Workplace MVP: Geoff Topping, Challenger Motor Freight and Sara Rose, RN, MVN, Hennepin Healthcare
The pandemic created unique and acute workplace challenges for both trucking and healthcare enterprises. Geoff Topping, Challenger Motor Freight, and Sara Rose, Hennepin Healthcare, joined host Jamie Gassmann to reflect on their experiences of both difficulty and hope over the past year. “Workplace MVP” is underwritten and presented by R3 Continuum and produced by the Minneapolis-St.Paul Studio of Business RadioX®.
Geoff Topping, Vice President of People & Culture, Challenger Motor Freight Inc.
Geoff Topping has been in the trucking industry for over 25 years and has held many roles in that time. Geoff started his career as a Driver and has since held positions in Operations, Sales, Recruiting and Human Resources. Currently, Geoff is Vice President of People & Culture including Safety, Recruiting and Risk Management for Challenger. Geoff has also served Industry associations such as the Truck Training Schools of Ontario where he acted as the Chair of the Carrier committee and is currently the co-chair of the Recruiting, Retention and HR committee at TCA as well as a Commissioner for the Niagara Bridge Commission. In 2018 Geoff was awarded the HR Leader of the year by Trucking HR Canada and is 2017 was also recognized as the HR Innovator.
Challenger Motor Freight Inc.
Challenger Motor Freight is a total supply chain provider to a large and diverse customer base in Canada, United States, and Mexico. Challenger employs more than 1,500 people with locations in Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, and Long Beach.
Since its inception in 1975, Challenger Motor Freight Inc. has continually set new standards of quality and performance. Their unwavering commitment has earned us some of the highest accolades in the transportation industry and an impressive record of customer satisfaction.
From its earliest days, Challenger has made innovation a part of its corporate culture. The Challenger team has always been on the forefront of operational and technological advancements that have significantly changed the nature of the transportation industry. These innovations continue to take them in new directions by allowing the company to offer enhanced services to meet their customer’s increasingly diversified needs.
With a full range of transportation, warehousing, and logistics services, Challenger can meet client requirements and transport your goods between Canada and anywhere in North America.
Their modern fleet serves truckload, less-than-truckload, special commodities and expedited needs. A team of professionally trained drivers and state-of-the-art electronic monitoring and on-board tracking systems help ensure the highest quality standards and timely arrivals.
At Challenger, they are proud of our history and excited about their future, but their greatest pride lies in helping customers reach new heights.
Leading the Way. Challenger Motor Freight is a company that shares your drive to outperform the competition.
Sara Rose, RN, MSN, Hennepin Healthcare
Sara Rose is an energetic and visionary hospital leader with thirty-two years of healthcare experience including fourteen years in a nursing leadership role. Sara has experience in smaller critical access hospitals as well as urban, academic medical center environments. Sara is passionate about maintaining a strong focus to provide support and well-being resources for her teams. She sees staff as the most valuable resource in any healthcare organization.
Hennepin Healthcare is a network of inpatient and outpatient services across the Twin Cities in Minnesota.
Their flagship, Hennepin County Medical Center (HCMC), is a 400-bed Adult and Pediatric Trauma Center, Comprehensive Stroke Center, Verified Burn Center, and Verified Bariatric Center in the heart of Minneapolis. As an academic medical center and safety net hospital, their mantra is “Every Life Matters.” The Critical Care and Heart and Vascular divisions oversee adult intensive care and cardiology services. HCMC is accredited by the Joint Commission.
About “Workplace MVP”
Every day, around the world, organizations of all sizes face disruptive events and situations. Within those workplaces are everyday heroes in human resources, risk management, security, business continuity, and the C-suite. They don’t call themselves heroes though. On the contrary, they simply show up every day, laboring for the well-being of employees in their care, readying the workplace for and planning responses to disruption. This show, “Workplace MVP,” confers on these heroes the designation they deserve, Workplace MVP (Most Valuable Professionals), and gives them the forum to tell their story. As you hear their experiences, you will learn first-hand, real life approaches to readying the workplace, responses to crisis situations, and overcoming challenges of disruption. Visit our show archive here.
“Workplace MVP” Host Jamie Gassmann
In addition to serving as the host to the Workplace MVP podcast, Jamie Gassmann is the Director of Marketing at R3 Continuum (R3c). Collectively, she has more than fourteen years of marketing experience. Across her tenure, she has experience working in and with various industries including banking, real estate, retail, crisis management, insurance, business continuity, and more. She holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Mass Communications with special interest in Advertising and Public Relations and a Master of Business Administration from Paseka School of Business, Minnesota State University.
Intro: [00:00:04] Broadcasting from the Business RadioX Studios, it’s time for Workplace MVP. Workplace MVP is brought to you by R3 Continuum, a global leader in workplace behavioral health, crisis, and security solutions. Now here’s your host, Jamie Gassmann.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:00:26] Hi, everyone. Your host, Jamie Gassmann, here. And welcome to this edition of Workplace MVP. Every day around the world, workplaces of all sizes face disruptions, such as loss of employees, business interruptions, natural disasters, workplace violence. And, yes, a pandemic. Within those workplaces are everyday heroes whose role calls for them to ready the workplace for and respond to those disruptions. This show features those heroes we call Workplace MVP’s, otherwise known as Most Valuable Professionals. While we celebrate their inspiring work, we also hope to learn from their experiences as well.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:01:09] Today, we have two wonderful MVP’s to celebrate. Geoff Topping, Vice President of People and Culture from Challenger Motor Freight, and Sara Rose, Senior Director, Critical Care from Hennepin County Medical Center, also known as HCMC. They will be sharing with us today the amazing work they have done for their organizations and their people as they navigated the twists and turns brought on by the various challenges of 2020.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:01:35] Our first workplace MVP is Geoff Topping, Vice President of People and Culture at Challenger Motor Freight. Hi there, Geoff.
Geoff Topping: [00:01:43] Good morning.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:01:45] So, you’ve been named the accidental H.R. Manager. Can you share with me how you got that title?
Geoff Topping: [00:01:51] Yeah. Absolutely. So, I am the Vice President of People and Culture here at Challenger. That kind of came about in a strange way. I started my career in the trucking industry at the age of 18 as a driver. I was a driver and owner-operator. I worked in operations and I worked in sales. And then, back in, I guess, it was about 2016 or 2015, somewhere in there, I was kind of tapped on the shoulder and asked to move in to the recruiting and retention side of the trucking business.
Geoff Topping: [00:02:26] And it was kind of an odd thing for me because I don’t have any postsecondary education in H.R. I had never worked in the H.R. field. In fact, I used to pick on the H.R. people, I called it the hug department, actually, lots of times. And so, it was kind of an odd thing for me to be put into the H.R. role. Yeah, it was a very unconventional way of getting here. But I think I’m pretty proud of the way things have turned out. It’s been an exciting time. And we’re going to talk a bit about that a little more as we go through things here today.
Geoff Topping: [00:02:58] But I’ve often said now, I wish it was what I’d done all my career was working the H.R. side of things. But it’s been pointed out to me by many people, a couple of mentors that I have that, you know, if I hadn’t done all the different roles I have within the industry and within the school of hard knocks, I guess we’ll call it, then I wouldn’t be able to fulfill the role the way I do. So, kind of a weird pattern or way to get here, but it’s been exciting.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:03:24] Definitely. So, tell me a little bit about, you know, the career journey you’ve had. You know, your mentors pointed out that it helped you in your current role. In your opinion, how has that helped you be more effective at what you do?
Geoff Topping: [00:03:37] Well, I think in our industry, because I’ve worked in basically all areas of our industry, I can really empathize with the drivers, with the mechanics, with the people in the operations floor, the people in the admin sections of the business. I’ve done a lot of the same roles they are currently doing. I’ve faced a lot of the same challenges, it gives me a good perspective of what they might be dealing with.
Geoff Topping: [00:04:03] It’s also really helped where I can relate and kind of tell the story, or I joke and call it translate. I can translate what the other departments might be dealing with. You know, when you put in an order, for example, you’re putting in an order for a load to pick up somewhere. That information that’s put in there is not only important to the driver, it can be important to the billing department. It can be important to the safety department. It can be important to the risk department. And because of all my different roles, I’m able to kind of share with everybody what you do and how it affects other people throughout the supply chain.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:04:36] Great. Now, over the last year, I’m sure it helped out a lot to have some of that background, but what were some of the hardest parts of your role over this last year?
Geoff Topping: [00:04:48] Since the pandemic started in March the 11th at about 1:15 in the afternoon – I’ll never forget it – in 2020, getting people answers has been the hardest part, I think. People were dealing with fear in a lot of ways. I mean, if we look at Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, you know, those basic needs were in question for a lot of people. They didn’t know if they were going to have a job. They didn’t know what this might mean for their health. They didn’t know what it might mean for their loved one’s health. And so, there was a lot of fear. And, you know, we still go through waves of that as the pandemic continues. And we’re in wave 3 of it here now in the Province of Ontario.
Geoff Topping: [00:05:33] But I think getting people answers was the hardest thing because people were scared. They were having emotions that they didn’t understand. I mean, none of us have been through a pandemic before. This is something new and unprecedented. So, coming up with answers fast enough for people and ones that weren’t going to change, I mean, this was a very fluid situation. The health care professionals, which we have one of them on the line here with us today, we’re learning about this virus. It was a changing virus and still changes to this day. So, how it was being handled, what the medical professionals, what the the boards of health or the Departments of Health were requiring was constantly changing. And I think just getting people the answers to make them feel safe and make them feel comfortable was the biggest challenge.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:06:25] Now, you’ve mentioned fear and we’re going to talk a little bit more about that in a little bit. But tell me a little bit about what was it like for your staff? What were you experiencing? You know, you’ve heard stories of every employee kind of responded differently. Some were really afraid. Some were not. Kind of like almost like a spectrum of fear. What was it like for your staff over this last year with all of the different twists and turns, cases rising, cases falling? What was it like for your team?
Geoff Topping: [00:06:59] It’s been a time of constant change, I’ll say that. I could not be more proud of the way our organization has handled it. I mean, from the frontline, the drivers out on the road, the mechanics, all the admin staff back here in the offices supporting everybody, people have handled it amazingly. I mean, the challenges they faced have been things we’ve never dealt with before.
Geoff Topping: [00:07:25] And, you know, I take the drivers, for example, out on the road. That’s a tough job to start with. You’re away from home. It’s a lot of hours. You’re dealing with different weather, different traffic, all those kind of things. But the drivers had a real interesting challenge. Again, I can’t be more proud of the way the organization handled it. But the drivers, you know, restaurants were closed for a long time. They didn’t have access to restaurants. So, they were having to pack extra food with them or eat fast food out of their truck. Getting into shippers and receivers was an issue. They weren’t allowed on the dock. They weren’t allowed in the office. They couldn’t use the washroom facilities due to COVID. I mean, for those drivers, it was a real tough situation.
Geoff Topping: [00:08:11] I mean, all of us back in our offices or working from home, sure, we had all those fears to deal with as well. But we had some comfort and we were going home at the end of every shift or we were at home. Well, the drivers were living on the road in a very fluid situation with, you know, again, lack of access to rest areas, to washrooms, to restaurants. It was a tough time for them.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:08:37] So, we kind of have talked about the fear of the employees and, obviously, the struggles that all the drivers went through. Talk to me about, in your role, how did you support the well-being and encouraged self-care? Because obviously those are some trying times. How did you help them to kind of keep their mental health as well as their physical health intact through this?
Geoff Topping: [00:09:04] Yeah. Sure. So, communication, I think, was the biggest thing. And we started right away. Back on March the 11th, 2020, we started a communication plan that still continues to this day. We’re actually working on COVID communication number 73, we started working on it this morning. Then, they were going out kind of every other day for a little while. Then, we switched it to weekly, then biweekly, and as needed. But very detailed communication that went out. We sent it out to all the drivers in the trucks. We have the satellite system. We sent it to every drivers’ email. We sent it to every employees’ email. We sent it to all of the mechanics. We posted it on our social media pages.
Geoff Topping: [00:09:47] But a very detailed communication that kind of explained what’s happening, what’s changed since last week, here’s what we’re hearing in dealing with the various levels of government, various industry associations. We really tried to keep people up to date on what we knew at the time with the caveat that, you know, this is a very fluid situation that changes and we’ll update you as we can.
Geoff Topping: [00:10:10] Mental health is something I’m concerned about, for sure, still to this day. I kind of refer to it as the mental health hangover, that could come from this pandemic. And we’ve tried to share a lot of resources with people, resources that our EAP providers gave us, resources that are available online for people, whether that be just websites with information or access to virtual counseling, virtual doctors, to get medical appointments, all those kind of things. For the drivers, that’s certainly something that’s helped them a lot because they can’t always get home to get to the doctor at a certain time.
Geoff Topping: [00:10:49] But every one of those communications, we not only shared what we’re doing, health and safety wise just to reiterate all the protocols and safety measures, but we tried to share as many resources as we could for people to access to help them or their family or their friends. We also sent out messages to the leadership team and the managers on a biweekly basis during the initial phases of the pandemic with how to help manage your team or how to help coach your team through this situation. We just tried to provide a lot of extra information.
Geoff Topping: [00:11:26] We also made a point of doing management by walking around, I’m a big fan of that. And I tried and still do try to take a lot of the the full building at least once a day and just kind of check in with the various departments, see how people are doing, and kind of keep my ear to the ground of what might be the pinch points so that we can address that in those communications as well. In a time like this, communication, I think, is the key. I’m sure we’ve over communicated in some ways, but I felt it was important to keep people up to date on what’s going on.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:12:01] So, what is something that you’re most proud of within your career? It could be something maybe over the last year that you’ve done or just in your career in general, you know, within your role at Challenger Motor Freight or other roles that you’re just most proud of, you know, of your accomplishment.
Geoff Topping: [00:12:23] I hate kind of talking about myself, but I think one of them would be when I first got into the recruiting and retention role of things on the H.R. side. I was asked to be the face or the voice of our culture change program. And we’d done a lot of work as a company on focusing on our culture. And we believe there’s three pillars to a business, and that’s people, customer, and profit. And if we take care of the people, they’ll take care of the customers, and that will ultimately take care of the profit.
Geoff Topping: [00:12:57] And we did a a good to great – we call it – a good to great journey, where we went out and did a discovery where we met with about 40 different people one-on-one, and did intense interviews with them on what they thought was going well with the company and what they thought needed improvement. We did about 25 sessions at all days, hours, and shifts where anybody could attend any role in the company and ask those same questions. Through the help of a consultant, we boiled all that down into the main themes that we needed to address. And then, we went back out and did another road show where we said, this is what we heard, this is what we can do about it today, this is what we’re going to work on next year, the year after, et cetera. I still think that’s one of my most proudest accomplishments was working on that.
Geoff Topping: [00:13:48] And I had a lot of support. It was by no means a one man effort. You know, it was a team of people. But I got to be the voice of it, which I felt pretty privileged of. And it’s been something that’s worked very well. I think that all put us in a great spot for what we had to deal with during the pandemic, because we had proven to people that we’ll go out and ask for your opinions. We might not be able to change everything exactly the way you want, but we will give you an answer on what we’re going to do, what we can do, or what we, unfortunately, might not be able to do to affect something. So, I think combine those two, the first one put us in a great spot to handle the pandemic and the situation that we’re in today.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:14:28] Wonderful. Well, thanks, Geoff, for all that great information. We’re going to come back to you after we talk with Sara Rose now. So, our next Workplace MVP is Sara Rose, Senior Director, Critical Care, Heart and Vascular at Hennepin County Medical Center. We’ll be referring to Hennepin County Medical Center throughout the rest of the show as HCMC. So, welcome, Sara.
Sara Rose: [00:14:53] Hi, Jamie. Thanks for having me.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:14:55] So, you oversee a number of areas at HCMC, can you walk us through what those areas are and your role within the hospital?
Sara Rose: [00:15:04] Sure. I’m a nurse and I’m a patient care director, so I have several departments that report up through me in, actually, two divisions. In the Critical Care Division, I have the Adult ICUs, and the Burn Unit, and Respiratory Therapy. We are a Level 1 Trauma Center, so those are very busy areas. In the Heart and Vascular Division, I have all the procedural areas that report up through cardiology. So, the cardiac cath lab, where you might go if you have a heart attack, the echocardiography lab, and those smaller departments.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:15:47] Great. So, looking at the last year, obviously health care has been hit pretty hard in terms of being the frontline responding to patients with COVID, what for you has been the hardest part of your role over this last year?
Sara Rose: [00:16:03] Yeah. Well, I can echo some of what Geoff said too. You know, I think the hardest part was asking staff to trust us and be flexible as we moved forward. It was a year where we didn’t have the answers. And in health care, we like to have those answers. Things were changing with our personal protective equipment every day. They were changing in the way we isolated patients with COVID, the medications we gave them, the protocols, and the treatments. And that was the hardest part, really. Health care is an environment where you’re asked to change all the time, but we are very protocolized. And that’s how we keep patients safe. We have standard work and we follow it. And so, turning on a dime is not our strong suit. But staff did, we all got through it together.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:17:05] Yeah. And so, talk to me a little bit about the staff. I know when we talked earlier, you know, you shared kind of some of the ups and downs and the changes. Talk to me a little bit of what was the last year like for your staff?
Sara Rose: [00:17:21] Well, it started out before the shutdown. We knew this was coming. I don’t think any of us knew the tsunami that we were headed for. But we started by looking at our elective procedures and we started shutting those down. And focusing on what was absolutely necessary to do. So, during that time, we had furloughs, we had a loss of business because we were shutting down those elective procedures and staff went home. And at the same time, the other half of the organization was really busy building up for what was to come, building out extra care spaces to take care of overflow patients. So, it was a real dichotomy. Nurses were asked to work in different areas. Maybe your area was shut down, but you’re a critical care nurse and you could be utilized in the ICU. So, again, we were asking staff to be very flexible.
Sara Rose: [00:18:27] Then, when we hit our first surge around the March or April timeframe, it was crazy. We did not have enough staff. We were out taking care of patients in areas we hadn’t cared for them before. And we were working with our local business partners, the other hospitals, to try to load level and make sure that none of us were overly burdened, while others were status quo. It was a crazy time.
Sara Rose: [00:19:00] And going into the summer, we saw the COVID numbers go down a little bit. People were outside. However, there was a lot of civil unrest in our community that took the violent injuries up quite a bit. And so, we saw, I think, about 300 percent increase in our penetrating trauma over the summer. And so, that was another stress on the staff.
Sara Rose: [00:19:34] Then, we had another surge in October where we were asked again to change our nursing ratios, do things differently to accommodate the influx of patients. So, it’s been a real roller coaster from feast or famine. And that creates a lot of emotional drag on staff, and I can still feel it today.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:20:01] Sure. So, you kind of touched on it a little bit with the unexpected patient increases, obviously, in the violent injuries. What other increases did you see as a result of people kind of changing how they live? A lot of people working remote, maybe being home all day. What were some of the other areas that also increased along with, obviously, COVID patients at your hospital?
Sara Rose: [00:20:30] You know, mental health resources in this country are really stretched. And we saw that there were an increase in demand for counseling. And we shut down a lot of our group therapies and had to do those on line. So, we saw people getting sicker with their mental health. But we also saw across the country and at HCMC an increase in the burns, especially in the pediatric population. Parents working from home, trying to homeschool their kids, young kids maybe not being as supervised, so coffee burns. And this was a country-wide phenomenon.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:21:18] Interesting. And those were the things that we weren’t really hearing about because there’s so many other things to report on. So, it’s interesting that both you and Geoff shared areas that we maybe hadn’t thought about as increases or challenges that each of your industries faced. So, you kind of touched on this a little bit, your hospital is located in downtown part of Minneapolis. So, how has the civil unrest impacted your team? I know you mentioned the increase in violent injuries, but what other impacts have you had to manage as a result of that civil unrest being so close to home?
Sara Rose: [00:21:57] Well, we’re a very multicultural and diverse organization. And so, you know, what goes on in our community is often brought inside our doors because we live and work in the community. There’s been a lot of anxiety. As a leader, my job is to make sure that people are safe and that patients are safe, that staff can get to and from their cars safely, and that the patients we’re taken care of inside our walls are safe. You know, there have been necessary conversations that have been sparked because of the civil unrest. And so, emotions are raw. But, again, these are things that we have to go through.
Sara Rose: [00:22:46] I’m really proud as an organization that from the top down, we’re really committed to equity in the care we deliver and how we treat each other. And so, we’re on the road on that journey actively pursuing it. But I would say in wrapping up this question, it’s an emotional time and we’re trying to understand each other. And I think we need to have these conversations, but they’re hard in the midst of a busy workday.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:23:20] Evidently. So, now, your team on a normal workday – and year – see a lot due to being a Level 1 Trauma Center. This last year, as you kind of mentioned, is a roller coaster, especially taxing, so what approaches have you used to support the well-being and encourage self-care within your team?
Sara Rose: [00:23:42] Much like Geoff, we have a portfolio of offerings for staff. We have employee assistance and we have online trainings. We also have a critical incident support team that we can call on to come and help our staff members get through a crisis or a critical time, something that’s really affecting them in the moment. I think we struggle a little more looking back and saying we realize people need help, but what do we do for them? And that’s really where we are today.
Sara Rose: [00:24:21] For me, it’s important for me to show up. I think a leader shows up for their team even on a day that they don’t want to be face-to-face with people. And Geoff alluded to it as well, getting out there and walking around. It’s so important to staff that they know that we know what they do. Right? And so, for me, being present, stepping up, having an open door policy. But I still feel like we have some room for improvement in really getting to our team members and making sure that they’re doing okay. And that’s a passion of mine and something I hope that we can continue to work on here at HCMC in my career time.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:25:13] Great. And so, what is something that you are most proud of within your career and your role at HCMC?
Sara Rose: [00:25:23] I’ve always been proud of the teams I’ve worked with. I can look back on every team, whether I was a staff member or a leader, and I’ve been proud to be part of those teams. But I would say, especially in this last year, everyone in this hospital, from environmental services, to nursing, to respiratory therapy, to facilities, we really pulled together. And I’m proud of the team we became. We became a different team. A team that had no bounds and no barriers. And we just worked to get the job done. No politics. No long conversations. We just did the work. And looking back, I wouldn’t want to go through it again. But looking back, I’m very proud of them and I would work with that team any day. And I’m fortunate to be here still working with them.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:26:22] Wonderful. So, real quick, we’re going to a little word from our Workplace MVP’s underwriter, R3 Continuum. R3 Continuum is a global leader in providing expert, reliable, responsive, and tailored behavioral health crisis and security solutions to promote workplace well-being and performance in the face of an ever changing and often unpredictable world. Learn more about how R3 Continuum can tailor a solution for your organization’s unique challenges by visiting www.r3c.com today.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:26:57] So, now, I’d like to open up a conversation with both of our MVP’s. So, first question I have for the two of you is, looking at your employees today, a year after the start of the pandemic, what would you say are some of the challenges that you might be still facing or are new challenges that you’re facing as a result of the last year or just as we continue to move forward into 2021, having started the year out with some of the same of what we went through in 2020? So, I’ll open up with whoever wants to kickoff that answer.
Geoff Topping: [00:27:32] I can go ahead first. I guess the first thing I wanted to say before we get into that was, a big thank you to Sara and her team and all the health care professionals across Canada, the U.S. and, really, everywhere. I know we’re all stressed in this time, but I think the health care professionals are doing an amazing job of keeping us all safe, keeping us all healthy, and helping everybody navigate through it. So, my hat is off to you and everyone that does the kind of work you do. So, thank you.
Sara Rose: [00:28:01] Thanks, Geoff.
Geoff Topping: [00:28:01] I think the biggest thing now that people are still dealing with is not work related issues as much as it is personal issues and home issues. There’s compound stress due to kids being at home from school, online learning. People haven’t been able to see their family. They haven’t been able to take vacations. All those things that we kind of take for granted on a normal level. So, I think the stress outside of work is probably the biggest thing, I think, that we still need to focus on and help people deal with. And that comes back to mental health for sure. But all of those things are compounding on people.
Geoff Topping: [00:28:39] In the climate where I live and where Sara is, there’s that whole thing called winter. That certainly doesn’t help the situation. You know, it’s hard for people to get outside. It’s hard for them to get fresh air and sunlight and those kind of things. So, it’s really helping people kind of live their whole life, I think is the important thing right now. Work is a part of it for sure. We all spend a lot of hours at work everyday. But there’s more to a person than just them being at work. We need to make sure that the people are getting the tools and resources they need to help them with the other parts of their life, which I think is where the bigger stresses are right now.
Sara Rose: [00:29:18] And I can say for me, my staff, they’re just starting to bounce back. Resilience is an issue. We felt a large lift when we started getting vaccinated. You could almost feel the tempo or the temperature. People were a little more relaxed just knowing that we were getting vaccinated. But, still, we have a lot of emotional baggage that we’re carrying around and a lot of emotional injury.
Sara Rose: [00:29:53] As an organization and across the Twin Cities, we’re really trying to judge when is the best time for us to open up to visitors. This has been hard. The caregivers at the bedside, really have had to be the family for patients because family hasn’t been able to come in. And so, when is it safe to open up? And there’s a whole bunch of emotions attached to that. We want families here, and yet we’re afraid, you know, to have possible COVID positive people walking through our doors. So, yeah, they’re struggling, but I see glimmers of hope. People supporting each other and high fives and elbow bumps and all the things, you know, that you can do when you walk into work that really start the day off well.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:30:44] So, over this last year, what do you feel has helped you to navigate the year successfully? You know, even though, obviously, there’s hardships with the various challenges, but what would be something that helped you to navigate it?
Geoff Topping: [00:31:00] I think the big thing for us was the communication, keeping people informed and sharing communication over and over and over. The other thing that really helped was, we did have a crisis management team in place prior to this. And I know many people thought I was being a little too serious and taking things a little too far by pushing having that crisis team in place. But we had put that in place a-year-and-a-half, two years ago with members of each department. And information on teams that people could access remotely, phone numbers, procedures, plans, all those kind of things. And I think having that in place really proved successful and proved that we could hit the ground running as soon as it started.
Geoff Topping: [00:31:47] And that was a huge team effort. I mean, there was people from every department, every office, every location we have that really jumped in and and did what needed to be done. And to serious point, there wasn’t long conversations. It was, “This is what we know right now. This is what we’re going to do.” What we know ten minutes from now might be totally different, but we have to act. We have to act swiftly and we need to get going right away. So, that was really helpful.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:32:13] How about you, Sara?
Sara Rose: [00:32:14] Yeah. I agree with a lot of what Geoff said, that resonates with me. Personally, you know, I had to remain grounded to show up for my team. So, the shelter in place was really a gift to me. It afforded me the time that I needed to recharge at the end of the day. And as an organization, you know, I think the biggest thing was having a psychology presence on each of our units. The psychologists went above and beyond. They have patients to see and they’re hired to see patients. But they actually took care of the staff, too. And we had them somewhat embedded in our units so that staff could talk at huddles or at any time of the day and reach out to this person. And I think that was a huge help going forward to keep us moving.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:33:16] Great. So, a question that I have for the both of you as well is, you know, we talk a lot about employee well-being and self-care, but we also know that it’s important for leaders themselves to be following some of those same guidelines. So, across the last year, what were some of the approaches you did for yourself as a leader so that you could, as you say, show up and be present for your staff? You know, what types of self-care and well-being did you do for yourself throughout the year or continue to do?
Geoff Topping: [00:33:47] So, one of the things I’ve tried to do is, I mean, obviously, it’s more difficult to get to gyms and fitness facilities. So, I’ve tried to make sure I, at least, get out and walk every day and try to get a half-hour in weekdays and maybe do a couple of those everyday on the weekend. And I think being out and some fresh air certainly helps. The exercise helps. I have a theory, you can’t walk and worry at the same time. So, it kind of takes your mind away from things. Try to eat as healthy as I can. And I really believe in taking some quiet time every morning to sit and read something, sit and meditate, sit and think, whatever you want to call that. And I believe everybody has their own version of what they like to do that.
Geoff Topping: [00:34:32] And one of the things I do and I know some people kind of think it’s kind of funny or hokey, but I think a gratitude journal has massively helped me. It’s something I did on and off prior to the pandemic. But as I was doing some research, you know, I was under a lot of pressure and still am, and by no means it isn’t just me. Everybody’s under a lot of pressure right now. And I was reading about doing a gratitude journal again and picked up the habit and really focused hard on it. And I believe that has really helped me. It’s helped me first thing in the morning put a positive spin on my life and on my day, and give me some good thoughts to get the day started.
Sara Rose: [00:35:13] I agree, Geoff. I mean, nature for me is very healing. So, I tried to be active, get out in the woods, get to the spots in my life that really fill my cup. I, too, do some meditation. I know not everyone can meditate and so I think it’s important for people to just do what fills them up. And quite frankly, there were nights that I came home and went to bed at 6:00 p.m. and slept until I got up the next day, and that was what was needed.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:35:47] Yes. I think we’ve all had those nights for sure.
Geoff Topping: [00:35:51] Well, it wasn’t just me.
Sara Rose: [00:35:52] No.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:35:52] Definitely. Wonderful. So, if you were going to give one piece of advice to our listeners, what would that piece of advice be?
Geoff Topping: [00:36:06] During the pandemic?
Jamie Gassmann: [00:36:08] During the pandemic or just in general leading through kind of a crisis situation or challenging situations, what would that be?
Geoff Topping: [00:36:16] Mine would be just be honest, be empathetic to people. Try and understand the things from their point of view and what they’re going through, because everybody is going through something a little different. And be honest with what you know. And I know sometimes people are disappointed that you can’t give them the answer they want or sometimes you can’t even give them an answer, but give them a time when you’re going to have them an answer. And say, “I’ll look into this and I’ll get back to you with something at X, Monday at noon, Tuesday at noon,” whatever that might be.
Geoff Topping: [00:36:47] Again, during this time, it was so fluid. Things were changing so fast that it was hard to give those answers. But I believe being honest like that lets people know that you will give them an answer when you can and that you’re not going to make something up. And to make something up in a situation like this, it could spiral out of control terribly. It just would not be the right thing to do.
Sara Rose: [00:37:12] I agree, Geoff. Authentic leadership is really important. For me, I guess, I wouldn’t be able to leave this podcast as a health care provider and not say my advice would be get vaccinated. It’s the way out of the pandemic. Get vaccinated and wear your mask.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:37:37] Great. Well, you both are amazing. And, you know, a big thank you for letting me celebrate you, letting us celebrate you, and for all of the hard work and tenacity that you guys went through over the last year in keeping things moving in both your respective industries. And for sharing your stories and giving great advice with our listeners. We appreciate you. And I’m sure your organizations and staff do as well.
Jamie Gassmann: [00:38:06] So, you can find Geoff Topping and Sara Rose on LinkedIn, if you would like to connect with them both. We also want to thank our show underwriter, R3 Continuum for supporting the Workplace MVP podcast. And to our listeners, thank you for tuning in. If you have not already done so, make sure to subscribe so you get our most recent episodes and our other resources. You can also follow our show on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter, @Workplace MVP. If you are a Workplace MVP or know someone who is, we want to know. Email us at email@example.com. Thank you all for joining us and have a great rest of your day.