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CW 89: Kathy Parry

In recent years, the energy grids in this country have been strained. Extreme temperatures, aging infrastructure or even threats to security have caused power outages. Looking back at some significant outages, this episode in the Power UP and Perform Series identifies where the drains come from. What outages are affecting the efficiency of your organization, team or individual power systems?

Kathy Parry, Corporate Energy Expert, encourages you to examine your energy grid and look for the drains that could cause a shut down. It is important to visualize and identify the types of events, people, and processes that are draining you and your teams of energy.

Your GRID may not be built for what we have been through. 

You’ll discover the five types of energy drains that face senior living professionals. Then Kathy challenges you to access these drains in your own organization, leaders, or yourself. Having an accurate assessment of your energy drains will allow you to move forward in your Power UP plan.


Welcome to Bridge the Gap Contributor Wednesday, I’m Kathy Parry, corporate energy expert, and excited to be back with you for my second session. So I heard Josh and Lucas when they were introducing me this year, say “corporate energy expert, what does that mean?” So just briefly, what that means is I help organizations identify what they’re powering. What are goals? Where does energy go? Where are the energy drains that may be happening and how to keep team members their most productive and engaged to run that fully powered team or organization. And I know we’ve all faced some drains in the last couple of years and that’s what today’s session is going to be focusing on. So in this second addition of Power UP and perform, evaluate your energy drains, find your energy sources and implement a Power UP plan. We’re gonna be looking at the five types of energy drains you might be finding in your organizations or teams, or even personally we’re getting drained of energy.


So in that last episode, we looked at components of a fully functioning circuit, and I encouraged you to start with the end in mind. What are you powering? What are your light bulbs? Do you have too many light bulbs demanding your energy? So go on back and take a listen to the first Contributor Wednesday that I did because today we’re going to build on that. We’re going to look at those energy drains that might be happening in an organization that keep you from fully powering up. So if you did listen to that first session that I did, you’ll remember that I described the circuit, the one you built in the ninth grade science class, or you worked in a team to help build. You walked in and all the components were laying out. And the goal was to get that light bulb to light. And you did not want to be that lab team that didn’t follow instructions and had a nonfunctioning bulb. 


Today, you don’t wanna be the organization that has the non-functioning circuit or team without power, but when there’s too many demands on your circuits, the whole thing can crash. Well, I want to take you back to a time in 2003, when a circuit crashed. A big one. So I am from Akron, Ohio. I don’t live there now, but hometown roots are in Akron, Ohio. And Akron, besides being the rubber capital of the world and the birthplace and hometown of LeBron James, it was also infamously known as the place that where one of the most massive energy drains in our nation’s history started. So on a hot day in August in 2003, an event happened and several things led to this event. When power lines, and there’s a whole lot of demand on the power grid that day, when they are powere, and a lot of energy is flowing through the lines, actually get a little saggy.


And when they get a little saggy, they run into trees, right? So power companies are supposed to be trimming the trees. Well on this particular day in August of 2003, a sagging line intersected with a branch of a tree, which then made the electricity flow in all types of ways, it kind of gets all sporadic. It ran into a house, shorted out the dishwasher that exploded, sent the residents of the house running. Meanwhile, there were tree trimming crews in the area and they were supposed to be taking care of some of this overgrowth. And all of a sudden electricity started flowing out in a way. It wasn’t supposed to, it became sporadic because when electricity can’t get where it needs to go, it goes to the nearest available option. Well, power companies are supposed to trim their trees every three years, but unfortunately this power company was on about a five year plan.


So there were a lot of trees hanging on lines and then a perfect storm happened. One line shorted out another line shorted it out because the energy just didn’t know where to go, or it wasn’t being used efficiently. Add on top of that, that there was a bug in their software. And so when the alarm should have been going off at the controls, they weren’t. They didn’t think there was a problem. And eventually power grid after power grid began to shut down.  Well this led to one of the biggest blackouts that we’d seen in the world. Ohio’s grid went down and then it had to look for routes for the energy to flow. Well on the Eastern grid that got sent message that said, oh, Ohio needs more power. So they sent power, but then it bounced back, and that becomes a tidal wave of energy.


While this domino effect led, as many of you might remember, to the third biggest blackout to date at that time in the world, it affected eight states and 50 million people. Little problems multiply. If you start with one area in an organization or a power grid where the energy is not lining up to do the work that needs to get done, that can multiply. In this case, trees lines that cause the major blackout across the eastern grid. Well, what does this mean to you as a senior living professional? It’s important to visualize and identify those trees in those sagging lines, on your team, in your organization or with your people. What are the types of events, the positions, or the people that are in positions or lack of people in positions or the processes that are draining you and your teams of energy? your grid may not be built for what we’ve been through.


And that’s actually what happened in this event. Our grids have gotten outdated and I will finish up this session with one of the more recent grid outages and a story there. But the grids are getting outdated, and yours might be as well. Is your organization built for what we’ve been through? This disruption from COVID 19, from the great resignation, from all the things that are compounding, you just might not be built. And it might be time to take a look at your grid. ‘ve broken the energy drains into five different categories. I just wanna kind of walk through these so that when you’re done listening today, you might take a look at where are the drains coming from? Once we break it down, it becomes a little bit easier to look at. The first type of energy drain is organizational. These two types of drains come kind of from a lack of vision communication or what I just spoke of, that outdatedness.


Mostly though we can kind of break this down into communication. We’re really great at vision setting and goals, but sometimes they’re not always communicated. And sometimes we just forget, “hey, it’s time to set a new goal. It’s time to reinforce those goals.” So energy at an organizational level begins to short out when those things don’t happen. So are your drains at an organizational level? The next type of energy drain that I look for are leadership drains. Our leaders are so important within our organizations and maybe you are one of those leaders, and you might know, you might know that you are pulled too many directions right now. Your time management is off. Most in senior living are experiencing this right now. Leaders are burned out. They’re maxed out, stressed out. We’re short staffed. We’re putting out fires instead of doing that planning. Well energy in an organization or a team relies heavily on its leaders.


Are you that leader, are you a team leader, an organizational leader? If so, stop today and think what are those trees that are falling on my lines that are keeping me from being the best leader I can be? If you’re not a leader, maybe reach out to your manager, reach out to the person who is a leader, or maybe just within your organization. Take that time today to set a plan in motion of how are we as leaders going to move forward? The next type of drain they look at is professional drains. And you’re like, well, that sounds a little bit like a leadership drain, but this gets at a little bit more personal level. Where are you professionally? Where each of your team members professionally? I’m guessing that some of you have maybe had to put some people in rolls that they weren’t quite ready for, and you’re hoping they’re going to  step up. Or maybe you’ve got some people in roles that have taken on a lot of new responsibility.


Maybe they’re feeling professionally drained because their role isn’t clearly defined, or there’s a lack of appreciation for everything that gets done. Well when I look at professional drains, I really like to work with organizations around their contribution statements. If you haven’t done this, it is a great source of figuring out where people in your organization stand, as far as how engaged they are by what they contribute. It’s a wonderful exercise to just sit down with your team and say, “what do you actually contribute to this organization?” What do you contribute to residents? Because you’re going to find some things that they are doing, or you are doing that aren’t in that job description. Job descriptions are great at, you know, marking off, yes, we should be taking care of that. But often we contribute more. And it’s in this sense of wanting to serve, wanting to serve our teams and our residents that senior living professionals are so good at that we can burn out at because we’re not being identified as actually all of the things that we do every day, we may not be appreciated for.


So if you’re professionally starting to burn out, or maybe you don’t have the certifications or the education, so you’re feeling that stretch. Maybe that’s the tree that’s on your line, take an assessment of where you stand professionally. 


The next type of energy drain is what I call the daily drain. Ugh. So many of these, I like to say these are the task oriented drain, the to do list that never ends. Time management becomes something we look at for this. If you’re like me, maybe you have a daily planner. And that planner, I make a list and I do it the before, this is what I’m going to take care of. But then the list just gets so long and I feel like I’m never going to get through it all. Those can be those daily drains. How do you re-energize when the list never goes away. One of the things is to get more realistic with your time. Stop putting so many things on that daily list, make it realistic, do that for your teams.


Often we set high, high expectations for those on our teams and they’re unrealistic. So take a look at those daily tasks, daily events that need to happen to run an organization or run a team and say, am I being realistic about the daily goals I am setting? Because if every day that list is not checked off or you feel like, “ugh, I’m never going to catch up.” That can become that tree on your energy line. 


And then the final area that I like to identify as a drain is personal. Well, we know really well what it means to feel that burnout and in senior living it’s compounding. And we’re seeing people leave over that personal burnout. Is it a lack of sleep? Is it stress? Are you being fully eating well and looking at nutrition? And of course always safety in this time still when we are battling the pandemic, are you taking care of you?


Well, of course it’s the first part of the year. So we set those goals and those resolutions, but I do a lot of work around this because in a former life, I was a wellness coach. And one of the things to look at again, kind of like the daily thing, don’t put those goals at an unrealistic level. Take time to really think, where is that energy drain coming from? I listed a few, lack of sleep, stress, not eating well, not moving daily, not taking care of yourself in a safe manner. What are those drains? And then set a very obtainable goal. Something that you can actually check off on a daily basis. And in my last session in contributor Wednesday, we’re really gonna do a deep dive on some personal energy. So I’ll leave that for that session.


So your Power UP assignment, after listening to this as episode, take an as assessment of what is contributing to your energy drains. And next step after identifying is your Power UP plan. When I work with organizations to develop these plans, all kinds of information generally comes out after the assessment. At this point, you might be thinking, okay, I’m assessing it, but well then how do I fix it? That’s coming up in my next two Contributor Wednesday episodes. 


I’m going to be given some great tools, tips, and tactics for getting those energy drains out of your team, out of your organization. But we have to do the work ahead of time. We have to do the assessment. So ask your teams and leaders, what is leading to their overwhelm? Where is their lack of productivity or engagement coming in, take a serious look at those five areas. It’s important to do it now before next great crisis comes. Because I think as what we’ve learned in the last couple years is something will come. There’s always something on the horizon. 


So a story about another power grid and an entity that did not act on the information that they had, didn’t take care of the assessment. And that was just last year in February of 2021. And Texas, if you remember, was hit with a triple whammy of winter storms. Now, I’m a Midwestern girl, so we are used to winter storms. We get that. Our power grids are kind of geared towards that. We know how to handle it. But subzero temperatures for multiple days, even weeks on end. And that Texas grid didn’t know exactly how to work with it. Well, if you followed that story when it happened, this was the first time I ever learned that there was three power grids in this country, the Eastern power grid, the Western power grid.


And there you go, Texas. Don’t mess with Texas. I’ve got a sister in Dallas, so we always kid her. Texas, you know, likes to stand. So they have their own power grid. And these subzero temperatures put a demand on that grid at an all time high. So the grid was drained and to avoid a complete collapse of the system cities like Houston began implementing rolling blackouts. Some of the blood blackout stayed in place for several days. The system was drained. Because Texas operates its own power grid, the east and the west coast grids weren’t able to send any power. So it was on its own, 4.5 million people were effective and that many deaths resulted from that. But, and some of you, I know listening lived at little bit too realistic, and we’re hoping you don’t go back there this winter. But here’s the important part of the story that I found fascinating when we’re looking at this whole Power UP system and taking that assessment. Ten years earlier, an assessment of the grid was made by the federal energy and regulatory commission.


And in the report, this type of energy drain was actually identified as a possibility. You know, no one in Texas wanted to think about those subzero temperature yet, according to many sources, Texas, and their grid, the leadership didn’t do much to act on those recommendations. And so some of the equipment was not properly winterized. And besides just the drain on the system, several other factors led to this big outage. So not only do senior living teams need to identify the types of energy drains, but it’s really important to go the next couple of steps, making that assessment and identifying the most important drains that your team, your organization, or you personally are experiencing. Then begin to communicate that it’s important in your organization or your team, or come on, we can even take this to our families. Your family might be drained by everything that they’ve been through. 


Begin to communicate that, “hey, we’re gonna be looking at where these drains are coming from, why we’re burned out, stressed out, warmed up, why we aren’t engaging, why we might be feeling like we aren’t getting through this.” Begin to communicate with that with your teams, use the term Power UP plan. I haven’t gone out and put any kind of, of copyright on that. But yes, say we’re going to Power UP and then begin to create a timeline to decrease the drains. 


These things will all begin to come full circle as we look again at that circuit. How do we fully function as a powerful entity? One that is handling the needs of residents handling the needs and engaging your teams. 


Next month in the Power UP and perform Contributor Wednesday, we will look at a few of the best energy sources to use to start that happening, to get power back. But do the assessment this month. This is Kathy Parry. I want to thank you so much for listening to this week’s Bridge the Gap Contributor Wednesday. Please feel free to connect with me  at And until that next episode, keep burning bright. Thanks so much for listening.

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CW 89: Kathy Parry