Leading a senior living organization is a special calling, one that’s both personally and professionally rewarding. It’s also challenging, even on the quietest of days. When a crisis happens, the entire organization is on alert; staff, residents and family members are impacted in a variety of ways.
A crisis doesn’t have to be an explosion, an evacuation, or a loss of life. A crisis can begin as a bad habit, an unresolved problem, or poor leadership; it can quietly simmer until it overflows into something bigger, something that over time can impact an organization’s ability to fulfill its purpose and mission. Once that suffers, so does an organization’s bottom line.
The only way to manage and survive a crisis – whether it’s immediate and life-threatening or ongoing and behind the scenes – is by following the Boy Scout mantra, Be Prepared.
Develop a Crisis Communications Plan
It goes without saying, but we’ll say it anyway. You need a crisis plan, one that doesn’t collect dust on the bookshelf or is lost on your company’s hard drive.
The plan doesn’t have to be a 300-page, five-pound document. It needs to be simple; a roadmap that your crisis team can follow while emotions are high and adrenaline is at its peak. With the right crisis training and preparation, the crisis team can respond almost on autopilot because they’ve practiced, practiced, practiced.
Get Your Reputation in Pique Condition
Warren Buffet said, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.”
You’ll do things differently. Everyday things. Things that represent the culture of your community, the fiber of your organization, and the spirit of the people who live and work there. These things fill your organization’s goodwill well and during a crisis, you want that well overflowing.
Organizations have a million opportunities every day to fill the goodwill well. These opportunities come from:
Relationships. How do leaders and staff interact with residents, families, community partners, online followers, and government officials. Are they honest and transparent? Responsive and respectful? Friendly, polite, and patient?
Media relationships, in particular, need to be handled with care. Invite members of the media to your community for events or programming so they can get to know your wonderful residents and staff. Always meet their deadlines; be a good resource for them, even if you aren’t part of the story, and never lie or mislead them. Share your good news often.
Behavior. How do staff behave when no one is looking. Do they do the right thing even if no one is there to see or appreciate the goodwill? Think about your community driver’s interaction with the general public while he waits for residents to return to the van from a grocery store outing. Every smile, pleasantry, and polite conversation he has with a passerby or store manager is an investment in your goodwill well.
Communication. Is everyone open, honest, responsive and respectful? Do residents and staff feel heard? Can they feel safe and comfortable sharing concerns or problems with leadership?
Attitude. Is everyone welcoming, positive, patient, helpful, respectful? Does your staff follow through on promises and go above and beyond in their service and care?
Community presence. Is your organization a good neighbor? Are residents and staff generous with their time and talent? Does your organization open its doors to the community and share its resources and expertise? Does your organization partner with schools and universities?
Earning the Benefit of the Doubt
It’s in our nature to want to give people and organizations the benefit of the doubt. It’s also in our nature to look for the bad and expect the worst, especially in senior care.
If your goodwill well is full when a crisis unfolds, people are willing to give you more grace. They’re willing to give you the benefit of the doubt and listen with an open mind as you acknowledge, explain and fix the situation. People who like and trust you (your brand) and consider you a good neighbor (employer, partner, senior living community) will stand by you.
Do you have questions or can we help? Call (561) 251-3151 or visit firstname.lastname@example.org.