The New Program Giving Senior Living Execs an Edge

The impact of high staff turnover can reverberate throughout a senior living company—from costing providers millions of dollars to affecting crucial relationships between caregivers and residents.

While many companies focus on helping staff maintain and develop new technical skills, little is done to promote team building and further develop leadership skills among executive staff, LeeAnn Mallory, a leadership and organizational development consultant for Presbyterian Communities and Services (PC&S), tells SHN.

“There is not a long history in the culture of senior housing and long-term care to focus on leadership development,” she says.

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PC&S executives underwent a third-party management program before deciding to implement one in-house.

“Everyone on our executive team found it so beneficial,” Mallory says of the third-party program. “So, they made a commitment to bring it in-house. There were a lot of changes made to the program to make it more relevant for senior housing.”

The Irving, Texas-based nonprofit senior living provider created a practice-based program spanning 12 months. It is divided into three sections: self, others and organization. The class commenced in June.

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PC&S is the parent company of Grace Presbyterian Village and Presbyterian Village North (pictured), senior living communities; Faith Presbyterian Hospice; and the soon-to-be completed T. Boone Pickens Hospice and Palliative Care Center.

Mark Lenhard, PCS corporate director of organizational development, was among the first group of 21 “students” to participate in the program, Leadership That Matters: Equipping Exemplary Leaders (LTM). The second class will kick off in fall of 2015.

“How are we promoting employee retention?” Lenhard says of one of the topics examined through LTM. “It’s more than salary and benefits. We need to think about how we are helping that individual grow personally and individually.”

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Key traits of being an effective leader include being able to manage emotions and give and receive feedback, Mallory says, adding that the program also focuses on “mindfulness” to help achieve these goals.

Mallory also speaks about the program at industry functions and is working with other providers interested in adapting the program for their organization.

“It has been eye-opening,” Lenhard says of the program. “It wasn’t so much about what you know as much as it is about being open to learning. This helps senior leaders engage and retain all levels of staff. This creates an ‘X factor’ other organizations don’t have.”

During the program, many participants practice coaching with employees, with Mallory sitting in on the meetings and providing feedback.

“It requires a lot of listening, inquiry and noticing how we interact with other people,” she says, noting that leaders are also encouraged to develop a mission for each department that is aligned with the overall organization’s values.

“We need to strategize and create goals at the department level,” she says. “We always have more to do than we can get done, so they’re also practicing project management skills.”

While there is a cost involved to implement this type of training program, the long-term benefits outweigh the up-front expenditures, Mallory says. One type of cost not be overlooked: How it affects senior leaders’ time.

Participants spend about two to four hours a week completing assignments or meeting with cohort groups to fine-tune their leadership skills. In addition, participants also attend six, two-day conferences throughout the length of the program.

“The conferences are taking director-level leaders away from their sites,” she says. “But what happens is they learn how to delegate, and that empowers those who report to them to take care of additional responsibilities. There is a financial investment, but you can’t overlook investing in the culture and strengths of the leadership team.”

As PC&S continues to expand, Lenhard says the organization is discussing ways to spin off similar training programs for all levels of staff.

“We have an opportunity to learn from every level of management, and that has an impact on morale,” he said. “It’s incredible to have the opportunity to grow in the workplace. And that helps us stand out among a sea of companies hiring.”

Written by Cassandra Dowell

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