Thompson
Aspire for More with Erin
Risk it for the Biscuit- a Conversation Between 2 Executive Directors (David Hopkins)
Show Notes Transcript

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Erin:

Hi, it's that time again, the executive director aspire for more with Aaron podcast with David Hopkins. Hi, David. Hello. How are you? Good. We've had, uh, quite a bit of interest in this conversation, so I'm happy to keep it going. And you and I have talked a lot offline, getting to know each other some more. And so I want to highlight some of those fun conversations, but anything you want to share before we dive into our conversation.

David:

You know, uh, no, it's, uh, it's a whirlwind and the feedback that I've heard about us talking about real things that executive directors experience every day and the feeling of not being alone out there is huge and I hope this message really reaches a lot of people and, uh, can provide some comfort and some, you know, encouragement and knowing that we're not alone because most of the time we do feel like we're on that loss only island out there like Tom Hanks and Castaway. Yes,

Erin:

I've received some feedback just from my bridge, the gap podcast, and this podcast where people are saying, thank you for putting into words the way that I have felt or that I am feeling and being an advocate for change in our industry. And that makes me feel. Um, very good and gives me the motivation to keep going because we need each other. I just feel like we need each other. We need to talk about the hard things, celebrate the good things and change the things that need to be changed because I don't know if you hear it, David, but the tsunami bells are ringing. There's a silver tsunami coming our way.

David:

Isn't that right? We've been talking about that for like 20 years.

Erin:

Yes. Well, it's coming and our leadership needs support in new ways so they can manage in new ways. So that's what I hope that. This conversation continues to bring and we have a fun one today to discuss. Um, David and I were talking and he made a comment to me that I really want to dive into that I've never heard before and I thought it was hilarious and I've been thinking about it. He said, you have to risk it for the biscuit, baby. And that phrase has just been bouncing around in my head. So I really want to dive into that. Yeah. And then our other two topics that we want to talk about today is imposter syndrome, because both David and I are going through changes in our careers and kind of how we see ourselves and we're struggling with imposter syndrome as well. And then how, once we go through those two topics, we want to talk about how do we balance the five people that need us the most when they all need us at the same time, which are residents. The state agencies are their family members, our associates, the home office. And the state agencies. So it's quite the episode. So. Future stuff and things that we have going on, and I am a little bit more small stepped, timid in some of my actions, and David is like the whole vault jumper going way, way, way far ahead. And, um, he said, you have to risk it for the biscuit. So tell me about that saying, tell me, dive into what that means to you, David.

David:

But it obviously struck a chord, and I know, I mean, you being from Alabama, like, I'm speaking your language, because like, biscuits and gravy, isn't that like one of the five food groups in Alabama?

Erin:

Yes, if you have sausage. A

David:

hundred percent. There's no other way to make that, right? Yes. I mean, seriously, biscuits and gravy, a real good biscuits and gravy, where it's kind of thick on there, like, that's money in the bank. It is. Right? So if you're going to risk it, you got to get something good out of this, right? Like, if you're going to jump, you just jump off a little, a little ledge. Maybe as a two year old we do that, right? But let's jump off the cliff. You know, you see those people that are jumping off those cliffs in Hawaii, spiraling down, and then they end up in this tiny little water, which is clear, and you're like, oh my god, that's so cool. I'd never do it. Why? Is it the fear holding you back? What is it that's taking, but you got to risk it for the biscuit because the biscuit is so good. Right? I mean, Erin, seriously, I'm a Yankee. Okay. I grew up in Massachusetts, but when I got south to Florida as quickly as I could biscuits and gravy that crunchy on the outside. doughy, a little bit warm, maybe some steam when you open it up. I mean, that's just like heaven, right? Why would you not risk it to get the biscuit?

Erin:

Because you're scared. Yes. I think it's fear. I think it's fear on a mass scale, fear of rejection. And the thing that I'm kind of realizing through all of this, for me, from my perspective is. When the past defines your present and your future, you are living in fear, but when you redefine the past, then you can change the meaning of your present and certainly your future. And I have these moments where I'm like, gung ho, the past means nothing. risk in it for the biscuit and then it's like I have these moments where it's just I can't move because of Things that have held me back for a long you seem to not have any ties to anything That's happened to you. Let it go. It's like you cut them off and then they're gone and that's amazing to me

Me

David:

and Elsa were really close. We just let it go and I'll tell you why so for me When you, when you've had those, those fear conversations, those fear battles, and you have to really rise above something, it changes your outlook, it changes your perspective. I'll tell you, I'm just finishing a book by John Acuff called It Takes a Goal, right? And he talks about how we all do vision boards and future broadcasting, and this is all the stuff that we want to attain for, but it's not successful. because things happen along your way and you have to alter your course. Instead, he says to go back and write everything that's good that happened to you, not the bad stuff. What was a meaningful moment? For me, one of those is I get to drop my daughter off to school in the morning. I love literally the 20 minutes I get in the car with her, listening to her music, engaging and connecting with her. She's 14 and she still does that. And I'm going to treasure that for as long as I possibly can because someday it's not going to happen. But that's a memory and it's something positive that I love from my past that brings me forward. But I'll tell you the most defining thing that happened to me, it's actually going to be in my book, so, uh, but I'm going to give you a sneak preview. Okay, you're all right with that? Yes, I'm honored. I grew up in Sandwich, Massachusetts. Don't make fun. I did not live at the corner of peanut butter and jelly lane or turkey and cheese, okay? Or a

Erin:

biscuit. Or

David:

a biscuit. It's just a sandwich. Oh, we didn't have biscuits. That was a strange thing for us up there, right? So we came to that and I was a, um, a 10th grade. I went to in 10th grade and I was never a good student. I was a good kid. I got by, I got passed along, but C's, D's, F's were very common for me and But I was a good kid, so they passed me along until I met my 10th grade history teacher. Mr. Maps, we called him. I won't call him out by name here, although the names just hang in there for me, right? And June gets really steamy. We start getting our humidity up in Cape Cod and in St. Louis, and I remember we used to get called up to the desk to be told, Next year, here's your class. Here's what you're going to be doing that stuff. And I gotta tell you, he called me, and I started walking up, and it was like time stood still. It was like Matrix, something out of a movie. Like I could hear the fly stuck in between the screen and the, and the window. I could sense. dread. I could sense my whole world was just changing and it was so slow motion. And I got up and I stood behind his desk. And as I looked at him, he looked up at me and said, Mr. Hopkins, I'm going to put you in the slow history class next year. And it was silence because everybody in the classroom was listening. and I just felt the sinking in my body I was trying to choke back tears. and he looked over his glasses and he looked up at me and this 20 seconds changed my life. He said, don't worry Mr. Hopkins. Somebody has to run the car wash. I was devastated. I slagged back to my seat, buried my head to try and keep other kids from seeing me cry. The bell rang, I ran out, locked myself in a bathroom stall, and I thought my life was over. In a matter of 20 seconds, this guy had taken my life from I'm feeling I'm going to be a junior, I'm excited, to I have nothing to live for but pushing a car wash button to run cars through a car wash. I didn't know what to do. That summer was the toughest summer of my life. The thoughts of suicide were so prevalent. I had plans for that. I was going to commit to it. What was there to live for if I was just going to press a button for the rest of my life? And that is where I hit rock bottom. You know, I've seen this saying that's running around. Rock bottom is the best place to build your foundation. And I started building. And I will tell you, when I came up out of that, I got cocky. Like, I got super cocky. And Looking back on it, was it the most healthiest thing? Probably not, but it saved my life. I got up every morning, I looked at myself in the mirror, I told myself I was good looking, I was smart, I was intelligent, I was super good at anything and everything I could do. It didn't matter, and I would brag about it. I'd brag about it to my friends, to my family, stuff that I had never even done before, but I told them I could be the best at it. And it built a confidence. It built a strength inside of me that no matter what was going to happen, there was never going to be another 10th grade history teacher to tell me my life was worth nothing. Now, through my career, I've had to temper it back, and I think I even joked our first one, right? There's a fine line between cocky and self confident, and I dance across the line a lot. I dance across it less now that I'm older and I'm becoming more wiser, but it saved my life. And in thinking back, I'm sure that's not the intent he had for that conversation, but it's the way it impacted me. And we as leaders, no matter what we say when we're giving a write up or a disciplinary action, or even a coaching, that can affect somebody to their core. And we've got to be careful of how we do that. We can do it honestly, but we don't have to do it mean, or out for revenge, or I'm going to show you, or I'm better than you. And when you, when you adapt that ability as a leader and you know, in your core, no matter what you say to me now, you can tell me I'm going to run a carwash and I'm going to tell you, I'm going to own a carwash. I'm gonna own six car washes because I'm gonna take it and I'm gonna make it that much better because you're only one person. And the thought of a 10th grade history teacher impacting my life for the next 38 years, that's insane for a 20 second conversation. How do I give him that much power? I can't. So I stopped it. And I believe what I tell myself because there's everybody else walking a different path. And yes, they can offer advice. But the only person who's been in my shoes 24 7, 365 for the past 48 years is me. And that's why I risk it for the biscuit. Because if you're going to take a little jump, you can take a big jump, right? Because it's not fear is fear. There's no level of fear, right? I'm scared or I'm not scared. That's it. So if you're going to do it and be scared, make a big

Erin:

scare. Okay, there's so many things to unpack there because You're talking my language here, right? So, A, yes, it's amazing the impact our teachers have on us as kids, our kids, and when we were kids. And yes, that same impact we have on the people that we lead inside of our communities. So that's a horrible story. That is a great example of influence inside of a community and in our schools and how words are power because as a child, as a girl is a 15 and 16 year old girl, if somebody would have said that to me, That would have destroyed me and if I have that influence over people who look to me as a leader, I have to be careful with the words that I say and to know my words will either enhance or diminish people and then go in to say that the words that I say to myself are just as equally as important as what I say to other people because I should be adding value to me. That's been where I have struggled. I think that we all have stories that are similar in nature to the story that you shared, and I feel as if, you know, you can puff yourself up pretty high to overcome the inadequacies that you feel inside and then you react accordingly, but you're giving people power over the future. You is. Where we, as individuals, have to decide, do we stop that today so we can move forward? And I have done that. I still am very small footed when it comes to putting myself out there. And hanging out with you is actually giving me a little bit more motivation and courage, really. Because it's important who you hang around. It's important who you hang around and who you let infiltrate your mind. Um, so, and I will say, yes, when you're at rock bottom, there are lots of treasures down there. For me, it opened up creativity that I didn't even think that I had. I used to define creativity as art. But really it's a lot more than that. And it gave me permission to explore, um, that side, which has been interesting. So yes, we can learn that we are the ones who are responsible for every meaning that we put on every circumstance in our life. That's interesting to really let that sink in. You can say whatever you want to me, David. But I am the one responsible of placing the meaning on those words. Oh, David's just in a bad mood today. I'm just going to let him off the hook. He didn't mean what he said and walk away, you know, or does he, he really thinks that I'm the best. Well, I must be then, you know what I mean? So, you know, we get to choose what we believe, which is important.

David:

Jack Canfield puts this into an equation for all the math people out there, of which I am not one of them. It's E plus R equals O. Event plus the response equals the outcome. And the only thing you can control in that equation is your response.

Erin:

It's true. It's true. Ah, that's just fun to even talk about and listen to. And so let's roll right into imposter syndrome because this feeds right into when we feel inadequate because We're moving into a new phase in our life. The way that I define imposter syndrome and what I tell myself is, it's okay to feel this way because you're new. Because you don't have the experience. This doesn't mean that you're not capable. It just means you don't have the experience yet. And you have to start. Somewhere. So what do you how do you handle that? So, how are you walking through it?

David:

How am I walking through it? So, you know, when I first started becoming an executive director again, the. Innocence to that position and not knowing and appreciating that there were people above me that I thought were supporting me that have their own battles and their own their own problems. Right? And that's the thing to remember is everybody gets up in the morning. Everybody brushes their teeth, puts on their pants the same way you do, 20 40 60 years of experience, multiple doctorate degrees or whatever it is. Yeah. They start the same way you do every morning. And yes, there's investment and there's appreciation for that knowledge, but we're all the same people and we're all fighting a battle. And that's the first thing you gotta keep in mind. The imposter syndrome comes from when you start in between here, putting more value than what you're, than what you see, right? So, I'm planning a conference in February. And I shared this with you, right? There are three people I'm planning this conference with. In my head, I have imposter syndrome. Why would I even be there? My first keynote, I was so excited to give and I did the publicity around it and everything. Then they announced the middle keynote and the closing keynote. The middle keynote was the former, uh, FEMA secretary under three presidents. The closing keynote was the first female explorer to summit all seven mountains, highest peaks on the continents, by herself. And I'm going, what the heck do I bring to this? You ask me? Like, I don't even I feel like I'm on a level with that, but that was all right here. It was just me. Nobody else thought that. And I showed up, I presented, and I got amazing feedback. Much like we've gotten on this, this podcast, right? We've got people that are saying, please keep going. Please keep talking about the hard issues and everything that we've doubted. It's just between us here in our brain. And it's our imposter syndrome. It's us not feeling validated. And it comes from those histories of the, the leaders that have said, you're never going to amount to anything. You're not good enough. You're going to the slow history class. Don't worry, Mr. Hopkins, somebody's got to run the car wash. And when you devalue those inner voices. Because it's a whole lot easier to criticize than it is to build ourselves up. And, oh, I can't be that. That's boastful. That, that's not a good thing. I can't do that. I'm good. I have a value. People have a story. And when you connect with, like, people that have value, and you keep encouraging each other, We go farther.

Erin:

Yes, we do. I think one thing I want to touch base there with the being a leader inside of the community and imposter syndrome. When you when you're trying to change culture and you're trying to build momentum, if you're turning a problematic community around, you're going to run into big, thick barriers. People don't want change. They don't want you to hold them accountable. They don't want to do what it takes To turn the ship around and so you're going to start doubting everything that you want, do, say, and you're going to, you're going to want to give in because it's easy to give in and what we have to say to ourselves is, is that what the goal is to give in, or is the goal to push through? And so when you start doubting yourself, see if it's, the people who are causing you to doubt, do you want their level of success? Do you want the other person's level of success, or do you want the other person's level of success who is telling you to keep going? Because whose voice you listen to is key about where and when and the type of success that you will get. It's easy to listen to the multitude of voices who want to keep the culture the same. So easy to get into that and for you to think that you're crazy. Because I have been there many times, but... If you want that level of success, then stay where you are, and if you want that 100 percent level, that good survey, great place to work, um, you know, queen of the hill, king and queen of the hill, and you need to listen to the people who've had the success that tells you to keep going through the hard stuff. Don't listen to the voices that are trying to keep you the same. That's important. That's very, very important. But I do, I also want to bring up, I'm thinking about this. With imposter syndrome and self doubt because there's a lot of C suite people that go out and talk about this in podcasts. But I have never had, and maybe you have, I don't know, inside my career, anybody talk to me about mindset, about leadership. I mean, within the senior living industry, I have not had that. And so, to hear people talk about it so freely on podcast I just thought, why, why haven't I heard that when I was in the industry and it made me think that the funnel of support in senior living is broken and here's why I say that if, like you said earlier, the regional support team. It's coming to you and they have their own set of issues and they're on conference calls and they're putting out fires and they're in your community and they're trying to be a support to you, but they organically cannot because everything else that's going on, who is pouring into them? Mindset. Mm-hmm. who is pouring into them Leadership. Because typically it's like vice president, regional support, community support, right? So if they are not getting what they need to be a support to you in a way to help you navigate through the trials, then how can we expect them if they're not getting the support they need to pour into you? How can we expect them to pour into us with what we need? Right. Have you seen that or have you seen an opposite? Have you seen the good parts of it?

David:

So I've absolutely seen that and I use that to my advantage. So I was not a typical leader. I didn't grow up in senior living. I came to it very, um, inorganically having been through a family journey with my dad and my grandparents and having been in healthcare and then started it as an executive director and I flipped it. The executive director can control the entire culture of a building. That's why I love that job. You can affect change very quickly. You can get rid of the naysayers. You can hold them accountable. You can say, no, I refuse. Do it again. Do it again. I would do bed making classes because I want a bed to look good when you walked into somebody's room. It was a judgment factor for me. I wanted that expectation. So I did bed making classes. I made it a competition, but the regional support ended up coming down and after I figured out how this whole thing worked, you know, let me come down do my checklist, da da da da da, here we go. That's great. What can I do for you? Because I'm going to take care of all this stuff and flip the funnel. Let me pour into you so that you can hopefully pour that back up. Here's how we're going to do things in this community. And that took a lot of barbs coming back. No, no, no. This is our corporate culture. You know, this is our mission statement. Okay, go ahead. Recite it. We are in senior living to promote as they struggle, right? Because they don't know. It's okay. Most of the mission statements, maybe you got 5 percent of the community can recite, right? But if you make it targeted, you make it involved and you make your culture what you want it to be, you can flip it and pour into the regional that hopefully pours into the vice president and pours it back in, right? Because then you take care of the nonsense stuff. And you can really move that culture further and further. And then you'll find the regionals coming down to maybe hide, take an extra day, do some extra work, come in. They know they're not having to worry about that stuff. Then you'll become more of an ally versus a problem child.

Erin:

I had always had great relationships with the majority of my regionals. Um, they certainly changed a lot, uh, as that role is quite the struggle and hard to manage. That's hard to manage. And so I think it's important for the executive director to know that it's okay to get the support that you need from outside your company if you're not getting the mindset support or the motivation inspiration support. there are people like David and I who want to pour into you, um, that want to see you succeed. Don't quit because it's too hard and you don't have enough support. Commit to growth through the hard times and I think that that should be like our saying right like commit to growth and we want to support you in that way. And so that's what bring the questions to us. We'll talk about them, reach out to us. Like, you have been doing and that's, I think that's the level of support that I know that I want to bring and I feel like you do too is. It's hard. Yes. And there is help, but be aware that maybe the funnel is broken for your, your regional support team too. the mindset of having to balance the five groups of people is really hard. So we have the residents, their families, the associates, your home office. And your, um, state agencies who survey you. All of that is a lot to try to balance. And if you haven't been told that that is what's going to happen as your role as an executive director or even as a nurse, Um, your role is to balance those five very important, equally important, People and the state agencies aren't going to come all the time. They're just going to expect you to expect them to come all the time. So how did anybody tell you that that's how your job's going to be? And then tell me when you got, like, wiped out by it. And then tell me when you figured out how to manage it.

David:

Yeah, um, so when I first became an executive director, I thought that, you know, I'm managing staff and I'm managing residents and that was probably naive of me because I was a family member and my dad was an assisted living and ended up passing away and I was on the phone a lot with them asking and figuring out what was going on with medications and things like that. And then you got the state agency and the first time that I had a state agency come in and visit, I was. I had come from Disney for 10 years, and we had to deal with OSHA. So that was a little bit different, but the first thing I realized is, you know, there are people too. And our state agencies are pretty much overworked and underpaid. And so when they walked in, I said, so I'm brand new to this. Tell me how this works. Help me to understand it. Help me to be better. And. Really allying or relying for them to become my ally versus my competitor. I didn't need them to come in and point out everything that I was doing wrong. Help me understand how is that important? Why does that relate? Where do I, where can I be better at those pieces of that? And taking first that mindset of I want to improve and you're here to help me do that. Outside fresh face. Great. Awesome. I've only been in the community about six, eight months. I really want to see. what else I need to be doing and focusing on that I don't know about, right? Because you can't get your arms around a big community like that in such a short amount of time. So, making them your ally right away, um, is the best thing. And then of course, family members. Now, we've all had them, we all know them, and you've got like three names that are running through your head right now of the most involved and all knowing and OCA or state speed dial number ready to go on their cell phone for anything that you screw up, right? If you can make them your friends. And make them your allies, life gets really easy, really quickly because everybody else who doesn't want to complain goes to them so that they can spin it and make a loud ruckus. And once they do, then it gets your attention and they're not the bad person, right? We've all seen it. We see how it works. We see the families that align with each other. And once you become partners with them. Then they're going to be on your side and they'll be like, Oh, no, they would never do that. Hey, you know, just talk to them and I'm sure they'll, they'll have a solution or some more knowledge of what's going on.

Erin:

Yes, I think the number 1 thing an executive director can do to help alleviate a lot of stress for every other manager, including themselves, is to get the trust from all of the families. If you follow up and you follow through with every phone call consistently, you are buying trust. And if they trust you as a leader, then they will trust everything else because they know that you are on it. I learned through years that that was my role as an executive director, not to do the tasks, but to get the trust, the buy in for my families and for my residents, so when and if something happened, they knew that they could trust me or that I was given the benefit of the doubt because I've put so many deposits in that emotional bank. So if you're new executive director of you're struggling, make your focus. It's gaining the trust of your families and your residents. Follow up, follow through, don't let a phone call go unreturned for 24 hours. That's a huge task that you can start doing right now. One of the craziest experiences that I had with a family, there's a lot, but the one that sticks out in my mind is hangers. I mean, it was about hangers, clothes hangers. Loved one was taken care of. Okay. But clothes hangers, we could not get past clothes hangers. Like, I don't know. I don't know how to manage this situation with clothes hangers. I don't know how to do that. But. Loved one is well fed, happy, looks great, but clothes are hanging on the wrong hangers.

David:

I was in a community as an executive director, we had a lady and her sister was in, uh, her power of attorney because she had never married, didn't have kids, and she dressed her sister in all white polo. Nothing was not polo. Everything was white. And I had a resident care assistant decide to wash her clothes and not check the pockets. So, white polo. For everything but hot pink nail polish. Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. Not checking the pocket for the nail polish bottle that was sitting in there, that went into the washer, and then went into the dryer, and we look like we just came from a Grateful Dead concert because everything had been tie dyed pink. She came rip roaring in my office, and I'm like... I got it. Let me figure it out. I'll get back to you. It was in the wintertime, so even in Florida, we didn't have white out on the racks. I went to Macy's. I went to every store known to man to try and find white polo. I was on the polo website trying to order stuff. Nope. Last year's model. We don't carry that. Finally, I just said, I can credit your bill, whatever you need to purchase, we'll, we'll, we'll take care of that. What I didn't know is that the sister went to the same Macy's that I went to, spoke to the same lady in the women's department asking for white polo outfits, and the lady looked at her and said, there was a guy here last week trying to look for the same thing, that's so weird. And she came back and she goes, did you go to Macy's? Yeah? Well, I didn't think you would. Well, I told you I was going to. That was in 2008. When I took over a community in 2003, there was a couple there and they came up and said the sister's name and said, she says you're the best and we're in good hands because I made a trip to Macy's to try and replace those clothes. Now, listen, we had a lot of conversations about checking pockets. Cause you know, as kid, when you have kids, you got to check everything. Cause God forbid the frog goes through the washing machine. It's not fun and pleasant to pick that out of the pocket. No, I wouldn't. Just throw it out. Get rid of it. Not worth it.

Erin:

But that's how you build trust. That's that going the extra mile for trust. And not a lot of people would do that. And that's important. And not only did you build trust for the family, but you planted a seed to that person at Macy's. Yes. Lots of seeds there. And to end, I think in a recap setting, but You, you really do reap what you sow in life, and if that's not a number one leadership principle, I don't know what is. So you make sure that the seeds that you're sowing are that of joy, love, passion, and adding value to people and honoring them. And then when it's time for your harvest, you will see it. It's, it's just, that's just the mainstay of what life is. So if you are in that leadership role, just add value to people, solve their problems, hear them, but be strict on culture and stay consistent with the principles, not the circumstances. That is very, very important. And then listen to the good voices, right? Absolutely. What's your, what's your phrase, David?

David:

You gotta risk it for the biscuit.

Erin:

Yeah, baby. Risk it for the biscuit. Don't let your past define your present and your future. And imposter syndrome is literally just being new at something. You're going to have to stand on top of all your failures in order to be really good at something anyways. So, and I don't think that failing is something that we talk about enough in senior living. But from a leadership and culture building and an occupancy building, sometimes you just have to be bad at something until you're good at it.

David:

Absolutely.

Erin:

Risk it for the biscuit. Risk it for the biscuit. Thank you, David, for being here. I appreciate it as always. And on to the next month, the next episode, right?

David:

That's right. Send in your comments. We want to hear more. If there's something pressing that's happening and you want us to talk about it, we're happy to dive into it.

Erin:

Absolutely. And as always aspire for more for you.