The Courage to Make Dreams Come True

COO Paul Brown reflects on 2015 within Schlegel Villages

By Kristian Partington

Paul Brown easily recalls when he and his fellow team members from across the Schlegel Villages organization were asked to dream about the future that might be possible in an enhanced culture of support that puts living first for village residents.

Some of the dreams seemed pretty far-fetched at the time but today, as Paul looks back on a year that saw residents from across the organization competing in inter-village cooking competitions while others took hot-air balloon rides, walked the CN Tower and enjoyed overnight camping trips, anything seems possible.  

Resident and two team members leaning over the side at the top of the CN Tower
COO Paul Brown talks of organizational courage when he considers
team members and residents trying new adventures together.

Paul was invited into a new role with the organization this year as Chief Operating Officer, giving him yet another perspective on where the evolution of care has landed in what he’d say is a never-ending quest to provide the best service to residents. He began working as a groundskeeper at Riverside Glen in Guelph, eventually becoming general manager there before working into different operational roles with the support office. Today, reflecting back on the various successes of 2015, he talks of the courage he’s seen in team members and residents as they create a new future for themselves together.

“We’re getting a lot more organizational courage, I would call it, when thinking about culture change and making sure that people are feeling a little bit more bold and confident in their actions,” Paul says, pointing the Village at St. Clair’s “Culture Change Campout” as one example of this bold thinking in action. This was an event that saw team members volunteer to support residents on a two-night camping adventure, never hesitating at some of the logistical challenges they faced. In the end, the experience was one no participant will ever forget.

“Not only are they a brand new village with 256 beds,” Paul says, “– our largest long-term care home – but that team right off the bat kind of rallied around and said ‘what can we do right from the start of opening to build this new culture where residents are continuing to live life as they imagined it, even though they’re residing in a long-term care home?’ ”

The campout is just one example of how villages are reimagining what life in a long-term care or retirement setting looks like. “As we grow as an organization our level of organizational courage is growing alongside that,” Paul says, “and it takes both the mature villages like Tansley woods who are having residents hang off the CN Tower to brand new villages who are doing culture change campouts. I think we’re seeing evidence of it in action and it’s not being leadership driven from an organizational or senior leadership perspective, it’s being driven right from the neighbourhood teams.

“Five years ago we thought this stuff was big picture crazy dreams and today we think it’s part of who we are,” he adds. “It’s naturally occurring and we can’t forget the progress we’ve made.”