|DOWN MEMORY LANE
By Marge Knoth, Author, Activity Professional
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Marge Knoth attended Purdue
University and took her activity
director training at Indiana
University and her social
service at Ball State. She is
the author of ten books for
activity professionals. Her
books have been used as
teaching guides in colleges,
trade schools, and in activity
director courses throughout the
U.S. and Canada. They have
won both national and state
awards from the National
Federation of Press Women
and Women’s Press Club of
Marge has written a monthly
column, "A Letter from Marge"
for Current Activities in Long
Term Care. She has been
published in Family Circle,
Lady’s Circle, Women’s Circle,
Indianapolis Woman, Christian
Science Monitor, Event,
various Christian and craft
publications, and other
magazines and newspapers.
She wrote a weekly newspaper
column called “Do You
Remember?”, and wrote and
recorded a long-running series
of nostalgic radio
commercials. Also, she is a
motivational speaker having
traveled the United States and
Canada speaking at many state
and province activity
Let Your Excellence Exceed
Your Employer’s Expectations
You may have a great boss, but then again you may not. We don’t have any choice in
selecting our employer, but we can certainly strive to be an employee our boss loves to
have on board. We can make him or her* shine, make the company look good, and in
the process be recognized for the professional we really are.
So often we think of our boss simply as the one who signs our paycheck, who decides
if we are to remain employed, and who keeps everyone in line. But today, let’s expand
our vision and see him in a different light. Let’s look beyond the surface and view him
as a person who has an important job to do, who has goals and dreams, who needs a
word of praise occasionally–just like the rest of us. Our boss is often bombarded with
problems, conflicts, and dealing with employees who merely put in their time. But
activity directors are not that way. Our work is more than a job. It is a vocation, or a
calling. Some even call it a ministry.
I read somewhere that the former chairman of Porsche one day happened upon three
men doing manual labor. He inquired as to what they were doing. The first man said, “I’
m breaking rocks.”
The second man replied, “I’m earning a living.” The third man said proudly, “I’m
helping to build a cathedral.”
Like the third, we as activity directors, must know why we are on the job. We have a
We care, and we have unique gifts and talents to share. We want to make a difference
in the lives of others. And with that said, no doubt, we want to be the very best employee
we possibly can. So how might we improve? Let’s explore the issue a bit.
First, as we said, we need to see our boss as a whole person, not just our employer.
Understand the pressures he is under. Know his strengths and weaknesses. Is he an
introvert or extrovert? Know his likes and dislikes–behaviors, colors, favorite foods. Is
he a football fan? A golfer? An antique collector? Does he hate pizza, but love Chinese
food? We should learn his work styles, schedules, and patterns. Is he strictly organized,
or is he more flexible with his time? Does he have an open-door policy, or must we
make an appointment? Does he like to talk about his family, or is that a private matter?
We need to listen carefully when he talks and try to understand his ideas. How does he
respond in situations? What are his personal goals and his goals for the company?
A wise activity director tries to make her boss’s life easier. She works for the good of the
company, not just the activity department. She thinks of the activity department as a mini-
business within his business. She is well trained for her position. She has a budget
she must work within. She is up on company and resident needs and concerns. She
has goals and challenges. She daily makes important decisions. She spends
company money wisely. She dresses professionally because she represents “his”
business. She shares with her boss any neat ideas she has for facility cost-cutting,
better efficiency, or for building public awareness of his business. She makes “her”
business shine, which will then reflect on her boss’s business, and consequently on
her own professionalism.
We should find ways to support our boss, and always speak positively him and our
facility, even when we don’t feel that way. (Having worked for ten different
administrators, I know how hard that can be, and I confess that I have not always been
successful.) We need to be grateful for what we have. We can thank him for our nice
office (hopefully we have one) and for opportunities to grow in our field. Our employer
needs our respect. By giving respect we earn respect. Perhaps he had a great state
survey, or he won an award from Kiwana’s, or hired a wonderful new DON. We should
not be afraid to compliment him on a job well done. Also, we can pass along another’s
compliments of him. He needs approval too. We must be sincere because there is a
big difference between praise and flattery. Remember him with an appropriate card on
boss’s day. Share with him helpful newspaper or magazine articles. These might
include what other companies are doing successfully, some new developments in the
field, or something having to do with his hobbies or interests.
We might consider sending a monthly note to our boss to keep him abreast of activity
department happenings and how they have benefitted the company as a whole. We
should be willing to take on new responsibilities and give more than is expected of us.
We can volunteer for assignments–to head up a committee, to bring cookies, to run an
errand. It looks good when we enthusiastically tackle new challenges. These may help
the company grow, and we will be growing with it. We should invest quality time into
areas that are important to our boss. If he is interested in community involvement or a
recycling program, we should give it our best shot.
We need to prove our dependability. If we say we will do something, we must follow
Completing projects before the deadline shows we are capable and can be trusted with
greater responsibilities. Truthfulness is essential in our dealings, and we should
refuse to do anything we consider unethical.
What else can we do to let our professionalism shine? Provide a full day’s work for a
full day’s pay. Arrive on time. Find ways to stay motivated. Ask ourselves: Why am I
doing this job?”
Am I blessing a resident? Am I making things easier for my boss? Am I growing in
professionalism? Read inspirational and self-improvement books. Ask our boss how
he thinks we might improve in our position. Grow in our field. Attend seminars and
workshops. Diversify our experiences and learn all we can. Impress him with a
professional attitude. Be an independent thinker. Trust our own judgments. Be decisive.
Learn to make decisions quickly. Don’t try to do everything yourself. Learn to delegate.
Know where you are going through professional and personal goal setting. At
meetings, speak little and listen much. Then when we do share our insights, we will be
heard. Look others in the eye in conversation. Encourage co-workers. Do not be pulled
into complaint sessions with staff. It will always backfire. Even if we are the offended
one, it is best to refrain from speaking negatively. It looks good for us when we
challenge complainers to find solutions to their problems. We then become recognized
as a “problem solver” rather than a trouble maker. We should be teachable and
remember that we can learn something from anyone. I am regularly learning from my
daughters, and even my grandchildren.
When you need something from our boss, we should speak little of our need, but point
out how it will benefit him, the facility, or the residents. Interesting people often come
into our offices or across our path. If we think one might help further our boss’s goals,
we should introduce them.
We should also be quick to share the credit with others for successful activities and
We will, no doubt, impress our boss and others if we are self-confident enough to
shoulder the blame in situations, even when it is not our fault. Henry Rogers in Rogers
Rules for Success says, “If you look around, the person who assumes the blame is the
most liked, the most respected, and the most admired. No one punishes him or
humiliates him. He is trusted because he has the self- confidence and self-assurance
to say, ‘It is my fault.’” We must take responsibility for our own performance and that of
our staff. If we have goofed, we need to admit it quickly, and then ask our boss how he
would have handled the situation.
Some facilities shun publicity, but a good many administrators want to receive all the
positive coverage possible. It is in our power to make it happen. We can learn to write
tempting press releases that will lure the press into our facility.** We can hold regular
community-involvement programs, and we can edit a quality newsletter that reaches
into the community and beyond. We might consider a reminiscent slant which includes
our residents’ nostalgic memories of days gone by.***
And finally, we can keep a yearly journal of our activities and events. Also keep a list of
things we hope to accomplish in the coming year. Then when evaluation time rolls
around, we can review with our boss what we have achieved the past year and what we
plan to do next year. Remember raises aren’t given as prizes; they are earned. So if we
have done our part to make our boss look good, to make his job easier, and to further
his goals, no doubt we will walk away with a salary increase.
It is not easy being a quality employee. It takes working with our employer and staff, not
against them. It requires time and energy and patience. It takes commitment,
determination, and hard work. Those qualities are hardly new to activity directors, but
sometimes we need a reminder. So why not consider some of these tips, and then go
about your day, and let your excellence exceed your employer’s expectations. God bless
you all. Marge.
* For simplicity and ease of reading, we used the single pronoun he when referring to
our boss though this is not meant in any way to be sexist.
**The Professional Activity Director, by the author provides several sample press
releases that have proven successful in getting the press to cover activities.
***Newsletters Simplified! by the author shows you how to write a newsletter and
provides completed articles and other material to copy and use in your newsletter.