Courageous Leaders Care (good leaders make you feel safe)

“Leaders are the ones who run headfirst into the unknown. They rush toward the danger. They put their own interests aside to protect us or to pull us into the future. Leaders would sooner sacrifice what is theirs to save what is ours. And they would never sacrifice what is ours to save what is theirs.

This is what it means to be a leader.

It means they choose to go first into danger, headfirst toward the unknown. And when we feel sure they will keep us safe, we will march beside them and work tirelessly to see their visions come to life and proudly call ourselves their followers.”  Simon Sinek, Leaders Eat Last

In the Senior Housing industry, I have had the honor to work with several exceptional leaders who inspire the greatest respect, the highest loyalty and have the ability to weather any storm or challenge with calm and grace. To these leaders, it is clear: when it matters most, and they are willing to ‘eat last,’ they are rewarded with deeply loyal employees, residents, and family members who will stop at nothing to advance their vision and their organization’s interests.  It is amazing how this works.  This is the reason they are willing to push hard and take risks as brave, courageous leaders.

The Circle of Safety that these courageous leaders create is rooted in trust. Simon Sinek explains: ”Only when we feel we are in a Circle of Safety will we pull together as a unified team, better able to survive and thrive regardless of the conditions outside.”

Over the past 15 years, I have witnessed Senior Housing Leaders who have been faced with difficult challenges with employees, families, operational failures, census, fiscal viability, and more.  I have seen two types of leaders emerge from difficult situations.

  • The first type took all of the responsibility upon themselves, and as the leader set out to ‘fix’ things and to assure consequences if things were not fixed. They blamed the lack of good workers, the poor work ethic, the state regulators, and the complexity of long-term care. As time went on –  frustration, fear, burnout, and ultimate failure.  Good people.  Good intentions.  But no leader can do this alone. We need one another.
  • The second type has a humble spirit, deep empathy and respect for employees;  recognizing that courage is a prerequisite for truly great leadership. At the heart of it lays a willingness to trust and be trusted; to take action amid the uncertainty; to do what is right and proper and good over what is expedient, and to risk failure in the process. Unless leaders are willing to lay their psychological safety (i.e. pride and power) on the line for the sake of those they serve, no amount of brilliance or showmanship will suffice.

Simon Sinek says ‘Good Leaders make you feel safe.” 

When we are ‘just working because we have to work’ and feel like things are falling apart – we need strong leaders to show true courage.

  • The kind of courage that discerns real from imaginary drama,
  • The kind that inspires people to rally together toward a noble cause, and acknowledge what’s not working.
  • The kind that doesn’t rely on fear to motivate action.
  • The kind that emboldens fresh thinking and draws on the full breadth of talent and know-how of the team.

Below are the characteristics I have been honored to witness in courageous Senior Housing Leaders:

  • Courageous leaders personal characteristics of humility and capacity for great empathy.  Great leaders focus on the good of those in their care, which leads to stable, flexible, confident teams, where everyone feels they belong, and all energies are devoted to supporting one another.
  • Courageous leaders are bold visionaries.  While they may have to manage in the realm of probabilities – they lead from the space of possibilities.
  • Courageous Leaders seek out Dissenters.  They don’t surround themselves with ‘yes men’ (or women) who will confirm their thinking and stroke their ego.  Rather they seek out people whose opinions and mindsets will challenge and broaden their own. They actively listen and create the psychological safety needed for those with less power to disagree with them and speak candidly.
  • Courageous Leaders don’t shy from difficult conversations.  They are fully aware that the conversations that DON’T occur are those which can exact the steepest toll on outcomes.
  • Courageous leaders make bold calls.  They know that waiting until they have absolute certainty that they can avoid all risks can sometimes require waiting too long.  They do their homework, do investigations, and then make the best judgment call they can.  AND when they make a ‘miss-step,’ they own it fast and adjust course quickly.
  • Courageous leaders entrust others. As research has found, people generally rise to the level of expectation placed on them.  Treat them as untrustworthy and needing constant oversight and that’s what you’ll get.  Treat them as capable people with the ability to learn and excel, and that’s what you’ll also get.   Expect a lot, and you’ll get it.  Expect little and you will get that too.
  • Courageous leaders embolden others. When leaders focus on the consequences of failure, it creates fear.   Brave leaders actively work to create a culture of courage where people are encouraged to speak up, challenge old thinking, experiment with new ideas, risk mistakes, prioritize growth and contribution.   And then…when things don’t go as planned…they celebrate the shared learning so the team can ‘fail forward’ together.

I believe that everyone has the ability to be a courageous leader.  There is no shortcut to building the courage needed to be an inspiring and influential leader.   I witnessed the leaders I worked with grow into courageous leaders bit-by-bit, starting with the next decision they had to face as they rallied their teams around them.

I am grateful to have had the opportunity to see the growth and power of each of them – guided clearly by goodness, loyalty, faith, and fun.

If you have 15 minutes to watch a Ted Talk by Simon Sinek entitled “Why Good Leaders make you feel safe”, below is the link.



Jean Garboden, Director of Education & Innovation at Compass Senior Living

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





Elderhood – What do we want to do with an extra 30 years?

“There’s a long life ahead of you, and it’s going to be beautiful, as long as you keep loving and hugging each other.” ~ Yoko Ono

Between 1900 and 2000, average life expectancy increased by nearly 30 years in the United States and most other developed countries of the world. For the first time in history, most people now being born can expect to live seven, eight, nine, or more decades. This changes not only the trajectory of individual lives but also the shape of societies: Adults 60 and older are now the fastest-growing segment of our population.

This increase in longevity gives rise to new important questions:

  • What do we want to do with an extra 30 years?
  • How should we, as individuals and as a society, shape the direction and purpose of our longer lives?
  • Can we design a path to our future that improves the well-being and opportunities of people at all ages?
  • Should we be creating new social and business policies that will foster these opportunities?
  • How do we prepare young people for longer lives—and can these questions be answered in ways that would be beneficial for all generations?
  • How do those of us in Senior Housing reimagine a  purposeful lifestyle for generous and compassionate elders who choose to live in our communities?

Unfortunately, rather than awakening a sense of celebration or innovation, the news of our longer life spans is generating fear and apprehension among individuals and concern among policymakers.

The questions posed most frequently are not the ones mentioned above, but rather these:

  • Can we afford all these old people?
  • Will they bankrupt our society or ransom the future of our children and grandchildren?

We have added 30 years to our lives, not just for the lucky few but for the majority of people in the developed world. The truth is that we have created a new stage of life but have not yet envisioned its purpose, meaning,  and opportunities.

What does this new stage of life mean?

  • Psychologists Erik and Joan Erikson viewed later life as a time when the impulse to give back to society becomes an urgent need.
  • Carl Jung, an early psychologist with interest in the challenges of the second half of life, saw older age as a fertile period of spiritual growth and individuation.
  • Betty Friedan, a social psychologist, researched aging late in her life and suggested that there is a “fountain of age,” a period of renewal, growth, and experimentation based on a new freedom.

Dr. Bill Thomas, a geriatrician, is at the forefront of a strong nationwide movement to reframe life after adulthood, which is Elderhood, as an exciting stage of human growth and development. In his book Second Wind, he explores the dreams and disappointments, the struggles and triumphs of a generation of 78 million people who once said they would never grow old and never trust anyone over thirty.

Having created a new stage of life, Elderhood; the next step is to make these extra 30 years meaningful!  For some of us it may be:

  • Choosing a healthy lifestyle so that the extra 30 years of life can be vibrant.
  • Volunteering or working in jobs to make the world a better place; creating a legacy through service, mentoring and activism to benefit future generations.
  • Embracing new paradigms for aging to realize our potential. Reinventing our life, and doing something we have always dreamed about but never had the opportunity to do
  • Assuming the Elder teaching role as the conduit to connect the generations to restore the broken connections in our culture. Even the frailest elder has something to teach us, if we, as students, recognize the elder wisdom as an opportunity to actualize their purpose and legacy.

For those of us who work in the senior living industry, the typical “bible, bingo, and birthday party activity program” is not the answer. Erik and Joan Erikson viewed later life as a time when the impulse to give back to society becomes a URGENT NEED!

The truth is, we don’t yet know what Elderhood,  this new stage of life,  can be, but the first step is to change the lens through which we view aging and challenge our stereotypical assumptions.

No matter what our age or frailty or ability, we are always fully capable human beings.   Until our last breath, we are evolving, and are in a period of renewal, growth, and experimentation.     See Dr. Bill Thomas in this short video introducing his TedX talk, Elderhood Rising – the dawn of a new world age

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 do Millennials and Zillennials (Generation Z) know about old people

 Millennials and Zillennials (Generation Z),  are the next generation of workers in eldercare!  They will reshape the workplace, bringing with them energy and a desire to make a difference.   Millennials and Zillennials matter!

If you’re not familiar with the term “Generation Z or Zillennials,” you will be soon enough. It refers to a wave of young people on the verge of supplanting Millennials as the prime movers in the workforce and society at large.

 I  teach and grow care teams and their leaders in the senior housing industry, and I often hear Senior Housing leaders lament the lack of work ethic of those under age 35.  The reality is that 78% of new hires in senior care in the United states are Millennials as reported by McKnights Long-term care survey in 2015.

It is time for us to reexamine and understand these generations, and embrace new leadership styles and cultures as thought leaders in the industry.

Today, we have 4 generations working together in long-term care, serving our greatest generation (average age 84 years old). This gives us opportunities to harvest and unleash the power and creativity of a multi-generational team that may inspire and transform eldercare as a vibrant, interesting, and forward thinking community of people.

The Millennials and Zillennials, along with the Boomers and Generation X have the honor to work and learn together to support elders on their life journey at this wonderful developmental stage of life called elderhood. A bonus for all of us is a chance to  learn from the wisdom and experience of elders – the 5th generation in our workplace!

  • The Traditionalist (born between 1900 – 1945 – The elders we serve! ages 70- 100+)
  • The Boomers ( ages 52-70 in 2016)
  • Generation X (ages 36-51 in 2016)
  • The Millennials (ages 22-35 in 2016)
  • The Zillennials (ages 4 – 21 in 2016)

As I have been teaching, listening, and learning with the millennials, and their younger counterpart, the Zillennials, I  recognize that they have some particular characteristics  that will reshape the workplace  – such as their ambition and desire to keep learning and move quickly upwards, as well as their willingness to move on quickly if their expectations are not being met.  Millennials want a flexible approach to work, and very regular feedback and encouragement. They want to feel their work is worthwhile and that their efforts are being recognized.

The companies that have already been the most successful in attracting talented Millennials are naturally innovative employers who are never restrained by ‘how things used to be done’. These companies are not specifically targeting Millennials, but their culture, leadership style, and approach to recruitment and retention naturally appeal to the Millennial generation. And because of that, they are able to take their pick of the best younger talent around.

It is not too late for those of us in senior housing to gain the loyalty  of Millennials who seek employers with similar values according to the Deloitte Millennial Survey 2016Thus, those organizations that are guided by strong core values may be less likely to lose their Millennial employees. We have an opportunity now to connect with these next generations to work alongside us as innovators and shapers of the future!

Millennials show us what ‘old’ looks like, and their lives and perceptions are changed!



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 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.  She spends her leisure time with her husband Art, her dog Max, her cat Molly, and a 50-year-old desert tortoise named Myrtle.