Nurturing Relationships, Engagement and Strong Followership

Preparing for the needs of the future at the annual leadership retreat

By Kristian Partington

The largest group of leaders ever from within Schlegel Villages gathered once again at the Pearson Convention Centre in Brampton April 26-27 for the organization’s annual leadership retreat. The growth of the organization was clear to see in the sheer number of bodies in the main convention hall, and this year’s event focused clearly on the critical importance of deepening the relationships among those in the room and the many other team members they support in every neighbourhood in the villages. Strong relationships create deeper engagement among the teams and in turn, residents and families feel the direct impact through improved life quality – the top goal any long-term care or retirement provider should strive to achieve.  

Marc standing and addressing the crowd
Keynote speaker Marc Hurwitz helped the Schlegel Villages leaders
consider the importance of strong followership within an organization. 

Growth was on most minds as some of the veterans of the event reflected on the addition of new villages and the expansion and acquisition of others in the past five years. The group also had the opportunity to explore visions for the future as the five years strategic plan was outlined during the morning of Day 2. Not surprisingly, growth is again the overarching theme: best guesses suggest that within five years, Schlegel Villages will add 175 more leadership roles to meet the demands of expansion and require more than 2,700 new hires overall, (factoring in potential team member turnover as well as expansion).

Strong, authentic relationships between leaders and those they support will be essential to meeting the demands of the future as the organization strives to offer even better care and support for residents. Day 1 centred on the reciprocal connection between strong leadership and strong followership because, as keynote speakers Sam and Marc Hurwitz explained, you can’t have one without the other.

Mark and Sam are the authors of Leadership is Half the Story: A Fresh Look at Followership, Leadership and Collaboration and they’ve shared their deep experience with organizations across a wide spectrum of fields. In Schlegel Villages they were pleased to find a culture that is already well on it’s way to embracing the understanding that leadership means nothing if no one is following and conversely, effective followership is not simply stepping in line but actively supporting those who are leading. In many ways, everyone has the opportunity to play both roles in village life and the fact that, in many respects, the traditional views of leadership that tend to isolate people in silos based on title and duty have fallen to the wayside creates opportunity for these reciprocal relationships to flourish.

“Our observation is that the culture (within the Schlegel Villages) is really, really specific, really awesome, and really embedded,” Sam says.

“It’s a real people-first culture,” adds Marc. “We don’t actually see that all that often.”

This culture has been developed continually through education, trial, and error over the past five years as the organization invests in developing stronger teams to serve residents to the highest level of care. Concepts of servant and strengths-based leadership have certainly helped to develop this culture and Day 1 of the conference helped people understand that it’s important, even as leaders, to step aside and take a followership role when the strengths of others dictate.

“For some organizations, this can be game-changing,” Sam says, “but with Schlegel Villages, it’s just continuous improvement.”

“It’s just the evolution of what’s already in place,” adds Marc.

More to come…