Great leaders are attracted to great culture, yet in order to have great culture you must have great leaders.

By Steve Moran

Too often senior living companies have two divergent parallel cultures, one perfect and the other crummy.

Here is what I mean . . .

The first culture is the one that is on paper in the form of a mission or vision statement. The other is what really happens. When done right the “what really happens” is the same as what is on paper. In too many cases what really happens is very different than what is on paper.

Attracting Good Leaders

From a very high level the key to attracting great leaders is having a great culture. The challenge is that in order to have a great culture you must have good leaders.

Last fall at the Senior Living Innovation Forum, I moderated a discussion titled “Winning corporate cultures allow you to attract the best leaders.” My three panelists were: 

  • Tim Smick, President and CEO of Harbor Retirement Associates

  • Lori Alford, COO of Avanti Senior Living

  • Sloan Bentley, President and CEO of Lifespace Communities

The 8 Key Elements

Here are the eight key elements to creating a culture that attracts and hold great leaders.

  1. The only way to cure the high turnover problem is to create an empowering work culture.

  2. Culture happens no matter what. You can choose what that culture is and cultivate that culture, or you can just let culture happen. When you just let it happen the results are never terrific.

  3. Training is key to creating the right culture. All three panelists described significant amounts of time (days not hours) devoted to their onboarding process where they focus on culture.

  4. A team member’s problem-solving skills are much more important than an employee’s willingness to conform or obey. The big idea is that it is okay to be different. At the end of the day the goal is to be flexible or fluid on the way to figuring out how to do thing faster and different.

  5. Hiring people from the industry turns out to be problematic, because often those folks are too comfortable with just following a lot of rules rather than thinking for themselves and figuring things out. It takes time to help team members get comfortable with this new way of doing things.

  6. Hiring ethical and moral leaders can be critical to an organization. Look for leaders who will — each and every time — do the right thing for residents. Look for leaders who are willing to acknowledge that there are some absolute moral rights and wrongs.

  7. Excellence needs to be celebrated. Team members need to be “caught” doing the right thing and celebrating those victories. Doing this not only honors the “caught” team member, it let’s the rest of the team know that next year it could be them being celebrated.

  8. Team members need to be taken care of. This might mean computers and iPads in the break room, free meals, a plan for growth, free services in the community salon — get creative! Show you care.

You can view video of the full discussion below. This topic will be examined once again at the Senior Living Innovation Forum taking place June 5-7 in Napa Valley.