You may say I’m a dreamer But I’m not the only one

“You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one”

~~ John Lennon

Baby circus elephants spend the first year of their lives tethered to a stake in the ground by a 6-foot length of rope around their leg.  After that, a trainer can control them with a thin nylon cord tied to the same leg because the elephant thinks it can’t go any farther than the rope allows.

How many good people feel tethered to caregiving jobs, having personal desires for the future, but feeling hopeless and helpless, directed by the ringmaster – disempowered and unable to break free to grow, learn, and explore their own dreams and aspirations?

Four years ago we had a dream for our company, and we had goals to create a Senior Housing Organization guided by goodness, loyalty, faith, and fun.  It has been a successful and a beautiful journey, growing and learning together personally and collectively.   Like many senior housing companies, while we have had rewarding successes, we have also struggled with the employee retention dilemma in some of our communities.

Our executive leadership has attended conferences and webinars, read books, brainstormed at corporate retreats, studying the numbers, and taking a hard look at employee retention strategies. Some of us have read the book by Matthew Kelly, Dream Manager.  Kelly says,  “An organization can only become the best-version-of-itself to the extent that the people who are driving that organization are striving to become better-versions-of-themselves.”    From Kelly, I got new insight and raised questions.

We have defined our company hopes, dreams, and aspirations – What are the dreams of our care teams?

We are imagining how our team members would feel about a recruitment, hiring, and onboarding process where they  not only learn about the vision, mission, values, and expectations of the new company they are joining – but are also invited to share their own hopes, vision, values, and dreams  for their own lives. Paying a fair wage, employee appreciation programs and bonus structures are all good. But the bottom line is that our leaders must connect heart-to-heart with our teams.  To do that, we must become well-known to one another.

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Care team members at Desert Peaks Assisted Living, Las Cruces, New Mexico

All of us want to work in places

  • Where we feel immediately part of a nurturing team.
  • Where we are excited about making a significant impact on the world.
  • Where we are working and playing with people who have our back.
  • Where we are sharing our personal dreams and goals with the organization and one another.
  • Where we are encouraged and supported to reach for our dreams to be the-best-version-of-ourselves.

Finding a way to create an environment that helps employees-become-the-best-version-of-themselves – while at the same time growing each Senior Housing Community to-be-the-best-version-of-itself may seem like the purposes are diametrically opposed.  But they are actually complementary.

We can ask “What is the purpose of the employee?”   most would answer, “to help the company achieve its purpose.”  But this actually misses the point.

The employee’s purpose is to become the best-version-of- him-or-herself.  Popular opinion is that the people exist for the company.  The truth is that the company exists for the employee.

A new breed of company loyalty

Years ago, company loyalty was based on hanging around for a certain number of years in order to get a pension or a benefit.

Matthew Kelly says “The new breed of company loyalty will be built on the principle of ‘adding value.’ An employee is responsible for adding value to the life of the company, and the company is responsible for adding value to the life of the employee.” 

As a leader, I am not here simply to motivate, set expectations, produce results, and inspire.  I do this, certainly – but my greater goal (and dream) is to add value – to help my company and our employees to thrive!

I believe there is wisdom in Matthew Kelly’s observation that people who are driving organizations must be striving to become better-versions-of- themselves.  We as transformational leaders are looking to unleash the power of our teams, connecting them with our company’s vision, mission, purpose, and dreams. – and helping each person set goals for their own dreams, achieving more than they ever thought possible.  It’s a win-win!

When a company forgets that it exists for its customers, it quickly goes out of business.  Our employees are our first customers and our most influential customers.    Our company can only become the best-version-of-itself to the extent that we as leaders are striving to become better-versions-of-ourselves.”  


About 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 healthcare 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.