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Why rethinking leadership in turbulent times could be the ticket to keep caregivers engaged

Published on September 21, 2020 by Scott Zielski

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Dr Bell, endorsed by Global Gurus as being one of the top three keynote speakers in the world for customer service recently published a rhetorical question: should we defund leadership?

Bell relayed the story of General Magic, an Apple off-shoot which tried to develop a smartphone decades before the iPhone. The developers were so focused and determined that they felt they did not need a manager. 

Without interfering micromanagement, the developers succeeded in devising an amazing concept. But it sunk without a trace as the internet had yet to be developed and there was no market in place. Amazing product – but wrong timing and no market.

Leadership, in this case, failed to ask the difficult questions and create a clear vision.

The developers were highly motivated, but a piece of the puzzle was missing. 

General Magic

The General Magic story got me thinking about how this applies to leaders in the home care industry. Carergivers are highly dedicated people who want to do the best for those they are looking after. 

They don’t want an overbearing manager watching every move – but good leadership is also vitally important. 

With so many rules and regulations to contend with, including Covid-19 safety protocols and the newly mandated Electronic Visit Verification, leaders need to ensure caregivers receive the information they need in an engaging and positive way.

How can managers lead effectively? 

Employee engagement and staff retention are probably the two biggest challenges for homecare agency leaders. 

Staff turnover is notoriously high and reputation and consistent care matter a lot to those paying for the service.

In such turbulent times, leaders will need to stay one step ahead. Here’s how:

Caregivers need to know the big picture

For employees to be truly engaged, they need to understand the company vision. This isn’t a unique set of rules – it goes for caregivers and care agencies just as in any other business. 

In fact, with caregivers being out in the field, it is even more important that leaders communicate the agency vision more regularly to staff. 

People need to know they are doing a good job, but also why they are doing it and why they are doing better than competitor caregiving brands.

It is up to leaders to ensure employees feel part of something – the whole sum of something adds up to more than its individual parts and employees need to have some sense of how their contribution fits into the bigger picture.

Question, question, question

Most care agency owners have a clear vision of where they want their business to be and a pretty good idea of how they will get it there. But as the failure of General Magic illustrates, a myopic vision doesn’t always bring the intended results. 

Leaders must practice some humility and be prepared to change course. Importantly, this brings us on to the next point – leaders must listen.

Stay in touch and listen

In order to successfully chart and steer a home care agency on the right course, leaders must keep in touch with caregivers and engage with them on an emotional level.

Leaders must communicate the culture and beliefs of the organization and create a culture of trust. But this communication network needs to be two-fold. 

Learning what is happening on the ground is all part of understanding which way to direct the business. 

Leaders must be open to learn from those in the field – this is the quickest and surest way to be able to spot problems and fix them. 

Getting feedback from clients and their families is also vitally important for learning.

Empower, don’t micromanage

Micromanaging doesn’t work – it makes people feel like they aren’t trusted and leads to stress and burnout. Leaders must keep reminding themselves of this, particularly in the caregiving industry where employees are out of sight out in the field. 

Leaders should focus on teaching and building trust, but at the same time ensuring staff are held to account. Micromanaging is demoralizing for staff. 

Of course, leaders need to track and monitor operations but focusing solely on the minutiae is the easiest way to lose sight of the bigger picture.

Maintaining the human connection is critical and using homecare software that showcases transparency and improves communication is key. 

Work towards great partnering

With caregivers out in the field, it is all too easy for them to feel isolated and a situation of ‘them’ and ‘us’ can easily develop between those doing the care work and those in the office. 

Leaders must learn to develop equal relationships between themselves, managers and caregivers. The purpose of this is to create a strong sense that caregivers aren’t on their own. 

Mistakes will inevitably happen, and caregivers need to know that these won’t be handled punitively, but more seen as a learning opportunity and be involved in finding a solution.

Keep hold of authenticity

Work environments where leaders put themselves on a pedestal and bark orders don’t foster productivity or trust. Caregivers may comply, but they won’t be bringing their best selves to work. Caregiver engagement relies on straight-talking but empathetic leadership. 

It requires authenticity from the top.

Leadership is a critical element in organizational performance. In the current COVID-climate, leaders of homecare agencies must steer their ships through turbulent times. It’s not so much a defunding of leadership that is required but an opportunity to rethink it. 

Caregivers are more likely to stick around if this is done with passion and authenticity. 

Leaders must instill a culture of safety, trust, respect and accountability.

Smartcare Software can provide solutions that will help you and your agency prepare for the future of homecare. Smartcare offers an easy-to-use enterprise solution to manage, schedule, and operate everything you need for your homecare business.

Smartcare is currently offering our COVID-19 Toolset at no charge to all homecare agencies. The Toolset App includes reminders, agency notices, symptom checks, contact tracing and other important virus risk mitigation tools to help you manage your response to the pandemic.  We are in this together. To find out more about Smartcare Software, email covid19@smartcaresoftware.com and let us know how we can help.

To find out how SmartCare™ software and support can help you differentiate your service and strategy, please contact us at 1-715-227-3768 or via email: hello@smartcaresoftware.com