When people from across Schlegel Villages came together in early October for the first Operational Planning retreat held in person since the fall of 2019, there were many reasons to celebrate. After a strenuous recent past, a hopeful future was chief among them, and when the room honoured the most recent graduates of the Leadership in Senior Living course, that future looked promising, indeed.
Offered in partnership with Conestoga College and the Schlegel-UW Research Institute for Aging, this renowned course offers current and future leaders in the senior living sector the background they need to support highly-effective teams that put residents and relationships at the centre of life in The Villages.
Schlegel Villages was central to the development and evolution of the program, and it’s always a point of pride to see another cohort of team members and leaders succeed in a demanding program they complete on top of the demands of their day-to-day work.
“Thank you for committing to your own growth and development,” said Schlegel Villages president and CEO Jamie Schlegel as he addressed the group of graduates in the conference centre at the Sheraton Hotel in Niagara Falls. “This is a significant time commitment; the course material is extensive . . . and when folks are juggling full-time work in the Villages and family responsibilities, to add significant course load on top of that can’t be underestimated.”
But these grads are the future, he added, and looking at the significant growth ahead for the organization, future leaders must be nurtured today from within the organizational culture to be sure the culture grows in a healthy way.
“This is a very effective and tangible way of continuing to strengthen our culture by developing our internal talent for positions of leadership, so we’re proud of you,” Jamie told the group.
Fairview Nursing Home’s Andressa Bueno admits that she felt slightly daunted when she saw the amount of work that would go into the course, but she is grateful she put the energy into it.
“I am so glad that I said yes,” Andressa told the audience during the recognition of the graduates. “The most important thing that I learned from this course was about building meaningful relationships.”
She added, however, that while connecting with residents and fellow team members is critical, “we also need to connect to ourselves; we need to know ourselves, trust ourselves and follow through with ourselves. In this way, we are going to be much better leaders.”
The idea of self-care was common throughout the conference, and Andressa’s words resonated.
Jackie Garant also spoke from the perspective of a graduate. She has been a constant face and voice at The Village of Aspen Lake as administrative coordinator, but she started at the beginning of the pandemic and was thrust into a steep learning curve.
“I tried to jump quickly into my role and figure out what long-term care is all about,” Jackie said, so when I was presented with the opportunity to be able to take the (program), I jumped on it.” She says she thrives on every opportunity to grow as a person through knowledge to better support others, “but the course taught me so much more than I ever expected.”
Jackie explained how she now sees things from the perspective of all team members, allowing her to better support them from her position, and she also learned much through the connections she made with fellow graduates.
She saw how the Schlegel Villages mission, vision and values come to life in her Village from a fresh perspective, and she’ll carry that into the future.
Considering the number of new leaders the organization needs in the coming years, and the commitment to nurture eight out of every 10 of these leaders from within, each new eager graduate that carries the mantle forward is a welcomed sight.