Going to the Birds! Culture Creatures

Going to the Birds! Culture Creatures

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Cynthia: Well, hello all of you aging cosmonauts and senior living professionals.

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Cynthia: Welcome back to Cosmic Soup. This is a podcast that covers everything around successful aging and offers helpful information for communities that serve an aging population – namely senior living communities. Although, we don’t love the labels.

So, positive aging messaging, dining, culinary, business practices, and more: that’s everything that’s floating around in Cosmic Soup. And today, I’m accompanied by Randi Saeter, who is our Vice President of Health Services at 3rdPlus, and we have a super special guest.

But first, Randi, hi. How are you doing?

Randi: Oh, I’m doing great. Thank you so much. It’s great to be here.

Cynthia: Great. What’s cooking in your coaching world? What are you working on these days?

Randi: Well, you know right now we’re very excited because we have this new commitment over on the East Coast, and we’re going to be going over there to work with them. It’s a very, very large CCRC on the East Coast, and we’re going to help them elevate their dining services, make things better, look at areas that we can help improve on. So, we’re super excited to go over there.

Cynthia: Wonderful. And what a good teaser drumroll for our special guest, Dave Foltz.

Dave, I am so honored and excited to have you and Carol both on our team, and I’m really looking forward to hearing from you about one of your specialties, and that’s culture. But first, I know our audience wants to know about Dave. Tell us about your professional background and personal interests. And then let’s talk about culture.

David: Well, thank you for having me. I think that I’ll start off by just saying, just like most teenagers, I started off in the fast-food industry. I stayed there for about 19 years. And when I left there, I changed to what we called then the senior housing industry.

Now I would call it something completely different, but what I did was I primarily stayed with assisted living. Now, through my assisted living career of 26, 27 years, I worked for various for-profits and various not-for-profits (large ones and small ones) and had the opportunity to really do some good work with different organizations.

During that time, I was also very involved in the organizations that we sponsor or we were part of like LeadingAge and WoCA, and so forth. With LeadingAge, I presently serve on the board of LeadingAge, but also, too, have worked to develop the Assisted Living Administrators Academy that we hold every year for new assisted living administrators.

In addition to that, I’m on the LeadingAge Washington Leadership Institute staff where we coach and bring up new leaders in the industry. Leadership development is my passion. I love it. It’s just so rewarding, but also, too, I can see so much success out there when you take a leader that is very shy and very calm, and you make them a leader that doesn’t mind standing up in front of people, voicing their opinion, and really doing a good job in communicating with people. That is the biggest success.

I look back on my career, and most of the time when I really feel successful it has been around developing the people that we now have in our industry. And I can name some names out there that you should be watching for in the future.

Cynthia: That background is perfect because not only are you a teacher, but you have a vast variety of culinary experience and management experience. So, then what did you do? Where have you been lately?

David: Just recently, I have left an organization that has CCRCs and assisted living together, Transforming Age, and Transforming Age is all focused around the culture of what goes on in the building. And I learned a lot from them, but I also took what I had learned over the years and really focused on what made me who I was and use some of those skills in my daily work and in my daily passion.

Cynthia: Well, it’s a great organization, Transforming Age, and they’re certainly growing. Yeah, we have a lot of respect for them.

Randi, I feel like you told me that you’ve taken a class from Dave before.

Randi: Yes, I did. I think it was a few years ago, and it was when I actually was working for a larger CCRC in the Seattle area, and I attended the training session down there with my assisted care director. I just remember that Dave and Carol both were just amazing teachers, and it was a lot of fun, too, at the same time. So, it really was a fun time.

Cynthia: I think you told me also that you learned about the culture creatures, their birds. And so, Dave, I want you to kind of give us the session because we all know that, in senior living communities, culture is really the foundation for success.

It’s the same in any organization. You can feel it the minute you walk through the door of any company, office, community. You can actually feel the culture. And so, Dave, tell us what you know.

David: Culture to me is the primary function of how a leader is going to lead the organization. He or she needs to develop that culture and develop a culture that is encouraging and that people get along, people like to come to work and enjoy working with each other.

The birds, like you mentioned, you know we all kind of fall into one of four categories with the birds. I like to identify it with a type of bird, and that type of bird kind of gives an overview of what that personality is like.

It’s got a term, and you can look it up on Google (the Internet), and it’s got a term that is called the DOPE Personality Test, D-O-P-E. Those four letters, D-O-P-E, stand for dove, owl, peacock, and an eagle. What’s interesting about that is each one of those birds has a different personality.

That dove is more like that heart person, the person that deals with things from a compassionate and thought process, but also looks at things from a humanistic type of thing and doesn’t necessarily look at the whole thing based on what they’re looking at. They’re looking at the heart, and that’s the dove.

The owl, just like most people believe that owl has those studious glasses and they’re focused on details and they’re focused on what is going to be the next step, that owl is very, very regimented as far as needing these steps to be done.

The peacock, just like you would think, the peacock likes to have fun, is very flamboyant, is colorful, and really gets into things and really kind of motivates the crowd to keep going.

Then of course there’s that eagle, and the eagle is very, very dedicated to making sure things follow suit. They are the firm direction in things. They’re very, very regal. They are the leader of the group, usually.

If you look at this, and everybody kind of associates it with something or another, but if you look at this, the dove, they’re going to write emails with a lot of feeling and a lot of emphasis and how I feel.

The owl, usually their emails are bullet points and very structured; these are the steps that you need to accomplish before you get to the next step, and so forth.

And the peacock, those are those people that use those emojis. You open up the email, and there’s confetti flying and so forth. That’s from a peacock.

Then there’s that eagle. That eagle usually is one or two lines in an email, maybe even just in the title. Nothing else in the email, just stating what needs to be done, very direct and to the point.

These four birds have to be on the team to make the team very, very successful.

Now, what happens if one of these birds is not on the team or you don’t have an individual that is one of these? Then the secondary emphasis of one of the people needs to be brought out, and they need to fill in that spot.

To have a good team operating with good leadership creates the good culture within that department, within that building, within that organization. The organization needs to have that eagle just as much as they need to have that dove. And they need to have that owl just as much as they need that person that’s upfront just rooting things on and becoming a peacock.

Well, the key thing with this is we all need to be able to communicate and work together. That’s the key part of it.

A dove needs to know how they communicate with an eagle. It’s direct and to the point. That eagle, in return, needs to know how they communicate with the dove. They can’t be just direct and to the point because the dove might not get the feeling of what that eagle is trying to say, so they need to look at different ways to be able to communicate.

Cynthia: That’s really valuable, and I love how it just boils it down to the most simple form, and it gives you a visual, so you can visualize the eagle as his or her email is landing in your box and try not to be offended by it if you’re a dove.

Randi, how have you seen this play out? Have you used any of this in your management structures?

Randi: Well, now that Dave was talking about it and having gone through and taken that test myself during his class, I can think about managers and staff where I have worked and how there are different birds in a community. Dave is right. I think that there needs to be a combination or just a difference in the leaders in order to have success.

I think that all of these birds complement each other. If you’ve just having eagles at your community, it may not be great. It even things out when you have an owl, a more detail-oriented person, versus then a peacock. Again, everything kind of gets balanced out at the end of the day.

I’ve seen that. I can think of just many different people I work with that are different birds, if you will.

Cynthia: Yeah. Dave, what do you do then? Let’s say you’re on your team, and you’re the leader, and your birds are all fighting with each other. What do you do?

David: Well, I think what you have to do is focus on what the strengths of each person is and bring those out. Many organizations, because you’ve made it to this level, then you’re in charge and everybody else has to listen because that’s what’s needed. You’ve been there. You’ve done that. You’ve created this before, and you’ve been through this before.

The key thing to remember, though, is that you’ve never been with it with the people that you are exactly with now. And the strengths of those individual people needs to be brought out. So, if you have some fighting and so forth, what I would do is I’d just sit down and say, “Hey, guys. We’re all different. We all have different strengths, and we need to support each other in those strengths.”

You can’t just operate with all eagles. Can you imagine operating with a bunch of eagles on a team? You probably wouldn’t get much done at all. Just like if you were operating with all of the doves on the team. It’d be a nice kumbaya moment with everybody just feeling good about themselves, but you would probably never really accomplish much.

You have to have that eagle driving you to make sure that things get done. And you’ve got to have the owl keeping track of what you’ve actually done and how to focus on the details so that you can make sure that you can replicate it next time.

Cynthia: Do you have any examples of a before and an after? Let’s say that you’ve gone into a community that did not maybe have this awareness, and then you brought the awareness. You worked with the team for a little while. What was the tangible difference after that work was done?

David: It’s interesting because, yes, I have had situations where I’ve walked in and we’ve had two or three doves on the team, things were all nice, and everybody was taken care of because we’re all dealing from the heart. But we weren’t making money. We weren’t focused on making sure that things get done. And so, to bring out those owls and the eagles in that situation was a key.

You can’t operate a business and make sure that you have good culture with just one or two of the birds. You need to have all four of them to bring out the teamwork and the culture within that organization being positive. It’s critical that you support and you believe that everybody is as valuable as the other person. By looking at what eagle or what dove or peacock or the owl bring to the table is the key part and valuing those people as their team members and valuing them as individuals as a part of that team.

Cynthia: Yeah. It’s interesting now that we’re talking through this because, as a consulting team and a coaching team, we’ve gone into communities sometimes and it’s almost like you could describe a community as a dove community, an owl community, or an eagle community because they have personalities too. I have seen situations, especially in nonprofits, where it’s very soft, and it’s very sweet and fuzzy, but they’re losing money. So, I totally get that because some management decisions need to be made that – and they always should be made with your heart – but there are sometimes when there’s a reality where things just have to get done and get done well, and maybe you make a change, but that’s hard for doves, I’m guessing.

David: Yeah, it would be. But also, too, if the dove knows that they’re a dove and they need that structure, they need that drive, and they need to be able to stand up in front of a group and really get people excited about things, then a dove is open to those other parts of it.

You’re absolutely correct. You know a building that is all doves, which nonprofits tend to be more dove than others, but nonprofit doesn’t mean that you don’t make money and you can’t pay people. No. A nonprofit means that you have a balance between all four of those entities.

I believe that without the dove and without the eagle and without the peacock and the owl, you’re not going to be a successful nonprofit, for-profit, or any other organization without key people and those four categories.

Cynthia: What would you suggest for a community if they wanted to start exploring these ideas and maybe have their team take the test? How would they proceed with something like that to help them create some awareness around respect and respecting different talents and roles within an organization?

David: Well, I think the first step would be to recognize that, number one, you need this. I think to have a conversation with everybody in the room and say that we all need to understand how the other person operates so that we can support them, we can use them, and we can believe in them is the key part. Once they do that, then there are resources on the Internet, and you can just type in DOPE test, D-O-P-E, and you can come up with three or four different options from a paper test that you can take and score to an online version of that.

I believe that the paper one with a lot more questions is a little bit more thorough, but either one would work. Then if everybody kind of gets an idea of who they are, and once you really start to look, you’re going to be able to look around the room and determine, “Okay. I think there are more eagle tendencies,” or “There are more dove tendencies.”

Once you use it for a while, you know that. You can tell that when you’re talking to people. And so, you deal with them differently. You talk to them differently. You encourage them differently.

If an eagle was trying to build the support around them, he needs to be aware of the fact that he or she has doves working for them and they’re going to have to be a little bit more supportive than if they were talking to an owl or an eagle. It’s got to be not as direct and to the point.

Plus, it’s got to be fun if you’re going to get that peacock involved. The peacock, they’re enjoying things.

I did this presentation before the Washington Activities Association, and so for activity directors. It was interesting. I had one owl in the room and the rest were peacocks.

Isn’t that a telling thing that all these activity directors (because they are chosen and they have been chosen to do that job and they enjoy it) they’re peacocks? They like to be in front of people. They like to have fun. They like to do those kinds of things with people.

It’s very, very telling that you need some of each ones. You can’t just operate with all owls. You can’t just operate with all peacocks. The same with doves and eagles, it has to be a good balance.

Cynthia: Yeah, I would think then, Randi, in your experience, have you noticed? I’m curious. Do people tend to hire this similar type of person? If I’m a dove, would it be natural for me to hire a dove? What do you think?

Randi: Yes and no. It depends on what position I think you’re looking to hire for. But I could tell you that it’s very interesting. I had worked with a lot of activities professions in my past. Yes, they are very peacock. They are very outgoing, fun-loving, passionate about what they do.

I’m not a peacock, but when I was looking for an activities director for my building, yes, that’s what I wanted because I know they will engage the residents. They will be creating fun and creating programming that is rewarding for the residents. It’s very interesting to see that and to hear that, that the majority of them were peacocks.

Yeah, I definitely don’t think that I would hire an eagle for that position. I don’t think that would be appropriate.


Cynthia: They would say, “Get out there and do it.” [Laughter]

Randi: Mm-hmm. Exactly.

Cynthia: “Just do it.”

Randi: Yes.


Cynthia: Oh, well, this has been so interesting.

David: It’s a little bit easier to identify with a position within a building or a community that you need that peacock to be the activity director. You need the owl to be the business office manager. The eagle is usually the executive director but does not have to be because if a good leader can actually lead his team, he can actually develop someone on the team to be the eagle to keep pushing forward and respect that person for the position they have and really look at other parts of it.

I am not an eagle, and I’ve been told that I’m a fairly good executive director. So, how could I as an executive director not be an eagle? Well, that’s because I allow my other staff, my owls and my peacocks and my doves and, yes, my eagles within my organization, to lead and to do so.

I had a wellness director that was an eagle, and I allowed her that really direct and to the point way to make sure things were done. She was an eagle, though, that had a heart of gold, and that was what we developed and that’s what we used within the team. It just depends on how you use them within the organization and what you emphasize their strengths are.

Cynthia: Yeah. Thank you, Dave. That is just really good advice, I think, for CEOs and managers is kind of taking a higher level look and allowing people to do their job, to perform the role that they were hired for, but in a way that they’re comfortable doing it (as long as the job gets done and it’s done well).

Any closing comments, Randi or Dave?

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David: I just wanted to make sure that everybody knew that if you wanted someone to come out, I would be more than willing to come out to your organization, your building, or your community and go through the DOPE test with you, to actually talk through all four of the sessions, and kind of help bring out, in individuals, their strengths. Let us know. Just give us a call.

Randi: I just want to say thank you. It’s been very interesting learning and having a refresher on the DOPE test and different characteristics of these individuals. We appreciate it. Thank you so much, Dave.

David: Thank you.

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