The annual Schlegel Villages Leadership Retreat has been a Spring ritual for several years, drawing Village leaders and the central Support Office team together to learn from each other and recommit to the ongoing, shared quest to continually improve upon the care and support provided to the residents of each Village.
The last retreat was held in 2019, however, so when a hybrid in-person and virtual event began the first week of May three years later, a somber sense of reflection came over the minds of many, wherever they had gathered with their teams. In many ways, they were inspired by the keynote address by Janice Kaffir, who retired in late 2021 as the CEO of Windsor’s Hôtel-Dieu Grace Healthcare. Like so many healthcare professionals across the country and around the world, the pressure of COVID-19 hit Janice hard as the hospital she served faced mounting case numbers and the mortality of this dangerous virus.
In her address the morning of May 3, she urged the group to reflect to the Fall of 2019 and what brought them joy in those pre-COVID days, as well as what the “journey to joy” into the future might look like. Janice led a hospital through dark times and came to know and respect Schlegel Villages when COVID-19 slammed into the area’s long-term care and retirement homes and she and her team offered their support to The Village at St. Clair. The weight of that period grew more difficult to bear with the passing of time, yet Janice has rediscovered her own journey to joy, and that is what she shared with the leaders from Schlegel Villages.
For two days, the live-streamed sessions urged participants who had been threaded together virtually to learn from the past in order to become stronger servant leaders into the future.
“One of my biggest takeaways is never underestimate the power in bringing people together as a way to feel refreshed and recharged as a leader,” says Schlegel Villages Vice President of People, Christy Parsons. “To be able to spend quality time together as a team to reflect is hugely cathartic and inspiring.”
Christy says one of the main goals as they envisioned this event was to create an opportunity for leaders new and old to reconnect with the organization’s leadership culture, which at times was difficult to connect with during the height of pandemic crisis.
“Growing team is fundamentally the most important role of a leader so it’s critical we understand what behaviours and skills are required to be a successful leader at our organization,” she adds. “Ultimately, culture equals values plus behaviours and I continue to see the leaders across the organization deeply committed to both living our values and demonstrating our leadership competencies in full force.”
Catharsis and the idea of reflection resonated with the team at Maynard Nursing Home, said Assistant Director of Nursing Care Shawn Fenlong as he spoke about his team’s takeaways the afternoon of Day 2.
“It was like therapy, actually, for our team,” Shawn said. “We really took the time to immerse ourselves in the activities and breakout sessions and, in doing so, it was quite intense and quite emotional . . . because we had to become vulnerable; we had to pull back the curtain and have your coworkers and team members look inside.”
The Villages have been tested in countless struggles in the time since the last Leadership Retreat, and they have persevered because they faced the tests as one, supportive of each other across the organization.
“The inspiring thing for me is just how resolute your leadership team was and is, on doing the right things, and I remain connected to Schlegel (Villages) because of that,” Janice said as she reflected on her experience at St. Clair. “Solid leaders that are grounded in values always stay connected to what is the right thing. The culture you have; the way in which you came together through some very difficult times is remarkable; I have tremendous admiration for what you were able to do over the past two years and I know that whatever’s ahead of you, you are and will be up for the challenge.”