For those of you thinking that a regional role is in your future, I’d like to share some advice.

By Leslie Quintanar

I have had many EDs tell me over the last few years that they have a desire to become a regional. Whether Operations or Sales and Marketing, many feel that it would be a great chance to work in a more autonomous fashion and have a change of pace from the community day after day.

They want to know how and when they can get promoted and, oftentimes, their view of what it really entails is a little different than reality.

The Glamorous Life of a Regional Role in Senior Living — Is it for you?

For those of you thinking that a regional role is in your future, I’d like to share some advice:

  • Count the cost:  As in any significant life decision, its vitally important that you prepare for the impact it will have both personally and professionally. Will you be willing to relocate? Are you ready to travel more than 50% of the time (often the minimum amount of travel for most regional roles)? Early morning and late-night flights, living out of a suitcase, and eating food that isn’t home-cooked in a hotel while checking emails isn’t anywhere near as glamorous as many imagine. Don’t get me wrong — there are times when we do see some great places, try some great food and enjoy the experiences in different regions, but this is not the case all the time.

  • Be Willing to Step out of the Spotlight:  Oftentimes a star Sales Director or Executive Director grows accustomed to accolades and plenty of recognition for a job well done at the community level. This is vastly different when you move into a regional role, chiefly because you are now in a position of support. This mean your focus is now largely spent on developing and supporting those in the community, helping them excel and exceed expectations.

    It isn’t as high profile, and you really have to have a passion for developing people, rather than simply shooting directives at them and leading them remotely. This means adjusting your style to each person you oversee, being available, and getting to know them so you can coach them to success.

  • Know How to Balance Competing Priorities:  When you assume these responsibilities it’s important that you know that you’ll be taking on multiple buildings and each one is a priority. Your job is to learn how to balance the communities that need more urgent attention while not neglecting the ones that are running smoothly. This can be a balancing act, as it requires constant evaluation. You need to be strategic and plan ahead while also keeping an eye on the fact that any day something could change and you may need to realign. If you cannot be flexible in these situations, it will be difficult to make a long-term impact.

  • Be present:  When I was an Executive Director (ED), it always bothered me when a regional would visit my building then spend the entire time doing work on other communities. I remember what that was like and always strive to be fully present when I’m visiting communities. Of course, there are times when that isn’t possible and I may have to take a call or answer an email or the like, but as a general rule when I am in a community, I am there to support that team; do this consistently and I guarantee your teams will notice.  

  • No more weekend work, but . . . :   After years of being on call 24 hours a day as an ED, I was thrilled to be able to have my weekends and holidays back again. But, remember my previous point about being present? That often means I have upwards of 100 emails at the end of the day that I haven’t checked while I was supporting that community.

    So, while I may have weekends and holidays off, I often have to check emails early in the morning or late at night in the hotel or on the plane so that I can be sure to keep up. For me, early morning works, as well as time on the plane — I am often no good by the end of a busy day so I’d rather get a good night’s sleep and be refreshed to answer with clarity the following day. I also love answering emails on the plane; rather than nap (which I will occasionally do). I can often get caught up on my emails and other administrative work so that when I arrive at my destination I am not behind.

    The key is to fit in productive time wherever possible so that you can have those weekends and holidays to yourself. If you don’t know how to manage your time successfully, you will find yourself in a constant state of trying to “catch-up”.

  • Residents are no longer the biggest part of your day:  This was one of the toughest aspects of transitioning into a regional role for me. I was used to interacting with residents all day, getting to know their families, and being enriched daily by their experiences and perspectives. In a regional role, you are in and out of communities and though you may interact with residents, it is much less frequent than it would be if you were working in the community.

    This means that in order to preserve that connection to those we are all working so diligently to serve, you need to be deliberate about creating those opportunities. It may mean having lunch in the dining room with residents while visiting, meeting with resident council members, or just popping in to visit a specific resident. 

    This is so vital as it grounds us and reminds us head-on of the reason why we get up and come to work each day. It’s so easy to lose this in the middle of meeting with employees, reports, travel, and the myriad of other demands on us each day. Fight ferociously to keep this one in place as it will keep your focus clear and remind you of what is truly important.

I have long counted myself blessed to be able to get paid for doing what I love. This has not changed since I’ve moved from a community to a regional role, but it has evolved to encompass different aspects of senior living; namely employee development and strategic planning for global performance.

While I am less involved in the day-to-day community operations, I have the unique opportunity use my experience to help others grow and learn and in turn become better leaders, who then pass it along to those they serve; our residents. It’s a great honor to do this each day and the rewards far outweigh the challenges, but it isn’t for everyone. After reading this, if you still think you are meant for a regional role, continue to drive positive outcomes in your communities, count the cost that this regional life will entail, and when presented with the right option, jump in full force!