How do you create a positive experience for leaders without micromanaging their abilities?

By Steve Moran

Gotta start with this: I have come to know and really like a whole bunch of people at Brookdale and I always feel badly when I write about their challenges.  It is never my intent to pick on them. I own a tiny bit of Brookdale stock and, even though it has dropped significantly in value, I still have my shares.  

Not only do I like them, but I am absolutely convinced they have a heart for residents, their families, their associates and the families of their associates.

Rising Tide

As the largest senior living provider in the country, they have the resources to do some really neat stuff and they are often willing to share those practices. They believe that when the industry and their competitors do better it makes life better for residents and associates.  

I recently had a conversation with Mary Sue Patchett, President of the Brookdale Southeast Division, about the BEST program they have implemented for executive directors.

The big idea behind the program to develop a system that makes it as easy as possible for executive directors to ensure they are doing a quality job each and every day, without imposing a huge burden that takes them away from spending time with residents and their team.

BEST Program

Best stands for “Brookdale Excellence Standards Tool.” What Brookdale has done is developed a series of checklists that executive directors use to make sure their community is perfect or as near perfect as possible each day. It touches all areas of the physical plant and operations. There are daily tasks, weekly tasks, monthly tasks and quarterly tasks.

It is more than just a checklist in that each item on the list comes with explanations, photos and/or tutorials providing great clarity in answering “What’s this really mean?”  

The bottom line is that each day in a relatively short time, an executive director can check every big and small thing that it takes to make a community Brookdale Great.


One of the biggest obstacles that large companies face is how to balance standardization, quality and freedom for leaders to be leaders. We also know that within the person-centered care movement, there is great concern about checkbox care, where getting the goal for team members is to checkoff boxes rather than care for residents.

And yet . . . it is equally important that you have tools and standards that ensure quality in your operation.

I asked about this, and what they believed going into this project was that by creating this tool it would actually make it easier for leaders to touch all the bases they needed to touch each day so they can get on with the important people stuff. They developed and piloted the tool in 2014 and rolled it out in 2015. What they are hearing from local community leaders is that it has made their lives easier, allowing them to spend more time with heart stuff.


There is always a huge challenge of how do you take a tool like this and ensure that it creates a positive experience for leaders as opposed to becoming a micromanagement tool that ultimately becomes a cloud hanging over everyone. This was a Brookdale concern as well.  

These daily task lists are not something that must be sent up the management chain everyday or every week. They are kept at the building and they may be reviewed, from time to time, by the district managers, but primarily as a vehicle to uncover negative and positive trends.

Finally once a year, a third party comes in and audits the BEST tool results. While it would not be fair to say that it has no impact on the ED’s performance evaluation, the primary goal is to have a third party help Brookdale spot areas ripe for improvement, at both the property level and across all buildings.

The program is still new and, while they are getting positive feedback from the executive directors, it is still viewed very much as a work in progress that will be continuously improved.

You can download a one page pdf of an example of how it works here: