Eleven years ago, I came to work at the Gardens. At that time David Pearce had already been here 17 years. I knew from my first interview with him that he would make a great boss. During the interview he suddenly remembered something and with my permission, he called the Grounds Dept. to alert them to some leaves that needed removing outside a resident’s window. I was astonished. Here was the Administrator who knew of a particular concern of a resident, cared enough to call about it and reported it using the resident’s name. He knew these residents.
Within a week or so of my first day on the job, David was leaving for a 3 week vacation. When I asked him what he wanted me to focus on while he was away, he said: “I think you should just take time to get to know the residents.” I secretly thought, great, what will I do in the remaining 2 and ½ weeks once I’ve done that? After my arrogance wore off I did exactly as he suggested and it turned out to be a great directive that helped me learn about life at the Gardens and see many things I would’ve missed had I been given a long task list.
Shortly after the return from his vacation, David and I met to talk more about the Wellness Program and he confessed to me that he had a reputation as a micromanager but that he was aware of it and was reforming his ways. Furthermore, he told me I was welcome any time to tell him if he was interfering too much with my work. It was a great equalizing gesture that he repeated many times over the years by giving me permission to disagree with and correct him. He has taken this to the nines when we began working on Green House development and it became clear that his role is to make sure we satisfy regulations that often reinforce institutional practices and my role is to make sure we are true to the model, which often challenges those practices. Instead of letting this create conflict he routinely calls upon the Green House metaphor of the Dragon (institutional practices that put task before person) and, with no ego and much humor, has invited me to be a bold Dragon slayer. Since David announced his retirement I have been reflecting on these and many other interactions with him. The following are highlights of what I have learned from David Pearce:
- Be Proactive. David is almost famous for this phrase. He encourages staff to call people when answers are needed instead of stewing over the next step.
- Updating and informing people helps things run smoothly.
- Build relationships – whether it’s state regulators, residents or fellow staff, taking the time for relationships is always a wise investment.
- Take Vacation when you can – don’t stockpile it, it’s meant to refresh you.
- Invite the opinions of others. I used to call David often about Wellness Program development and his almost inevitable response? Why don’t you call this resident or that staff member and see what they can tell you about this. Eventually I cut out the middle man and went directly to the sources.
- Model what you expect.
- Invite people to partner with you in your self-improvement – It’s easier to refine yourself if you have helpers.
- Tell people you trust them David said. He trusted me so often when I didn’t trust myself that I actually started trusting myself.
It has been my privilege to report to such a fine leader. He has reflected back my strengths when I had self-doubt, given wise council judiciously, and challenged me to grow by reminding me over and over again that mistakes are part of the journey.
Thank you David, I will miss you.
The Green House Project would like to thank David Pearce for being a champion of bringing this model of Long Term Care to California, and wishes him luck in his retirement. We are looking forward to seeing “what’s next”!