Aspire for More with Erin

Are We Making Leadership too Hard -a conversation with David Hopkins

November 01, 2023 Erin Thompson
Aspire for More with Erin
Are We Making Leadership too Hard -a conversation with David Hopkins
Show Notes Transcript

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Erin:

Hi guys, it's another David and Erin episode, but it's a little bit different today because David has some exciting news and David, I'll let you take it away. Tell us what's going on.

David:

Oh, thanks so much, Aaron. It is super exciting and very nerve wracking that I am publishing my first book in leadership. And, we talked last time about imposter syndrome and what does people, what are people going to really want to read about and things like that. for me, it was coming from Disney into health care and just really felt led to bring this book so that hopefully it can help leaders become better leaders. And I think we've made it way too complicated, right? It's just, there's so many things, so many demands on a leadership. person's time that we need to focus on the basics again, just like when we were in school and we messed up or, we had to go over a spelling test and we have to go over those letters by letters and word by word so that we know what we're doing and then we can build on that. And sometimes I think we've skipped past the basics. I think you and I've had a few conversations about training in senior living and when we become an executive director. And you're just magically supposed to know everything right away. I'm really super excited to announce that Kazoo Leadership is coming out November 1st. and for me, the piece that I really want to bring to people is just for any leader to pick up this book. And if I asked you to give me an hour and you spend 10, To change your leadership style, would you invest in that? Because the book is 9. 99 on Amazon, you can download it on Kindle as well, Audible, you can hear me read it, that was a lot of fun doing that. But I really want to bring leadership back to the basics. I've had some good leaders and I've had some not so good leaders, and I really want to show those stories and let new leaders learn from my mistakes and have old leaders maybe even just say, Hey, I need to rethink this. So I'm super excited. Kazoo leadership is

Erin:

coming out. Oh, so many things to talk about. So show us the book. Show us the book so we can see the picture. There

David:

it is! Five notable steps to becoming a great leader.

Erin:

Yeah, so what made you choose kazoo leadership?

David:

the kazoo... Have you ever played a kazoo,

Erin:

Erin? I don't know if I could say played. But I certainly have tried.

David:

Oh, you've tried to play a kazoo. That's awesome. what if I told you everything you needed to know about leadership You could learn from a kazoo. Would you believe me? I would find

Erin:

it very hard. I would say, please tell me more.

David:

So in leadership, we do very different things. And the subtitle of my book is five notable steps to becoming a great leader. And the first step in becoming a leader is. You have to understand what it is, no matter what you're doing, any scenario for all the leaders out there listening right now and you're sitting in front of a problem. Let's walk through these steps together. What is it? We have to define the problem and much like a kazoo, we've tried to play it or eek out a sound and with a little instruction because of what it is. We can teach you to start making music, right? So with a kazoo, there's a larger end. There's a smaller end and you hum into the bigger end. You do not blow. And most people stick the smaller end in because they think it's like a trumpet. I'm going to blow through it and. When I talk and I do this talk for a keynote speech, it's fun because I'll hand out kazoos to everybody. And the HR folks are very concerned. Aaron, do you want the yellow one or the blue one? Because I want to make sure you're happy, right? the operation folks are shoving it in their mouth. They're trying to get a sound out of it. one guy gets it out or one girl gets it out and they're like, okay, I'm the expert now. Everybody can look at me. And then the quality assurance folks. Broken doesn't work. But once we tell them what it is, then we can start to learn how to use it and learning how to use it is that hum, right? So if we tell you in leadership what this is about, now we've got to teach you and help you to learn how to use it. Because most of the times, I know I've shown up to a few executive director positions, and I didn't see my boss till the first, end of the first week, maybe the second. Got some videos to do to qualify and get my training, right? The same bad YouTube videos that we've been watching since... Seems like 1964, when grandma was going into our nursing home and we're like, yeah, we don't use a track tapes anymore. So let's update that a little bit. But once you have an idea and you learn how to use the kazoo or your problem, you can start making music, right? And the fun part is when, as a leader, if you give kazoos to everybody and you teach them how to use it, then you say, play a song. What's the first song that pops

Erin:

in your head? in this conversation, we'll say, it's a small world.

David:

It's a small world. Wow. I totally thought you were going to be a Guns and Roses girl, but okay, we'll go

Erin:

with that. we could, we can say welcome to the jungle.

David:

Welcome to the jungle.

Erin:

I really dig in Van Halen's right now.

David:

Good guitar riff. I like that. Okay. So let's take Welcome to the Jungle, right? What would your husband choose? Oh,

Erin:

Lord. probably some country song right now.

David:

Okay. Little Walker Hayes, Thomas Redd.

Erin:

He likes Morgan Wallen right now. It's Killing Me by Morgan Wallen. Living the Dream by Morgan Wallen.

David:

Hey, I like it. Yeah, that's all good songs. If we both play, then we're not playing together. Are we? There was a leader. We've got to establish that starting them right for all our teams. So when we're doing this in a big group, I love to start with happy birthday because I love birthdays. I'm a Gemini born May 30th. And I celebrate all month. The whole month of May is my birthday month. I just don't have one day and April is my countdown to my birthday month. Side note, when I was seven, we started observing holidays on the Monday so you could have the long weekend. And that was the, I would, when I turned seven, I realized that the parade for Memorial Day wasn't for my birthday. that was a hard year. That was a

Erin:

hard year.

David:

Back to starting up. So we've got to select our starting note and then we get everybody to play the same music together. And as a leader, we conduct them through. You don't have to micromanage every note. if I told you to hum happy birthday, the notes, there's a lot of notes and happy birthday. If you add more people onto it, every note is individual. Could you imagine? And we have some of them out there. Those micromanagers. They want to go, Oh, nope, this note is here. Now, Oh, now we're going to this note. By the time you get to your happy birthday, it's Oh my God, there's over a thousand notes. You're going to micromanage every one of them? Why do I need to be here as a leader? But you can't. And conductors do that a lot, right? So if you go to a symphony or the kids school chorus, right? The conductor stands up with their back to the audience so they can see their team. Because that's the most important. And we're always taught when we go on stage, we need to be looking at the audience. Turn around. So they're focused on their audience or their team. They give them that starting note and they conduct them through. And there may be points in an orchestra that they look up to their conductor to say, Oh, am I doing this? Yep. Okay. I'm on the right path. And off they go back to playing. That's when you create a team that knows what they're doing because they know what it is. They know how to use it. They've started a note and they're being conducted through it. We're setting up successful teams. They play beautiful music. And then what happens at the end? Standing ovation. Everybody

Erin:

claps. We've got to celebrate, right?

David:

Yes. Even, I've done the keynotes with the kazoo for up to 750 people. I got everybody playing happy birthday in the matter of moments. I don't know these people. I don't know their life history. I don't know their story or anything like that. But I can accomplish a task and I can give them purpose and mission around it to get to the end and they all congratulate each other. Five simple steps to being successful from absolutely nothing. What it is. How do you use it? Starting note. Conduct through and then you've got to celebrate. Yeah. Simple, just like a kazoo. I

Erin:

love how you referenced the book a while back in one of your LinkedIn posts. You asked a question about, are we making leadership too hard? And yes, the answer to that is yes. I, used to think Clearly I'm doing something wrong. This is never getting easier. I'm like expecting things to just be simple and all the hard work to create leadership to be just this seamless flow of love and milk and honey and harmony and the, the garden of the blooms with the unicorns and the rainbows. But the truth is it's always going to be complicated because we are complicated beings. And I think when you release the idea that things have to be perfect, or they'll get better when I'm reach a different level, then you can actually live in the present and not have so much, resentments and disappointments potentially, because it's always going to be difficult. Like it's, you're going to have moments of ease, but just like leadership is hard. Parenting is hard and you can love your kids. Unconditionally, but it's still parenting is hard. It's hard. And now we, the comparison is a slippery slope, but in some of my presentations, I use the, the example of, of parenting and leadership and saying like, when you become a parent. Is it about you? is it about you? And so when you become a leader, that's the one thing that you have to understand. It's not, one thing is not about you. And when it does become about you, that's when your team falls apart. so are we making leadership too hard? Yes. Is it always going to be hard for the most part, for the most part, it's going to be difficult. but in the fine words of John Maxwell, you can choose that every day we're either repairing or preparing. And so with the fine words of David Hopkins, he can help you live in a preparing mindset instead of a repairing mindset.

David:

Absolutely. I was when you just mentioned something about the differences and especially in the parenting world. And, I would remember watching a video when I got to be an executive director about how to transfer a resident and it was 30 minutes long. And then supposedly I was supposed to know everything about transferring a resident that point in time. Yeah. And, I walked in with my nurse to one resident the first one, just because it was random and I wanted. Yeah. Test out my new skills and. none of those work. She had a stroke, so she couldn't use one side of her arm and her body. And there was, pain if you tried to lift up on it and she's Oh, so we got to do something a little different here. I'm like, I wasn't covered in the video, but the video told me I was ready. And we have to understand what it is. And each person has their own want, in the book, I use an analogy. What is the car? The why is your gasoline to make the cargo right? And we've known nurses and people that are in senior living, especially that have a purpose, right? I care for grandma. My mom was a nurse. I've been entrenched into this. There's purpose. There's mission. There's value around that. And that drives them, but they're the what so quick little story. It's in the book too. But, When I was, like, growing up, I grew up in a town called Sandwich, Massachusetts. And on Friday night, we'd go to Sandwich Pizza. Sandwich Pizza is owned by Tommy. Tommy was, like, this larger than life guy. Always flipping pizzas. as a five year old, Tommy's your hero, right? Because unlimited pizza, root beer. He's so fun. We get to go there. And the counter was super high for me. So I couldn't see up. And I'd always scream up, Tommy, you know what? Tommy, you know what? Constantly. I was that kid, right? I own it. I apologize to Tommy. We'll send him some, some chocolates afterwards to work through that piece of it. But I wanted to be part of that. And by the time he'd come over, he'd go look over the counter and he'd go, what? And I'm like, I forgot. But from there, I wanted to be part of it, right? I was the what, and I wanted to be in that excitement. And then you find your why as to how that actually helps you drive that. So even now, like when I go back home, if I'm walking across the parking lot, at the grocery store or something, I might hear through the parking lot, Hey, you know what? And that's Tommy. And that's been our thing ever since. So that what piece is so important, but it's the why that drives you.

Erin:

It does. I think it's important to remember your why it can get lost a little bit inside. The mountain of occupancy and finances and budgets and expectations. But I think that those who remember why they do it can overcome those odds to succeed. I think one thing that I've learned in the past year is that half, I would say less than half, because C suites and investors do not make up the majority of the senior living industry, but that sector. Primarily views this industry as a real estate industry. And I didn't understand that I didn't embody that understanding until this year. And so if we know that, like if the leaders inside the community understand that we're probably not talking the same language, then they don't have to house all of the. Negative energy that can bring when two people don't understand each other. And so remembering your why and keeping that front and center, I think will cause your success to happen faster because money comes when you pay attention to your customer, and then leadership comes when you pay attention to you. And how you can serve your team, think why one reason that we make it too hard is that we don't focus on creating a culture of a team achieving greatness, because the pressures on the leader and so we constantly feel like we have to. We have to succeed when really the, we is the team, it's the entire embodiment of the human spirit inside that community. And not just one person. How would you, does your book help teach people like the difference, like how do you take that? Why? And the pressure that you feel of having to be a success and translate it to bring a team into success. So do you talk about that? I suppose you do if you're teaching us how to play happy birthday on the kazoo. Absolutely.

David:

That's, wow, that's a really good question. So yes, is a short answer. But what we have to realize Is, do you remember a really bad leader you had? Yes, right there. Do you see your eyes just flex this name came across your face, right? You don't say it. It's fine. And everybody out there is going, Oh yeah, I got this one. It's an idiot, right? You know that leader failed. You did not have a good situation. Maybe you worked out of it. Maybe you work around it, whatever that was, but it was not a good situation. When we go back and we look at that and understand why that happened, then you can understand what kind of leader you want to become. Much like my first job, I was scooping ice cream at Ice Cream Sandwich in Sandwich, Massachusetts. I lasted seven hours. I did not complete my first shift. I still have my pay stub for 28, but I wasn't trained. It was a Friday night, super busy on in sandwich. I scream up the wazoo. I can scoop an ice cream cone all day long. Hey, can I have one of your specialty Sundays? Oh, hang on a second. So I go, I asked one of my team members. They helped me out and I create the Sunday and I go back, I'm going to have one of those two. Crap. Okay. Am I doing this right? Hang on a second. Let me just double check. And I'm slowing down the process. I became the weakest link in the chain before my shift even ended. The owner of the ice cream sandwich pulls me aside and he goes, David, this just doesn't work at half. Now other pressures on top of that, he was my dad's good friend. He was one of our high school teachers, small town all over the place. And I really respected the guy. I was really excited about working there, but I hadn't gotten trained. And so I've learned that going forward that I want to be a good training leader because I don't want people to be in that situation where I put them on the front line and they don't feel like I've either trained them correctly or that I don't have their back. My first senior living job I went into as an executive director, I guess the common practice was When the state came in for survey, the director of nursing got thrown under the bus. That's not how I work. And so when they came in, I was like, no, I got this. And, yeah, we had some mistakes. I said, okay, I got it. This is on me and we'll get it fixed and we'll move forward. And she came up to me afterwards and she was like, why didn't you just say it was my problem? because my name's on the license, not yours. And I said, and if we're going to be a team together, you've got to trust me and you've got to know that. When the fire and the arrows start coming, I step right out in front. That's all me. As leaders, we need, it's not about us. Just like you said, we've got to take our team, build them up so that they can be so super strong that none of that even happens because they know what they're doing. They're well trained and they're well thought in that process, and it's all together. How many times have you received an email from your regional or somebody like that? And it says, Oh, my God, your maintenance is over budget. Go figure out right. It's like your cat chasing a feather toy. Oh, my God, I got to go over here. Now I got to go over here and you're back and forth. And that's just fire drill management. You're running from little fire to little fire, putting it out, put the team in place. Talk to the main instructor say, look at this is our budget. If you're going to have this, I need to know that ahead of time. And that's on a sticky note on the side of your computer. So when your regional emails you, hey, you're over. Yeah, we had a big flood and needed to do some stuff. And here's why. And here's all the receipts. Oh, okay. And then nobody's going to tell you, no, I'm getting that piece done. So when you have those answers and they're ready, and you've got a team that's working for you to help support you, you as a leader can take that and start driving it forward. So yes, in that piece, you've got to figure out those moments. But when you learn from the people that you've not had a good experience with as a leader, you can take that and transcend that over to this positive side and be the leader that you want to be. Yeah.

Erin:

Be what you needed to be in that moment. Yeah. There was a leader that came in one time, didn't even know me and what I had done for that community. And it was the biggest bullying, like I'm going to say bullying because there was no other word for it, And I just collapsed, in the sense of, I didn't know how to talk to him. I didn't know how to respond to him. I literally was shaking in my boots. but yeah, I don't ever want to be that type of leader, All it did is clam people up and scared to move. And then you have other leaders in your life that just challenged you to think differently, challenges you like, Hey, maybe your line of thinking is stinking thinking, and you should think about in a different way, And yeah, I think the biggest takeaway is. We're making it too hard. It's not about us. I think it becomes, like I said before, very difficult when we, when it's all about us, it's really all about them. I once had an activities director and I took this very, negatively at first. I was young. It was really young. I don't even remember what position I might've been a concierge. At the time, I can't remember, but this activities director was very popular within the community. And he said to me, you have to make it all about them so it can be all about you. And I really took that and I was like, Oh, it needs to be all about them all the time. It should never be about you. But I think now I understand. What he meant was when you make the effort all about them, you get the results that other people will then look at and say, congratulations, you're doing a great job. And then it becomes from a bird level. Looking down this leader is doing a great job in that sense. It becomes about you. But what we want to make sure is that you have, if you're giving everything to a team, into your group of residents and families and upper management sees that they really need to be pouring into the leader because somebody needs to be pouring into the leader. And that's what this book is for. If your upper management is not pouring into you. And uplifting you and giving you growth opportunities. Then I think you have to invest in yourself, which is something that I didn't do for a long time. And then I started to do, but that's what books like this, the kazoo leadership, five notable steps to become a great leader by David Hopkins, podcasts like this and LinkedIn content that I tell people all the time to find in the senior living industry, that's where you find people that can pour into you. an hour for 10 to learn how things could be better for you, is a good investment. Take notes and then take action, right?

David:

Absolutely. It's, and as a young leader, you don't, right? Because you're so worried about the perception of you as a leader and you're at home and it's eight o'clock at night and you're checking your email to make sure there's not something you missed or, That's just a vicious cycle if you get into that and your body can't even rest and recuperate so that you can give your best the next morning. down in Florida we got hurricanes and sometimes you're the community for 48 straight hours and you've got to realize that People then pick back up with their lives and they keep going on and you need time to down, rest, relax, because sleeping on a cot in your office is no fun whatsoever. But if you don't formulate that, or if you don't have a good leader who's helping guiding you and connecting you with those decision making processes, or even saying, go home, you've got to set boundaries for yourself because you're not going to be any good. And then you're going to get sick. Then you're going to be out for a week, and you're going to be laying in bed, still trying to check email, and it's stop. Stop the insanity. You can't be there 24 7. But if you prepare your team, you explain what it is and how to do it, they're off and running. So only when you're conducting do you have to... at very few times, are you going to have to guide your team at that point in time? So the investment up front, like you said, is huge to help you relax and really let go of the reins and let the horses really run. And then you can see what the team will do. Because together, you're going to achieve so much more than you just trying to drive it forward. You're just going to keep making small incremental steps.

Erin:

I didn't know that you knew me when I was inside of a community. I feel like I've been seen. I still check my email constantly.

David:

I have gotten better at that. Close it off. And listen, if there's, if there's that emergency, somebody's gonna pick up the phone and call you, right? We got a flood. We got a whatever it is at that point in time. But there's nothing on an email that isn't going to be there. And as leaders, we need to demonstrate that for our team, right? You got the activities director who was there all night for, through Christmas. you see them and then New Year's Eve and they're up till midnight. And it's they come crawling back in the next morning to make sure all the activities stop, go home, rest. You just had a huge season from Thanksgiving all the way through Christmas. everybody and their brother wants to come sing a Christmas carol at an assisted living during that time. And you're like, hey, how about April? April's good, come on back. Oh, but it's that time in that season and they need their time to rest. So if you're not doing that as a leader for your team, that's one of those pieces that you need to say, Hey, it's time, take a break, rest, because then you're going to come back better and refreshed.

Erin:

I loved it. I had two specific regional directors that would look at me and tell me, you need to take a day off. You need to leave, you need to, and it's like, when they told me that I feel like I could relax. I feel like, okay, I have to do what they told me because they're my supervisor, but they were doing it because they, saw the toll, like that. Psychotic anxiety. I have to do this, and this blah, blah, blah, blah. and I look back and I just value that so much. Cause I knew that they cared for me and I knew that they found the pattern and here's the pattern probably for most people. Now, not everybody has young children. I have had young children. but they, the pattern was when my balance on my life balance was. when it wasn't as, and balance is a tricky word, but when it was down one way more than the other, the anxiety was higher, I'm trying to get all this stuff done so I can go and do this and that's when they are just like, look, everything's fine. Just take tomorrow off. I'm like, I can't do that. And they're like. Yes, you can. Oh, so then I started doing that to my team and just to, reiterate your point and it is true. I changed and I started telling my team, I started giving to them what I desperately wanted because before then I wasn't respecting their time off because my time off wasn't being respected. And so all of a sudden that. Flow of communication was just 24 hours a day, seven days a week. But when I made the intentional effort to respect their days off, when I'm manager on duty or when they're on PTO, it must be like seriously important for me to talk to them. And then they started respecting my time. And so really as the leader, you set the tone of how the boundaries are set. Absolutely. When I became the example of how I wanted to be treated because I treated them a certain way because before the lines were blurred. Constantly. And that was, I would take ownership of that because I, because I would call the way to do that. It just is like on Thursday and Friday, when you know that your manager on duty, you start looking at the other managers and asking them, are there going to be any surprises this weekend? What does staffing look like? What's going on in your department? And so you can answer those questions and solve the problems when you're on. When you're on duty that weekend and not have to bother people, you do that one weekend. Everything changes. You do that multiple weekends. Everything changes such a good point. I'm glad you brought that up, David. Anything else that you want to talk about in the book? Where can they get it? Let's talk about that again. The title. Yeah, we already know how important it is.

David:

Azuleadership, five notable steps to becoming a great leader. It's wherever fine books are sold. So that means Amazon, Barnes Noble, you can order it on Amazon starting midnight, November 1st. Yes, I'm going to stay up and watch it click over. there's a Kindle version on, Barnes Noble. There's an e publisher. And then coming very soon is the Audium. Audible version where I will read you the story in about an hour. it's also on iTunes and all those good places. I'm super excited to see it out there. If you, do purchase a copy, which I hope you do, please leave, send me a note, leave a review on there. I'm excited to see where this goes. my 10th grade English teacher is probably going, Oh my God, I don't know that David should write a book. But it's been an exciting process to go through. very humbling and knowing that I'm not an attention to detail kind of guy. had some great people around me to help support that process through, encouragement and getting it to the finish line. And I'm just so proud and so excited to see it. And I'm so excited for the message that it's going to bring the leaders that it's okay. Boil it back down to the basics and let's get back to this because everybody can be a great leader. And everybody has the opportunity to do that and how do you set that up and your guidelines will be super easy with the book and continue forward as you continue to grow as a leader.

Erin:

Absolutely. What a pleasure it is to know David Hopkins and to be part of his beginning into authorship and changing people's lives. It's awesome. Thank you, David. I appreciate it. I'm excited to read it. And, as always aspire for more for you.