Super Bowl Offers Leadership Lessons for In-Home Care Providers

On Sunday, about 100 million people will turn on their televisions to catch the last game of the football season. The sport’s popularity has turned the championship matchup into a spectacle that draws more eyeballs per year than any other television event.

Believe it or not, there’s something to be learned from it — even for in-home care providers. 

The Kansas City Chiefs and the San Francisco 49ers will face off in Miami for the 54th Super Bowl. Being in the game at all proves that what each organization is doing — from the top-down — is working. NFL organizations, after all, are no different than other organizations in industries that don’t involve helmets and shoulder pads. 

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They thrive with top-down continuity and a strong company culture.

In the world home-based care, those ideals have been exemplified in the recent successesses of Encompass Health (NYSE: EHC), Senior Helpers, 24 Hour Home Care and several other providers.

At Encompass Health, for example, collaboration between decisionmakers and clinicians has led to a promising Patient-Driven Groupings Model (PDGM) strategy with “team admissions.” It’s a particularly turbulent time in home health care, so maintaining a strong company culture and team-based approach helps weather the storm.

“We began [team admissions] in a beta-test fashion, but got so much positive response from the clinicians,” Encompass Health’s April Anthony previously told Home Health Care News. “Team admissions have been a real winning strategy. It’s driven employee satisfaction, patient satisfaction and better outcomes.”

In 2019, Encompass Health’s Dallas-based home health and hospice segment was again named by Great Place to Work and Fortune as one of the country’s best workplaces for women. Senior Helpers and 24 Hour Home Care were similarly highlighted on Fortune’s Best Workplaces in Aging Services list.

In the world of football, company culture and leadership continuity have worked particularly well for the 49ers. Yes, they are tied for the third-most Super Bowl wins with five, but winning hasn’t been all that easy for them lately.

Starting from scratch

The 49ers went 4-12 last year, the league’s second-worst record. This year, their record was 13-3, tied for the second-best record in the NFL. Now, a Super Bowl awaits.

49ers Head Coach Kyle Shanahan is just 40 years old and has only three years of experience on the job. John Lynch, the 49ers general manager, is also just three years into a role he’s never held before.

How did it work out so well? Jed York, the 49ers owner and CEO, finally admitted a change needed to be made. The team experienced back-to-back abysmal seasons in 2015 and 2016, and starting from scratch was in order.

The first step to fixing a problem is acknowledging a problem exists in the first place. That’s when an organization can kickstart real progress.

For instance, Medstar Georgetown University Hospital last year acknowledged its readmission rates could use some work in the post-spinal surgery department. Its first move was to reach out to Georgetown Home care, an outside source, which helped them reduce readmissions by 44% and eventually expand the partnership further.

The 49ers first move was to hire Shanahan.

Shanahan commands respect because he relates to players, but is also brutally honest with them, Taylor Wirth, a beat writer covering the 49ers for SFbay.ca, told HHCN.

“He’s also very patient and embraces personality and enthusiasm,” Wirth said.

Still, York understood that the roster was lackluster and that there could be a learning curve for Shanahan and the players and staff he inherited. When the team’s fortunes did not immediately turn around in the first two years of Lynch and Shanahan’s control, he stayed the course, believing he had hired the right person for each job.

Top-down continuity

In order to establish a cohesive management structure, York did something different — he started with the coach. Once Shanahan was hired, the two collaborated to decide who would be a good fit for the general manager role. That is not how most NFL teams operate. Generally, the general manager brings in the coach, and not vice-versa.

“York allowed Shanahan to have input in hiring the general manager,” Wirth said. “John Lynch was unproven, but he had two qualities [the former general manager] did not: He got along well with people, and he was comfortable being the public face of a team when it was struggling. York gave them both six-year deals, which told them, the fan base, the media and York himself that this overhaul would take time — and they were all in it together.”

The ability to be a strong leader, in both good and trying times, is an invaluable trait for any executive. The owner, GM and coach have now gone from rags to riches — at least from a wins perspective — in three years.

“The relationship between Jed York, John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan is very strong,” Wirth said. “[It] has been so successful because of York’s hands-off ownership, Lynch making moves based off what Kyle needs, and Kyle trusting Lynch to make the right moves.”

In other words, everyone does their own job and pulls on the same end of the proverbial rope. That’s another concept that Anthony and fellow in-home care CEOs have touted.

“In my role as CEO, it’s, ‘How do I create the kind of environment that people want to be a part of?’” Anthony previously said during an episode of Disrupt. “How do I make sure they have everything they need to be empowered?”

Even if the 49ers don’t win on Sunday, a successful work culture and successful environment has been installed in San Francisco — and that alone has them set up nicely for the future.

“What stands out about the 49ers is the culture they have built,” Wirth said. “From top-to-bottom, the team is built with leaders and high-character players, coaches and management. They prioritize high-character players, and that is the big reason as to why that locker room is such a close-knit group.”

The goal of continuity is not just reserved for executives and higher-ups, however.

Last week, York informed the organization that the 49ers would be covering the cost for every employee — including interns — to travel and attend the Super Bowl at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami.

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