Patagonia Philosophy

Patagonia clothing company founder Yvon Chouinard, with a net worth over $1 billion, splits his time between California and Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Of the five months that he spends in Wyoming, he says he “maybe calls in three times.” Psychologists who have studied the Patagonia culture tell Chouinard that his employees “are so independent, they are unemployable anywhere else. We just decided to hire motivated, young, independent people and leave them alone.”

People know, if the warehouse burns down, don’t call me. What can I do? YOU know what to do.” 
– Yvon Chouinard

Is your warehouse burning down?

  • Therapy misses a RUG
  • MDS submitted late
  • Cold meals
  • Nurses don’t have login

Let My People Go Surfing

“Remember, work has to be fun. We value employees who live rich and rounded lives. We run a flexible workplace, and we have ever since we shut down whenever the waves were 6 feet, hot and glassy. Our policy has always allowed employees to work flexible hours, as long as the work gets done with no negative impacts on others. A serious surfer doesn’t plan. You go surfing when there are waves and the tide and wind are right.”

The vision is clear and expectations are unmistakably laid out.

It’s engrained in their CULTURE.

Why does this work for Patagonia?

Getting in Your Own Way 

  • Feel secure enough in your role!
  • You’ll know if you’re not cutting it (PIPS)
  • Cloning isn’t an option, and you don’t want to be here 24/7
  • Provides a backup for when you take time off
  • Biggest compliment is a seamless transition; “I didn’t notice you were gone”
  • Less work for you when you come back
  • More opportunities to network, iron out systems, interact with other departments
  • Enables you to see processes from a new perspective.

 Let’s Build a Solid Backup

  • Recognize who has that potential
    • Delegate responsibilities and see who rises to the occasion
    • Yes, this may create more work for you initially, but the investment is well worth it.
  • Start with your day-to-day
    • Look for “teachable moments” in the moment. Avoid the “let’s go over this another time” mentality
  • Make a guide.
    • Ensure they have tools/resources other than yourself
    • Lists, checkboxes, step-by-step instructions
  • Don’t just simulate;
    • Attend and allow them to be an active participant in meetings
  • Dry run.
  • Full throttle!

Building the Level 5 Leader

Develop discipline
-Holding employees accountable

-Giving personalized feedback (both positive and negative)

Find the art of humility
-Credit the team for their hard work
-Count how many times you say me or I

Ask for help
-It’s not weakness to ask for help

Take responsibility


Commit to the course of action

Find the right people
-Help them reach their full potential by giving them a professional ladder to climb. This, in turn, can help with retention.

-Know what the individual brings to the team. Find their value and worth.

-Engage your team. Higher engagement = better performance.

Lead with passion

-When you demonstrate to your team that you love and believe in what you’re doing, they will, too. Show that you have skin in the game!

Find that motivating factor

-This is individualized and not always about pay.

-Could be time off, food, climbing that professional ladder, competition

View poster: Building Your Next One Up (PDF format)

By Jennifer Kuehn, DOR/PT, DPT, WCC, The Villas at Sunny Acres, Thornton, CO