September 29, 2022

SFCS’s 37th Annual By Design Conference kicked-off with Keynote Speaker Health Slawner – a Simon Sinek “Igniter” known for teaching individuals, companies, and organizations that trust and purpose are at the center of success. The Infinite Game, written by British-American author, Simon Sinek, uncovers the pitfalls of short-term gains and shows how leaders can redirect their focus on practices that lead to strengths, stability, and more revenue.

“This year’s theme (Infinite Possibilities, Finding Longevity) means so many different things when it comes to Senior Living,” said Slawner. “I encourage you to reflect on this. What does Infinite Possibilities mean to you and what could it mean for the future?”

Slawner began by recounting the challenges of the global pandemic and its looming influence over mental health. Anxiety, uncertainty, and being overwhelmed were common reactions from today’s workforce. The continual “fight or flight” state of mind stems from an instinctive fear of the unknown and causes symptoms of anxiety.

“One thing that the neuroscientists have asked us to think about is in an uncertain world, what is it that you can actually control?” said Slawner. “I’ll give you my answer: the only thing you can control is you. This is why our mindset matters in the game we’re playing.”

Slawner explained the two mindsets or “games” to be experienced: finite games, and infinite games. Finite games are described as having known players, a clear beginning and end, and the rules are fixed. In sports, for example, there is an outcome with a winner and a loser and the game ends. In contrast, infinite games have both known and unknown players that come and go, unconventional actions, everchanging rules, and no explicit end.

“The main objective of the infinite game is to perpetuate the game itself,” Slawner continued. “You want to stay in the game as long as possible. Marriage, parenting, and healthcare are all examples of infinite games in which a single winner cannot be declared.”

When it comes to Senior Living, the rules are always changing. Staff changes and new legislation are examples of how nothing is truly fixed. With the retirement population expected to double to 100 million older adults by 2060, it is important for field leaders to position themselves to stay relevant through trust, cooperation, and innovation.

Slawner described the infinite game rules:

Just Cause – A just cause must have a specific vision of a future state that does not yet exist but is so compelling that people are willing to make sacrifices to move toward that vision. Not driven by money, these causes are often service-oriented and use the organization’s strengths to strive for something bigger than itself.

Trusting Teams –High levels of trust provide safe spaces for team members to forgive and forget. . When it’s okay to ask for help, and it’s okay to accept help when it’s offered, employees go from fearing their team to working cohesively. The people around you have your back and care about you. They’ll be there should you stumble and fall.

Worthy Rivals – We can share, learn, and grow from one another by coming together to find solutions and resisting the impulse to “win” against rivals. Viewing them as worthy of comparison, and not as competition, leads to mutual appreciation and realizing that the real competition is against yourself. Are you better this year than you were last year? Are you more resident-centric and are your employees engaged? What can you learn from your worthy rivals about improving?

Existential Flexibility – There may come a time where you find a better way to achieve your purpose. Do you have the capacity to initiate an extreme disruption to advance your vision more effectively? You never want to confuse what you are doing with WHY you are doing it. If there is a better way, but it means taking a loss for a year to get it implemented, seizing the opportunity can set your organization and leadership apart and propel you towards your vision.  Finite players fear disruption and don’t like change. An infinite player sees change as an amazing opportunity, saying, “I think there’s a new way.”

Courage to Lead – Leaders need to be ready to accept the responsibility that they will be forced to take risks for the good of an unknown future. They must be willing to stand up to internal and external pressures to conform in order to stay true to the organization’s just cause. Having the courage to lead and take chances will allow for mastery of all the above game rules.

Leaders who embrace the infinite game build stronger, innovative, and inspiring organizations. There is trust and resilience evident in their success. When reflecting upon your own organization, consider how you can adopt the infinite mindset as a leader and inspire your employees to work together towards a just cause.

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