How do you transform a culture? How do you create a consistent environment where staff and residents can grow and thrive? Similar questions are often posed to me by members of sales and marketing teams at the client continuing care retirement communities with which Love & Company works. As the VP of Sales Training for Love & Company, I am often helping sales teams discover new ways to approach a prospect, overcome constant objections and come up with new ways to stimulate a prospect. But then, the “roadblocks” may occur.
At the LeadingAge National Meeting & Expo in Nashville recently, the enthusiastic and highly experienced Kelly Papa, MSN, RN of Masonicare in Connecticut, gave a timely session on Building a Learning Organization: Key to Transforming a Culture, and I found her approach to be refreshing, and one that I will take with me in my future, similar interactions with clients because change is necessary. “The way we have always done things” can no longer be the mantra of an organization that wants to succeed.
Kelly brought the audience to the place where making a difference in the lives of others has to start with our own personal experiences and work environment. She, and her colleagues from Masonicare, outlined the challenges every organization has – large or small – in establishing and supporting a culture that empowers and supports the people within the organization who serve our seniors – no matter what position they hold.
As a sales trainer, I work with those who are often in a daily environment of rejection – which can weigh heavily on an individual and a team. Often, we come up with great approaches to stimulate the prospect’s experience only to subsequently meet with conflicting reactions among administration or other departments and staff members. Since everyone in the community is part of the marketing department, in our eyes, how do we help them embrace that responsibility?
Kelly asked a key question: How did you feel the last time you really learned something? The audience responded with many positive reactions: “empowered, free, good, excited!” I see this reaction every time I provide training to teams, too; that spark of light, the reaction of: “I never thought of it that way. I’m going to try that! That really helps me!”
As many of us know, having an idea and implementing it can be more than challenging and can often be at odds within an organization’s current culture. The larger the organization, the more difficult it can be to accomplish, be it regulatory or contrary to the existing culture of the organization. As an organization, Masonicare staff members from all departments asked: What can we do to create that feeling among staff members and become that positive learning organization?
By creating an internal “university”, they found that constant learning and regular follow-up (quarterly training retreats, in-service skill training, etc.) allowed all staff members to regularly get the stimulation and positive reinforcement they need to meet their own core values and transform how they approach situations at work. The cooperation they needed from each other, and from various departments, fell in place because they discovered they shared the same vision.
The Take Away
The take away for me, and I hope for the many others that were in the room, was that we should never give up, and we should do everything we can to encourage learning, work across disciplines and empowering change. Creating an environment where everyone learns and works together, which is regularly reinforced, creates an atmosphere of positive thinking, satisfaction of meeting personal values, and transfers to the residents whom we all serve, in a most positive way.
What can you do to create that first-step to transform your organization? All it takes is one person, one idea, to start, and a willingness to learn, share and grow.