Connections - 08.03.20

CEO Perspective: July Ruminations, Sharks & Portals

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by Barbara Merrill, ANCOR CEO

Barbara Merrill, ANCOR CEOI hope you’re managing a little time off to breathe this summer. I’m hearing from many of you that you aren’t, or more aptly, you unfortunately cannot, as there is too much going on. ANCOR staff is there with you. Although I’m encouraging our staff to take time when they can, this virus is not tired and our members’ needs are vast. Reopening strategies are the hot topic, Congress has yet to pass another COVID-19 relief package, retainer payments are expiring unless CMS extends them, and still many of you have not accessed money from the CARES Act-authorized Public Health & Social Services Emergency Fund.

How are you taking care of yourself? How are you supporting your staff to take care of themselves? What are you learning about your style of leadership, and if you are adjusting it, how’s it working out?

All of that has been on my mind in a deep and unavoidable way.

At ANCOR, we were privileged to take our staff remote right from the start, and while we’ve all been remarkably pleased by how well it has worked out, it also comes with its challenges. It’s especially hard for our staff with small children at home, but they have all risen to the challenge beautifully — including the kids! I personally miss working side-by-side with our people; not being able to pop into someone’s office when the impulse strikes is extra hard for extroverts like me. I also find it hard to read people’s body language through Zoom meetings and other video conferences. I’ve felt “at sea” a bit in not having the usual tools to gauge if people are really okay, or if they’re at their breaking points.

All that prompted Gabrielle Sedor, our COO, and I to engage a consulting firm to work with us—via Zoom of course—to learn how best to work with each other. Long story short, we have a lot more owls than beavers, foxes and dolphins. I’m still pondering what that means, but I’m hearing staff thought that the exercises to identify ourselves as one of the animals was insightful, informative and fun. I personally loved it, and may now have to reread Harry Potter. In all seriousness, I highly recommend the consultants (FosterHicks), who did an excellent job, particularly given the subject matter and medium. We owe a thank you to our Iowa association, which featured FosterHicks at their conference last year, for getting them on our radar.

For those of you familiar with this exercise (and me), it probably won’t surprise you that apparently, I am a dolphin. (So why is being “at sea” so unsettling?) I learned that dolphins are all about connection and collaborations, and we love to keep it moving. But we also have another side: In the instance that our pod is threatened by a shark, we team up and attack it. Unfortunately, throughout these times there have been a lot of shark attacks, but us dolphins must continue to do what dolphins do!

Even though I’m working remotely in Maine, and at a place I typically reserve for vacation, I know that these times demand change. At first I saw it as an epic fail, until I realized it wasn’t. There will be time to unplug and completely refresh, but it’s certainly not now. The pace is nowhere near as relentless as it was for the first months of the pandemic, but I’m taking other steps to take care of myself and learn how to support our staff to do the same.

I’m a fan of the author Anne Lamott, and she often refers to the need for “radical self-care.” For Anne, that can be eating an entire plate of chocolate chip cookies, but more frequently it’s about service to others. Oh, and naps. She’s really into naps. (Easy for her, she’s a self-employed author!)

With all of this on my mind, I am interested in hearing about how you engage in self-care. There is so much expected of you, always, but in particular right now. How are you managing the emotions, fears and expectations of your staff, the individuals you support and their families? How about your own? Drop me a line; I’d love to hear from you, especially if you also have a staff full of owls!