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Posted: July 21, 2004

Professional Caregiving

Coaching for Excellence in Management During Busier Than Busy Days

Do you ever feel stuck, never completing a certain project that keeps reappearing on your mental to-do list? Why are we so excited to start a new project, only to find ourselves frustrated to the point that before we know it, the day is gone without much to show for it? Where did the time go?

If you were nodding ?yes? as you read those questions, you -- like most of your peers -- have busier than busy days and the list of ?when am I ever going to get to. . .? items keeps growing. It is not due to a lack of diligence or energy on your part, but more likely a strong desire to live life more fully, to enjoy the most, to do those elusive things we plan and then re-plan, but never really accomplish them because our day-to-day lives consume our every waking hour ? and more.

It is no surprise that running caregiving services is a full-time job. This is especially so if we, as managers, engage daily with clients or caregivers in addition to our already stressful management role. Even if direct client care is not a regular occurrence, the mountain of tasks in the background can overwhelm even the most diligent manager.

I find that in directing adult day centers, if I?ve had an office on-site, a good part of each day has been spent engaging with clients, their families and staff. Now that I am at a corporate office most of my week, my client and caregiver interaction has decreased and along with it the pleasure I derived from those special interactions. Still, as on-site managers know, there must be a line drawn to the open door policy. If not, your desk work will compete with the pleasure of client interaction.

Whether these goals are professional, as in designing a new brochure, planning the winter fundraiser, or pulling your staff together for a retreat, or are personal in nature -- say, a diet, writing a book, or running the marathon -- it is not the idea itself that is unattainable. What is missing, however, is the structure to accomplish the project and a support system to keep the momentum going and the steps moving forward.

Business or life coaching can be a solution. It is not therapy. It is not about why you can?t or don?t accomplish your intended goals. Coaching is, however, forward-looking, visionary actually, with a strength-orientation that brings you closer to realizing your life goals, dreams or completed work projects by continually inventing ways to take steps toward your goal.

A life coach is to a therapist, what a personal trainer is to a rehabilitation therapist. The former is future-oriented, lead by the client?s agenda, and the latter is focused on the past or present, designed to nurse an old injury back to health. Coaching clients are healthy folks who choose to hire a skilled professional who will support them in reaching their goals and provide the structure in which to accomplish them.

The never-ending projects managers must juggle can include anything from where to find funding when you are faced with a report that your center?s vehicle cannot be repaired, to the concern that all residents -- with all ranges of abilities -- be appropriately engaged at the facility. Census rebuilding, effective marketing, hiring qualified personnel and promoting a more harmonious work environment among staff are an assortment of other ongoing demands of the manager?s attention.

These are just a few of the ongoing managerial tasks that put added strain on already taxed days. The weight of these tasks can be crushing for anyone juggling multiple demands on their attention. When too many important tasks are relegated to the back-burner and don?t get handled, or not handled in as timely a fashion as you or your board or supervisor would like, productivity suffers. This creates a cascade: When the facility suffers, so do the clients, the staff and the industry as a whole. This is very common and yet so fixable.

So how do we maintain the best balance? All of one and none of the other is clearly not workable, but where is that perfect place where people skills and paperwork exist in proportion to one another, providing the satisfaction and the attention to do both well?

With the help of a business coach, managers can put more of their energy into vision and forward-looking activities, which is where most of us dream of being anyway. Move away from reacting to due dates to proactively setting up future-directed growth strategies.

Change and growth are to be expected in all forms of business. Managers need structure to successfully meet these time management challenges while still balancing day-to-day administration. Sometimes all we need is someone whose support helps us prioritize tasks, creating a structure to manage what has so far felt unmanageable and providing a way to ensure that as additional tasks arise, they can also be managed before becoming overwhelming.

Juggling multiple projects is still easier than maintaining changed processes. In fact, maintenance is the hardest part of change processes, even though we often think the first steps are hardest. Ask any diet counselor: When people make the commitment to lose weight, they have the exuberance and intent to keep the diet going until weight loss begins. Then, with each lost pound, weight loss itself becomes the goal. And once we reach our target weight, maintenance becomes hardest to achieve because motivators like shrinking pounds or smaller clothes sizes are removed. Mentors help clients stay focused and find new goals such as increased strength, for example, to carry the person through the muck of maintenance with new found energy.

Business coaching combines a manager?s own agenda with their personal expertise to:

  • help clarify and prioritize projects,
  • support the development of a personal action plan to facilitate accomplishment of these projects,
  • maintain accountability to the implementation of that plan, and
  • help develop strategies to maintain these changes, freeing the manager to move on to new tasks with new-found energy.

Coaches, like those used by professional athletes, focus on breakthrough improvements that produce results unattainable without an individually designed workout regimen. In this example, the athlete has a clear physical or skill-strengthening goal, needed workouts to meet the goal, and assurances through ongoing coaching support and encouragement that the workout is executed, and revamped, as progress is made.

Simply put, caregiving service managers, just like athletes, can be similarly strengthened with the support and skill of a coach who helps sustain momentum toward task completion in order to build opportunities for incorporating vision into their jobs.

Whether you seek coaching for personal or professional reasons, the result will be that a specific project or dream can be realized. Focused, ever-moving forward action is the energizing and life-affirming work that brings us closer to our life goals. The day-to-day routine will always be there, but incorporating your dreams into each day will produce a richer life experience. Whoever said, ?A well-lived present creates a fulfilling future? could have been talking about the positive impact coaching can have your career and life.

Try it and let me know how it works for you.


Sylvia Nissenboim is a licensed clinical social worker and who has been working in the field of adult day services in the St. Louis area. She is the director of four adult care and enrichment centers for the American Red Cross and also operates a personal and professional coaching firm, LifeWork Transitions, specializing in caregiving concerns, adult day care management and other aging services, such as virtual coaching and family care giving support groups. She co-authored The Positive Interactions Program, is a national speaker, and has served as president of the Missouri Adult Day Care Association and as a member of the Missouri Governor's Advisory Council on Aging..

© 2004 Pederson Publishing, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Commercial use, redistribution or other forms of reuse of this information is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission of Pederson Publishing.

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