Other duties as assigned
How unleashing the potential of a team translates into a welcoming, supportive, and enjoyable community for residents
What makes a team? What makes a team better? What makes a team the best?
There are plenty of books out there that speak to teamwork and leadership. Frequently, Jim Collins’ Good to Great tops that list. If reading isn’t your thing, there are podcasts, TED Talks, and even ChatGPT can speak to the key factors of what elevates a team from good to great.
So now we know about some resources that speak to what makes a good team great on paper, the bigger question is how do we make it happen in real time?
A typical day at United
As far as anyone can tell, there isn’t one. Imagine you’re on a sports team preparing for a major game. Coaches and players can refer to historical stats and forecasting, study opponent’s plays and practice to develop an offensive strategy. There’s training and coaching to support players to sharpen their techniques, and cultivate rosters that maximize their team’s potential.
Just like on game day, during the course of any given day at United, there are a lot of moving parts, many players to consider, and unpredictable challenges that change the outcome in a flash.
Certainly, with the COVID-19 pandemic, team members were challenged with new roles, and took on a steep and ever-changing learning curve as our collective knowledge of the virus and its impacts became known.
“I started at United in the Art Studio as a Facilitator,” Maddison Klein, Active Living Advisor, shares. “As my role in the studio continued, I learned a lot about the community, and how collaboration from all departments is important to ensure the complex care needs of residents are met. All teams contribute to weekly wellness meetings, so we’re up to date on residents’ needs. We’re all invested in their care.”
“During the pandemic,” Maddison continues, “When programming wasn’t permitted, I took on the role of ‘Pandemic Coordinator’, where I coordinated screening of team members and visitors as they entered the community, scheduled meal orders and delivery for residents, and helped out wherever I could. Once we were able, I started taking prospective residents on tours to support the sales and marketing team. After learning about how the community operates, it was a natural progression for me to jump into the Active Living Advisor role.” Maddison adds, “I don’t see myself as a sales person at all. I’m an ambassador who shares what United has to offer.”
Maddison isn’t the only team member who has transitioned roles at United. There are many recent examples of team members expanding responsibilities or taking on new challenges as they grow professionally.
Jenn Kitchen, Executive Director of United Active Living Garrison Green, recently returned from parental leave, jumping into a new position. “I started as a Kinesiologist at United—I loved getting to know residents in fitness classes. I eventually pivoted to a learning, development and health and safety role where I became familiar with the community’s operations and got to know team members really well. Before my leave, I held a temporary role as Acting Director for one of United’s communities, and when I returned this past summer, I officially took on the role of Executive Director at Garrison Green.”
One might think the leap from Kinesiologist to Executive Director of a community is an unlikely path, but Jenn’s enthusiasm for learning and growth has been met with unbridled support. “I finished my Masters in Leadership in 2021, knowing I’d be supported on my career journey. I think that type of support contributes to an overall sense of purpose and accomplishment for team members. United is a place where—if you’re willing to embrace ‘other duties as assigned’—your career opportunities are wide open.” Jenn adds, “Because of that, we see a lot of long-term employee retention, and lasting relationships that go beyond department divisions forming a strong network of individuals ready to go that extra mile.”
Tapping into potential
The tone at the top echoes Jenn’s reflections. “When you’ve got a strong and engaged team who are willing to go the extra mile, it naturally translates to satisfied customers,” says Kim O’Brien, President and CEO at United.
Kim reflects, “One thing we learned during the pandemic was how skilled and adaptable the entire team is—and empowering employees to develop their skills and continue their growth at United has created a bonded, flexible team that can adapt to any situation at a moment’s notice. Despite the difficulties we faced during the height of the pandemic, we still had shining moments that brought us all together. We learned more about the potential of our team members. I’m so proud of the entire team.”
Kim shares that identifying a person’s potential is just the first step. “How do you help people make the most of that potential?” A rhetorical question perhaps, but she responds with enthusiasm: “Lifelong learning, support from leaders, and flexibility all play into it. If a team member wants to pivot into a new role, we are thrilled to support them to continue their learning journey with us. We embrace a similar approach with residents who express a desire to try something new.”
A revolutionary care strategy: kindness and connection
Evidently, United’s approach is spurring a heightened level of connection and engagement among residents and team members. In recent satisfaction and engagement surveys, team members and residents agreed the number one reason to remain at United is the genuine relationships forged between employees and residents.
“We have always encouraged team members to form meaningful relationships with residents, beyond a friendly hello in passing. There are true friendships and connections cultivated here,” says Kera Redlack, VP of Wellness and Employee Engagement. “We build trust with residents through a relationship-centered care model, as opposed to patient-based care. It might not seem like there’s a huge difference, but doing things with residents, rather than for them translates to a sense of trust and sincerity you can see and feel in United’s communities. Breaking down that barrier has created a place where residents support team members in their successes just as team members are champions for residents as well. It ensures people feel seen and heard as their needs and goals change.”
Residents and team members alike have found opportunities for lifelong growth at United, through the variety of programming, community partnerships, and in-community support on offer.
Jim, a long-time resident, and all-around community contributor reflects on his time at United: “I didn’t come here to go to seed. I came here to blossom and grow. I took up painting because I had never done it before, and I love participating all the programming. It keeps my mind active, and I have fun with my friends.”
As a parting thought, Kim shares a bit about her own learning journey: “I chose to join United because of their willingness to try new things. It’s mind-boggling how much I’ve learned here, including confronting my own biases of older adults. I see residents starting new hobbies, making friends, and living their best lives. As the communities grow, we are excited to see residents and team members continue to grow with us.”
At a recent team event, one colleague asked Kim what the title of her autobiography would be—barely missing a beat, and even though she was (mostly) joking, it resulted in a chorus of relatable mirth:
“Other duties as assigned”
Stop by a United Active Living community to see how a team embracing other duties as assigned is transforming the experience of aging.
Speak with one of our active living advisors about life in a United community. They can arrange tours of our Garrison Green and Fish Creek communities. If you know a friend or family member who could benefit from living in a United community, send them a link to our website or blog, or arrange a future visit. We are happy to help!