How do we stay ‘true to ourselves’ as Leaders? Fred Rogers gives us insight

Many of us wake up each morning and jump into our  ‘work role.’  We think, “How can I be the best Leader today? ” Then, we try to fit what we think that label means.

  • We hide our quirks.
  • We undo our uniqueness.
  • We aim to fit in.
  • We try to look, talk, and act perfectly.

But what if there was another way? What if we could radically embrace who we truly are  — the whole and capable, vulnerable, and ‘real’ person we’ve been since our childhood?

Fred Rogers, one of the biggest proponents of this message, asked us to do just that.

If you grew up watching Mister Rogers, you might still be able to picture him: walking in the door. Singing a little song. Asking, “Won’t you be my neighbor?”

When his show debuted in the ’60s, the program and, well, Mister Rogers himself didn’t fit the mold of successful TV. He was an older, kind man, chatting with his neighborhood pals, putting on a sweater or tying up his shoes, and, yes, sometimes having a heart-to-heart with a puppet.

He did his own thing—and that was the whole mission and message of his show: You can be liked and loved, just as you are. For the way you look, the way you talk, the way you love, and everything in between.

“You’ve made this day a special day, just by being you. There’s no person in the whole world like you, and I like you—just the way you are.”
– Mister Rogers

Now, more than ever, Mister Rogers’ mission is easier said (or, in his style, sung) than done.

How do we love ourselves fully when we’re constantly bombarded with ideas on how we should look, talk, work, and lead?   How can we radically be ourselves?

The new documentary, Won’t You Be My Neighbor? (in theaters on Friday, June 8), goes deep into the vision of Fred Rogers—and it offers insight into how he stayed true to himself.

Here, a few tips straight from the most authentic man on TV:

  • You are unique – embrace your quirks!   Think about what makes you different from other leaders or co-workers. Your difference is your hidden strength.
  • Be REAL. Be vulnerable. I used to worry about sounding too earnest, too vulnerable, or too honest in the things I wrote and shared. I’d think, “Who really wants to listen to this, anyway?”   But, surprisingly, I’ve learned that whenever I share the things that feel honest and true to me, the more positively people react. Vulnerability attracts vulnerability.  If you start to care less about what other people think, you’ll find that the people you care about will stick around for the long term.
  • Don’t strive for perfection – but for authenticity. You can choose to be perfect. Or, you can choose to be authentic. It’s very hard to be both. As he famously said: “You don’t ever have to do anything sensational for people to love you.” All you have to do is be yourself.
  • Relationships with our teams and co-workers are important.  Fred Rogers said, “Mutually caring relationships require kindness and patience, tolerance, optimism, joy in the other’s achievements, confidence in oneself, and the ability to give without undue thought of gain.”
  • A little kindness can make a difference.  Do you lead with kindness and empathy?  Those are not weak approaches to leadership.  In our world today, we need a little more kindness and love in the workplace.  In the Senior Housing industry, our care teams and our families and residents need to know they are safe and cared for.  These are courageous and powerful leadership characteristics.
  • Be Yourself. Be Good.  Do Good.

“There are three ways to ultimate success. The first is to be kind.  The second is to be kind. The third is to be kind.”
– Mister Rogers

Mr. Rogers challenges us to continually evolve to be the best versions of ourselves that we can be – our true authentic selves.

Below is a 2.5-minute trailer for the documentary that will come out in the United States on Friday, June 8th.  I am looking for a theater near me today.   I am grateful for the lessons and the life of Mr. Fred Rogers.


About the author: Jean Garboden is an Elder Advocate and Eden Alternative Educator with over 30 years’ experience in not-for-profit and for-profit healthcare organizations. She is honored to lead the mission and values culture development for Compass Senior Living in Eugene, Oregon. Jean lives in Las Vegas, Nevada where she enjoys the weather and volunteers with the Nevadans for the Common Good, advocating for caregivers and elders in southern Nevada.

What is the Perennial Generation

“That which seems the height of absurdity in one generation often becomes the height of wisdom in another.”Adlai Stevenson

So much is written today about how to recruit, educate, and inspire the Millennial generation.  We have talked about it in our leadership team meetings, and we have examined our policies and procedures.  I asked our payroll specialist to run a list of our 600 employees by age and found that 52 percent of our employees are under age 35.  According to the Pew Research, Millennials are now the largest labor force in the United States at 53.5%.

We researched things that would attract Millennials such as

  • Fair working salary and benefits
  • Flexible work schedule
  • More frequent feedback and coaching
  • An authentic mentor-leader that inspires them to greatness
  • A cause greater than themselves
  • Opportunities to continually grow and learn.

As I looked at this list, I thought to myself, What is good for the Millennials is actually good for  all of us!”

I also realized that our society has begun to label and judge prospective employees by their generational characteristics. We all read about Millennials as ‘tech savvy,self-centered, lazy, entitled, know-it-all.’ Generation X  is referred to as ‘cynical get-it-done innovators’, and Boomers as ‘idealistic, dependable  work ethic.’  If we, as a society, and in our business, label people in generalizations, we lose the insight into the capabilities of each person to be instrumental in creating successful workplaces.

My role in our company is education and innovation.  As I travel around the United States and connect with the care teams, I found that these labels are simply labels. In fact, each individual is truly unique.  I have worked alongside some amazingly committed 25-year-olds –  and I  have worked with some 55 year old Boomers who did not have a good work ethic.  So the stereotype is just that.

I also learned, that no matter what the age of a person, there is a desire to be inspired by leaders who allow them to grow, learn and discover their paths to becoming the best they can be.  Most also want to be a part of a cause greater than themselves. They want to find their tribe within the workplace where they feel valued, protected, and loved.

In examining and studying the Millennials, I had an ‘aha about our roles as leaders. The Millennials shined a new light on my own discriminatory language and perceptions. Although I am an elder advocate, and I have spent years speaking out against ageism and labeling elders based on their age or  cognitive or physical capability – I have been guilty of applying ageism prejudices when categorizing our team members into age groups and stereotypes.

I decided, “Labels be-gone!”  It is not about the generational differences, it is about our leadership and our power to transform ourselves and others by our words and actions!  I recently heard a term referring to people as perennials’, meaning people who can cross over different age groups, and are able to relate to everybody.

Gina Pell, Content editor for The What – a clever list for curious people gave this definition:

Meet the Perennials. We are ever-blooming, relevant people of all ages who live in the present time, know what’s happening in the world, stay current, and have friends of all ages. We get involved, stay curious, mentor others, are passionate, compassionate, creative, confident, collaborative, global-minded, risk takers who continue to push up against our growing edge. We comprise an inclusive, enduring mindset, not a divisive demographic.”

Yes!  There is no need to label people – we are all ever-blooming and growing! We are perennials.  What a beautiful way to frame a workplace, with people of all ages, backgrounds, experience, and talents.

Inclusive – not divisive.

As a family of perennials – elders, middle-aged, and  younger people come together as one to care for and grow one another in an intergenerational vibrant community making friends of all ages.  This shift in thinking requires wise and courageous transformative leadership, an open mind, and a full heart. Together really is better.

The challenge to each of us as leaders in senior housing is to put away discriminatory labeling of others and work together. We must  create communities where elders, families, and employees are growing, teaching, discovering, experimenting, contributing, and trusting one another to do the right thing in the spirit of honor and love.

Trusting relationships are the most basic of human needs and the strongest foundation for caring for one another.

Perennial Definition:

1. lasting for an indefinitely long time; enduring: her perennial beauty.
2.having a life cycle lasting more than two years.
3.lasting or continuing, as a stream.
4.perpetual; everlasting; continuing; recurrent.

 11062337_10206528118188840_645394201235573404_nAbout the Author: Jean Garboden is the Director of Education and Innovation at Compass Senior Living, located in Eugene Oregon. Jean is an Elder Advocate and Eden Alternative Educator with over 30 years’ experience in not-for-profit and for-profit health care organizations. She is honored to lead the mission and values culture development for Compass Senior Living. Jean lives in Las Vegas, Nevada where she enjoys the weather and volunteers with the Nevadans for the Common Good, advocating for caregivers and elders in southern Nevada.

What shall we do? Let’s do what is right, and proper, and good

Every morning at Shorewood Senior Living  in Florence Oregon, we start the day with our True North stand-up meeting.  It is my favorite time of the day!  It gives us a moment to pause, make direct eye contact with one another, communicate, laugh, focus on on our core values,  express appreciation for the work we do, and to seek solutions as a team.

Last week as we came together a staffing shortage on our dining services team was a hot topic. One server quit, and two others had given notice.  We had placed ads in the newspaper, Facebook, the unemployment center, and craigslist.  We only received three applicants. All three candidates were not qualified for the position and we knew they wouldn’t last long if we hired them.

We discussed the option of going ahead and bringing one of them on as a ‘warm body’ to just get us through until we could find the right person.  Being from a small town, we knew the candidate pool was small, and several people spoke up, saying they could see problems may arise if we selected the wrong person.

At Shorewood, we remind ourselves every day that our decisions are guided by goodness, loyalty, faith, and fun.  So, I asked the team, “What should we do? Is there no one else to choose from? Is this the only option?”

One by one each person on the team began to speak up.

“I’ll help!”

“Tell us the hours that need to be filled and we will step in and help.”

“We want to hire the right person.”

“Our team, our residents, and our community are too important to do something we know will not ultimately be good for Shorewood.”

Together we decided and committed to hiring the right person for the job. It was awesome to come together as a team like this. More ideas came out as to where to advertise for the position and how to spread it through word of mouth.

It was exciting to see what can happen when we evoke our core values, and focus on what is right, and proper and good. From a place of goodness this team stepped out in faith that if they do the right things, the right things will happen. They demonstrated loyalty to one another and to the residents in their commitment… and through it all, we are having fun!

This was a great step in our growth as a team as we came together to overcome an obstacle, knowing that we did the right thing for those we serve. This next person we hire will be the perfect fit for Shorewood!


BethwebbAbout the Guest Author:  Bethany Webb, Executive Director at Shorewood Senior Living in Florence, Oregon has worked in Senior Housing for 3 years. Bethany is inspired by  the elders she is honored to serve, and embraces her leadership role. Bethany recognizes that the responsibility of leadership is not to come up with all of the great ideas, but to create an environment where good ideas can thrive!  When not working, Bethany loves spending outdoor time on the Oregon Coast with her three daughters.

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