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CW 54: David Hopkins

People are our most valuable asset. Are you training for greatness? Listen as David Hopkins explains 4 easy steps to train for greatness!

Welcome to Bridge The Gap Contributor Wednesday, I’m David Hopkins. Happy June, everybody. Summer is here. The birds are out. The trees are blossoming. The ocean is calling and vacation and summer is on its way. Thank God, I love summer. So I was thinking the other day, as I was trying to hire some individuals into our community, how do you train greatness? I think about the greats, the greatest of all times, I want to be a goat, right? Tom Brady is a GOAT as a all-star quarterback, even though he’s only won 70% of the super bowls. You might’ve heard me say I should be a goat because I got seasoned high school then. How many people remember the Pythagorean theorem from high school? Or the steps to conjugating a verb? A recipe to your favorite food or your dish that you create? I think about all these ways that we’ve been trained as kids, as adults in senior living, how do we handle residents?


How do we handle employees? And it got me thinking, how can I make this as simple as possible to truly train greatness? How can I train somebody to be like a Tom Brady of senior living? And then it dawned on me. And for parents out there, you’re going to know exactly what I’m talking about. You know it. It’s called potty training. Seriously. Think about that. Everybody in the entire world has graduated potty training. Now, listen, I’m not going to get real specific on this, but the principles are the same. If there was one task that you could train everybody in the world on, what would that be? And how do you relate that to potty training? There are many times that we’ve gone through a long and arduous times of getting our kids to sit on the potty, to hit Cheerios or whatever we’re doing, but we all graduated.


And that’s the great thing. When I had some time with Disney Institute, a lot of people would come to Disney to find out what’s the secret sauce? How do I make my employees like Disney cast members, happy and friendly showing up to work? And it was always interesting because they would come, they would sit, they would take notes. They would go to the parks, they would see experiences. They would get the look behind how the training was done, how cast members were taught and treated, and they go back and they take their workbook and they implement some changes. And then six or eight months later, or a year, you get a call that things are back to normal and it didn’t work. That was always the fun part in those conversations. And you go back to Disney principles and Disney’s customer service guidelines. And you asked them if they were following them.


Well, we kind of had to adjust a little bit or then the excuses would start flowing. And it was always interesting because Disney keeps the same principles, no matter what they’re doing. Safety, courtesy, show, and efficiency. I was talking to an organization last month and they said, well, we have our pillars of success. And I love pillars for the simple fact, you can knock them down. Disney uses a ladder system. Ladders are easy, right? Because if you want to get to the top, you have to put your hand on a rung and a foot on another rung and then proceed upward. And you know which next step to take, and it’s very intuitive. Which is why there’s only four on Disney’s ladder, safety, courtesy, show, and efficiency. And that allows everybody from the most frontline cast member to the most senior executive on how they’re going to make a decision.


If it’s not safe, they don’t do it. Safety comes before courtesy. So if you’re about to fall or trip, I can shout because that’s not courteous, but it is safe. And I need to keep you safe. Keeping it simple as we’re training is very, very hard to do. Especially in healthcare where we have so many guidelines and state stipulations and rules and regulations to follow. You know, when I first started at Disney and I became a leader and got selected, I was what was called a TSA, not a transportation security administration, but a temporary supervisory assignment. This assignment was for about six months. And during that six months, this was my training platform. So I was paired with a very senior and accomplished leader who was my mentor. I worked in an industry on the grounds at Walt Disney World. And I had a specific job.


I was followed and evaluated for these six months. And every Friday I attended class for eight hours to go over leadership training, everything from how to have hard conversations, how to count cash drawers, and even how to pick up trash. My class was called apple core because the leaders at that point in time were the core of the apple. And if your core is bad, your whole apple is bad. So you need to make strong leaders so you have a strong and good apple. I had a great leadership experience and from there was evaluated and deemed that I was able to become a Disney leader, which is an amazing experience after six months of sweating and putting in the work, and trying to find the right ways to improve our guest experience. You know, Walt’s one of his most famous quotes is, “You can design and create the most beautiful, wonderful place in the world, but it takes people to make the dream a reality.”


I don’t know about you, but we’ve been having some struggles hiring in our community. It seems like nobody wants to work anymore. Going out and getting those great people where it used to be, you could go through a few interviews and figure out who you wanted, now is becoming a desperate search for bodies that we can place in there to help us create a warm and inviting experience. You know, we’ve all toured owners and investors, and all their questions function and flow around numbers. What’s your census? How’s your NOI? What’s your levels of care? How is your staffing ratio? I have yet to tour one of these owners’ investors, where they would ask about culture. How do you do your training? What’s your staff like? What’s the longevity on them? You know, my good friend, James Lee had a most brilliant quote. And if you’ve ever listened to him or find him on LinkedIn, he has nuggets of wisdom that are so far beyond his years and my years.


I truly enjoy listening to him. But James said, “We are in a heart business making head decisions.” Oh, is that not true? Every day, we’re talking about somebody’s family member, maybe end-of-life scenarios, how to best care for them. Going through a dementia diagnosis and what is that going to look like? But all we’re doing is mostly making decisions based off of numbers. Those family members are not numbers. So we’re in the heart business folks and we’ve got a train like we’re in a heart business. You know, I like looking up the definition of the word that I want to talk about because it always gives me some insight into what’s going on. Train, the definition has eight definitions in the Webster’s dictionary, everything from a connected line of railroad cars, to a combustible material that leads to fire, that leads to a charge.


The interesting thing about all these eight definitions are they’re all connected. They have a starting point and an ending point. You know in healthcare, we are so good at training. We have virtual demonstrations. We have computer programs. You can watch videos and I can get you certified to work in my community in less than three days on a computer all day. And then I’m going to put you on the floor to deal with real patients. How is that preparing people for what they’re about to encounter? We have the OSHA documentation, the state guidelines, the company principles. We bore people with training. Most of the time, when you say you have to go through training, you’re like, oh my God, seriously. Again? I have to watch the same dementia video that I’ve seen three other times at communities. We need to change training where they want to train. They’re hungry and thirsty for the knowledge. It’s not about the Pythagorean theory anymore, or conjugating a verb. It’s about, I really need to understand this so I can do my job better. I can affect my patients and my residents in a fine, upstanding way that is going to create memories that they will love for the rest of their life. Do you know what this is? Nope, because you’re not on video with me, but what I am holding is a red plastic instrument.


Maybe you notice that as a kazoo. I love kazoos. Kazoos are fun. And Kazoo leadership is even better because it really breaks down what we need to do as training principles. We have to talk about what it is. How does it work, right? Is it a blow? Is it a hum? Which end do we do that on? It’s very confusing for people who haven’t used a kazoo in 20, 30, 40 years. Then you have to practice it, make sure you get the different tones, and it’s always fun when we’re doing this with a group, all the different noises that come out. I love asking them to play a song and it goes into 10 different directions, everything from guns and roses to opera. But if you start them out and tell them which song you’re going to do, I always choose happy birthday. Just coming off my birthday month you’ll understand why. 


Happy birthday is one of those songs that everybody knows, and you give them a starting note and we hum happy birthday. And in four short instructions, I’ve led a group of people to understand an instrument, how to play it, and play beautiful music. Once you do that, you can train on anything. You’ve just got to start with what it is. How does it work? Practice it. Then start on the starting note and conduct your beautiful symphony. You know, I referenced a little earlier that hiring is crazy right now. You get somebody and you throw them on the floor because you’re trying to keep your staffing ratios up and we need to go back and pull them off that floor and get them trained correctly. Right? We are working on that very diligently and making sure that they understand not only the mission and the vision of what we want to do, but also the purpose of why we do it.


We want to train greatness into people for the tasks that we do are very repetitive and very easy to train on, but having a purpose and a mission around that is how you train for greatness. So many times we assume people know their job. You’re a nurse. You’ll make a great nurse manager. No, those are two completely different skill sets. How many job descriptions have skills listed? And no I’m not talking about task. I’m talking about skills, empathy, listening, leadership. Most of the times those are nowhere to be found on a job description. So it’s simple folks. Here’s your four key steps to training. Tell them what it is. Explain it, show it, talk about it. There’s many different ways to learn. So covering a bunch of those at the same time helps each individual learn to their own ability. Show them how to do it or how to use it. Let them practice it and then help them start and coach them along the way. Four simple steps that we can train greatness in our future leaders. We need to focus on training the skills, showing them, coaching them to do the job successfully. And that is how we train greatness folks. So go channel your inner Mohammad Ali, your Tom Brady, your Cal Ripkin, or your Ted Williams and keep moving forward. Thanks so much to listening to this week’s Bridge The Gap Contributor Wednesday, I’m David Hopkins. Please connect with me on

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CW 54: David Hopkins