Said Another Way:
Those In Power Can Find Other Ways to Make Things Work
Besides Forcing Everyone to Do Things the “Right Way”
The other day I was listening to Radio Lab on NPR. They told an amazing story.
The Benrath Senior Center in Düsseldorf faced a challenging problem with their Alzheimer’s and Dementia patients: lost in their memories, they sometimes get disoriented, and wander off. This can have serious consequences…they can get hurt or worse. So the most common solution is to aggressively confront the reality of the situation, which usually involves quickly catching and then locking up the patients. Which just feels cruel. But what else are you supposed to do if you want to keep them safe?
The Benrath Center found another way. They built a bus stop. A bus stop to nowhere. There was no bus, only a bench and a sign.
Shortly after, a patient had an episode, and no one tried to stop her and lock her up. They just let her let her walk out and sit at the bus stop. A nurse came out to wait with her. No conflict. No forcing back. Just hangin’. Eventually, the patient forgot why she was there, and the nurse simply said “Let’s go back in.” Now, the nurses even use the bus stop intentionally, taking the patients there to sit until their episode passes.
The strategy is simple: Why not allow that other world — wherever the Alzheimer’s patient is running off to — to be true, for just a beat… and then lead them back to the real situation. This approach is now being implemented throughout the institution. For example, one patient was a baker before he came down with Alzheimer’s. In the Center, he kept wanting to get up at 2am to start baking. Previously, they used to always correct his “bad” behavior and force him back into bed. Now, they just let him get up and bake, and he’s much happier and the Center is getting great baked goods!
The Big So What:
What’s This Got to Do With How Leaders Lead Others?
Mostly because they have no other choice, leaders are forcing massive amounts of change on everyone in their company, yet hardly any leaders are building bus stops. The manta is “The bus is leaving. Get on the bus or get thrown under it. Now. That’s your only choice.”
Maybe a responsible leader’s role needs to be different. Maybe it’s building better transitions into the new way of being. Maybe it’s about building better bus stops, and not just forcing the buses to run morebetterfaster. Maybe.