Generally, when people think about the word "responsive" they think about quick action. However, well-known author and TED Talk speaker Simon Sinek says, “It’s better to go slow in the right direction then to go fast in the wrong direction.” It is true that the proper definition for responsive is “reacting quickly and positively.” So if we are measuring quality in our organization (which we are), shouldn’t we have a process for responding?

Anticipate the Issue

I started thinking about this question after pondering more about a story I told in an earlier blog Demonstrating The Lenbrook Way. The story related to a service failure on my part where I didn’t touch base quickly enough with a resident who left me a voice mail about a situation. This memorable incident became a significant "learning moment" for me, and it got me thinking further about being responsive and whether there is an actual process for being responsive. 

The first question I asked myself was “Is there a point before the customer has even voiced a problem, where awareness might be an important tool in addressing a problem?” The earlier the better, right? I have often heard people describe that behavior as “anticipating the issue.”

I came across a Disney Institute blog post describing why Disney trains its team to anticipate a need. Disney used the example of helping a guest who might be lost. At Lenbrook we have the advantage of being on the lookout for our new residents based on their move-in date, but other tell-tale signs could be a person who is looking around corners as he walks down the hall or speeding up and slowing down as she walks while looking for something. The Lenbrook Way training taught us to be aware of an individual’s need at that time by making eye contact and starting conversations. That little trick works well every time.

Make a Peace of Mind Call

I've found that the second step in being responsive is touching base with the person as soon as the concern is voiced until it is resolved. That is a really easy step when you are standing in front of the person, but what about when you receive the concern over a voice or e-mail? That was where my self-awareness moment came in. 

We have a very talented set of twin sisters at Lenbrook, the Jarrell sisters, and they use an expression for a responsive check-in call. They suggest that whenever an issue might be worrying someone you give them a "peace of mind" call. As I described in my situation earlier, I was responsive in trying to find a solution for a resident's problem, but because I had not called the resident to tell them I was working on it, they didn’t know. In that case, the resident did not think I was being responsive and the issue escalated. So, even though it requires more time, part of an effective response process must include checking in with the resident and providing them peace of mind that we are working on the issue.

Solve it The Lenbrook Way

Lenbrook is a community and therefore must solve issues as a community. This requires balancing two important considerations -- the individual and the community. In our case, nothing is done within a silo at Lenbrook, almost every operational achievement is touched by multiple people and often multiple departments. Taking the time to include others in the conversation ensures that a response -- or a solution -- is executed not only in a timely manner but in the right direction.

We always need to consider what is fair for all residents. What if we respond to an issue to solve a problem for an individual but the solution is unfair to other residents? When working at Lenbrook, we have the dual responsibility of caring about one resident while balancing what is best for the other 499 residents. 

Be Humble – Opportunity to Improve

Perhaps the most valuable part of the response process is to recognize and remember there is always room for improvement. The story about my failure to call a resident back is told every month during our new associate orientation by our Vice President of Operations and Hospitality Services. To know that every new associate learns I made an error might be humbling, but it also might help one of those new associates learn that we are all interested in continuous improvement.

We have another humbling practice at Lenbrook that has become habitual because it yields dramatic improvements. After any significant service disruption, we assemble as a team to perform an "after-action" meeting. The idea of these meetings is to learn if we responded at the right time, to the right extent and with the right solution. Without learning from our own mistakes, we limit our opportunity to improve and grow. 

A Process That is Responsive 

Responding quickly is a wonderful trait and one that I love to see throughout our Lenbrook community. To complete the process, I encourage our associates to 1) keep your eyes open before a concern is raised, 2) perform peace of mind checks, 3) think about the best solution for everyone, and 4) be honest with yourself after a stumble. Not surprisingly, the person you serve might respond very positively indeed. 

Chris Keysor is President and Chief Executive Officer of Lenbrook. His passion for the senior living industry began early in his career as a CPA with KPMG Peat Marwick. Chris progressed in executive responsibilities over the years, working for a senior healthcare provider, healthcare financing organizations and senior living consulting groups. Chris is also a nationally ranked Ironman triathlete, which he says comes in handy raising his two young children with his wife here in Atlanta.