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Lessons learned: if I knew then what I know now

When one year closes and another begins, I tend to get reflective about my life. I think about things for which I feel enormously grateful, ponder accomplishments for which I feel very proud, and consider what I want to achieve in the upcoming year. Sometimes my thoughts turn to things that I wish I would have done differently or could have done better in the past. You know… those disquieting thoughts that make you think, “I wish I knew then what I know now!”

Recently, I overheard something that triggered this latter type of recollection. It’s estimated that 90% of Americans leave their job at the end of the day feeling unfulfilled by their work. Now I don’t know how accurate that is, but upon hearing this startling statement, I began to wonder… over the course of my career, how might I have contributed to this situation? In the various leadership roles that I’ve held, did I create an environment that left employees feeling disconnected and unsatisfied?

My mind drifted back to many years ago when I was a first-time director of nursing in a skilled nursing facility. Being new to the role, my focus was on compliance, staffing and clinical quality. My time was spent ensuring our processes met regulatory requirements, confirming that all the slots were filled on the staffing schedule, monitoring my budget, conducting audits and updating our policies and procedures. All this left very little time with the people I was leading. Looking back, I wish I knew then what I know so deeply now. People matter. Relationships matter.  And one of the most important roles as a leader is to create the conditions in which employees can flourish.

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