Empower Those Around You, to ‘Slow Down To Do More’, with Cathy Thorpe of Nurse Next Door

Empower Those Around You: By integrating the concept of self-leadership at, I have been able to slow down to do more. Instead of focusing my time and energy on the day-to-day things, I focus on developing leaders within our teams who will have a much larger impact on the organization. I only involve myself with the […]

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Empower Those Around You: By integrating the concept of self-leadership at, I have been able to slow down to do more. Instead of focusing my time and energy on the day-to-day things, I focus on developing leaders within our teams who will have a much larger impact on the organization. I only involve myself with the day-to-day as a consultant when I am asked.

Asa part of my series about “How to Slow Down To Do More” I had the pleasure to interview Cathy Thorpe. Cathy Thorpe is President and CEO of Nurse Next Door Home Care Services. An accomplished leader, Cathy Thorpe brings over two decades of leadership experience from the retail industry to Nurse Next Door. Cathy joined the company in 2014 with the mission of growing the business across North America. She has achieved her goal by pushing boundaries to deliver measurable results and disrupting the home care industry. Cathy’s current mission is to drive global partnerships by creating the blueprints to expand into multiple countries, through redefining aging on a global scale by giving seniors choice to do what they love. Her personal philosophy is to lead with Bold Kindness each and every day, developing leaders across the brand’s system. Cathy has been recognized for delivering strong results in the business community. Here are some of Nurse Next Door’s recent achievements: awarded Canada’s most Admired Corporate Culture by Waterstone in 2018, ranked #50 on Entrepreneur’s Franchise 500 list in 2018, won the Pacific Region’s EY Entrepreneur Of The Year Award in the Healthcare Services Category in 2016. They also signed a master franchise agreement for Australia in December 2018 and were recognized for their partnership with major California health system, St. Joseph Health in 2017 by Franchise Times Dealmakers.

Thank you so much for joining us, Cathy! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to this specific career path?

A few years before I started working at Nurse Next Door, I used the home care company’s services for my mother whom had a hip surgery in Edmonton, Alberta. My family was living in Vancouver, British Columbia and so I was left with a choice: to leave my children and husband to go and care for my mom, or to hire professionals who I knew would take better care of my mom. So I hired Nurse Next Door and that was my first experience with the brand (full story here).

Around that time, conversations began with Co-Founder of Nurse Next Door, John DeHart, (our children attended the same school) about my previous experience with a notable retail brand, The Gap. For over a year, we discussed the opportunity to join Nurse Next Door as President & CEO as I brought a unique retail mindset to the table. I was excited to challenge the norms of the home care industry.

My previous work experience led me into the direction of operational excellence — something I sincerely value.

In the 1990’s, I joined The Gap and spent over 10 years developing a forward-thinking leadership style within the organization. I had the opportunity to dive into operational initiatives, including leading a team in Germany. During this time, I learned the importance of being bold, and that change and challenge is best overcome when you have a strong team, guided by strong and passionate leaders. Many U.S businesses were moving forward with expansion “firsts”, and for me this was also my “first” experience treading into an international retail market. I helped to successfully expand the Gap’s brand in Germany and Canada, placing The Gap on the global retail map.

I have been with Nurse Next Door for five years, and within that time, I have built a team of leaders who have generated tremendous growth, secured industry-first partnerships, and expanded the business globally, while more than tripling the size of the company.

According to a 2006 Pew Research Report report, 26% of women and 21% of men feel that they are “always rushed”. Has it always been this way? Can you give a few reasons regarding what you think causes this prevalent feeling of being rushed?

In today’s business environment, it is far too common for leaders to treat business as a list of tasks; things that need to be checked off a list such as responding to emails, attending weekly meetings, or submitting reports. Quantity is prioritized over quality.

Lists and tasks can create a feeling of being rushed as people focus on checking off their to-do items and add more to the list. There is a sense of urgency to rush to finish it all by the end of business day, only to start that list again the next day.

As a leader, I truly believe that it is our job to define and develop leaders to shift this mindset. To focus on treating business as part of a bigger purpose and picture (not simply a list of things to do), and to look at roles and the objective of those roles as part of something greater. When we ensure there is passion and purpose associated to what we do, we tend to approach things with more mindfulness, helping us slow down to look at the bigger picture of what and why we are doing.

Based on your experience or research can you explain why being rushed can harm our productivity, health, and happiness?

When I ask people how they are doing, I commonly hear the response: “good, but busy”! It seems that being busy is a normal way to answer that question. This feeling of being busy and rushed is prevalent in our culture, and I have experienced how it can directly impact one’s health and happiness. Over the years, I learned that slowing down and investing in the things that I love, and embracing a multidimensional perspective makes me a more effective leader at work.

For example, when I first started at Nurse Next Door, I was really busy (or so I made myself). I stepped into the role of CEO, taking over for our two Co-founders and I had a lot to learn. It became really easy for me to be busy and rushed with things to do, and I started to sacrifice things that made me happy, such as spending time with family and friends, and investing in my fitness. During my first year I recognized this after experiencing a disconnect with my family. I made a commitment to myself that I would take the time to slow down. I re-prioritized my family and friends, and I started to run everyday (four years later and I still run!). This feeling of being rushed can easily stop one from being multidimensional, especially when it comes to other areas in your life that make you really happy. At Nurse Next Door, we embrace this philosophy of fulfillment and choice with all of our people.

On the flip side, can you give examples of how we can do more, and how our lives would improve if we could slow down?

I believe that you can do more (and have more of an impact on your team’s development) by allowing your team to be directly involved in decision making; to truly feel passionate about what they are doing.

A few years ago, I was in a meeting to discuss onboarding and training, and I realized that I was not fully allowing the team to fully thrive. People would look at me for answers or provide solutions instead of owning the decision making. I made a choice that I was in too many meetings that didn’t require my presence or expertise. I wasn’t giving the team the space they needed to really do their jobs and get really excited about it!

So I slowed down; I thinned out my calendar and stopped planning my entire day. I wanted to give my team the space they needed to develop, and ultimately exceed at doing their job. As a result of wanting to ensure our team was to be fully engaged and to develop leaders at all levels of the organization, 2.5 years ago we introduced a concept of self-leadership to help everyone slow down by empowering our people to make decisions, to be passionate, purposeful and mindful — to be self-led.

By slowing down and embracing self-leadership, we are able to have a greater impact on people and the business. At Nurse Next Door, we are empowering our people to own their role and to have the space they need to do their job. No micromanaging, no tiered hierarchies. Instead, we can hold space for our developing leaders to help guide them, to challenge them and to improve of culture’s organization with growth and development.

We all live in a world with many deadlines and incessant demands for our time and attention. That inevitably makes us feel rushed. Can you share with our readers 6 strategies that you use to “slow down to do more”? Can you please give a story or example for each?

The six strategies that I use to slow down:

Empower Those Around You: By integrating the concept of self-leadership at Nurse Next Door, I have been able to slow down to do more. Instead of focusing my time and energy on the day-to-day things, I focus on developing leaders within our teams who will have a much larger impact on the organization. I only involve myself with the day-to-day as a consultant when I am asked.

Practice Radical Candor: Caring for one another while challenging directly requires a mindfulness to slow down and think about conversations, actions and solutions. By practicing Kim Scott’s, Radical Candor, I have learned to slow down in conversations to spend more quality time in developing people because I care.

For example, six months before Nurse Next Door introduced Kim Scott’s Radical Candor (the concept of providing honest, challenging feedback built on relationships of trust and care), I was having hard conversations with members of the Leadership Team. I recalled an interaction with one VP, reviewing their team’s performance. The feedback offered was intended to support them and help them improve; it was not a personal attack. However, this individual didn’t see it that way at first, and they felt that I was criticizing their skills and performance. They left my office feeling frustrated and too focused on the past. A few days later, and after a few more conversations, they recognized that my feedback came from a place of wanting to help them grow personally and professionally.

Establish a Culture of Care: A culture of care is not only a must to successfully deliver Radical Candor, but in my experience, it has intentionally helped me slow down. A culture of care is about getting to know people. For example, I no longer plan my day and I rarely use my calendar. I do not have back-to-back meetings, or find little time to chat with people in my day. I focus on connecting with the team. I do a daily office walk on the floor just to chat with the team.

Travel: Take time to be present with family and friends. I love spending quality time with my family. We don’t have to travel far, but we do enjoy travelling when we can. I cherish quality time with them as I am able to be fully present. I am able to connect with them as a mother and as a wife to my husband; I put on hold any other roles I assume. We try to see new places and try new things. It broadens my world view. This allows me to approach different situations with perspective and empathy which ultimately makes me a more efficient and multidimensional leader.

Make Time for Daily Reflections: Leave time in your day to be thoughtful about your work and to reflect on your work. For example, I never schedule meetings or appointments during lunch. Lunch is a time for me to take a moment to slow down and reflect on my morning, wins, opportunities and conversations that I’ve had. This leaves an opportunity to do more in the afternoon! It also allows me to spend time with the tribe and connect with them; learn about their day and appreciate their work and the team.

Be Multidimensional: Make time to be multidimensional; to do the things you love. For me that is being active, travelling and spending time with family and friends. By being multidimensional and engaging in things that make you happy, you can slow down by appreciating things from a different perspective and a different place of passion/purpose.

How do you define “mindfulness”? Can you give an example or story?

I like to define mindfulness as being fully grounded, present and open-minded. Listening to different views and taking in different perspectives to evaluate any situation, problem or opportunity. It’s about seeing things through multiple lenses to ensure that we constantly improve. For example, during leadership team meetings at Nurse Next Door, we embrace sweaty conversations. We expect that everyone participates and brings to the table their perspective, no one gets to sit in silence during those moments. We want to thoughtfully challenge each other, and bring new perspectives to the table to help us think out of the box.

Can you give examples of how people can integrate mindfulness into their everyday lives?

Mindfulness allows us to show up to any given situation with full awareness, which helps align our intentions with our actions. People can integrate this into their everyday lives by taking the time to do things that help them connect with themselves in meaningful ways.

I run to physically and mentally ground myself everyday. This is an important piece for me to be who I am at work and at home. I prefer to run without music as I like to be fully aware of my surroundings. And, when I spend time with my family, my attention is fully placed on them. This provides me a reference for how I can bring the same level of patience, empathy, care and appropriate energy to others in another situation, such as in the office with my teams.

Do you have any mindfulness tools that you find most helpful at work?

● Embrace Curiosity: Ask why. It allows you to be multidimensional by learning more about a situation, experience, results, etc.

● Host a Huddle: Every day at Nurse Next Door we host a daily huddle. Our entire office gathers, and we go through our top one’s, good news, business results and recognize team members. We think and talk about the business openly, and we admire team members who did something outstanding. Having a daily huddle brings us back to our purpose and passion, and also keeps us grounded.

● Practice Radical Candor: Caring and challenging directly is hard. However, it helps one focus on being clear, concise and intentional to drive results through others, all the while developing people.

What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to use mindfulness tools or practices

● Little Black Stretchy Pants (Chip Wilson)

● Radical Candor (Kim Scott)

● Dare to Lead (Brene Brown)

● Being Mortal (Atul Gawande)

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”?

“Check your ego at the door!” Source, N/A.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Imagine feeling nervous about having a conversation with someone and you are holding onto stress because of this. In many business cultures, people are nervous to be bold and honest with peers and in conversations (this is exhausting)! People get stressed when they have to have hard and sweaty conversations.

With that in mind, the movement that I would like to inspire is a commitment to Kim Scott’s, Radical Candor. When we are able to care and challenge directly, we can shift behaviour and create change; developing people all the while driving results. It is more than just a movement of feedback, it is a movement to solve employment engagement. I want to inspire a movement that is 100% about reinventing organizational culture to focus on increasing employee engagement through self-leadership.

Thank you for all of these great insights!

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