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Michigan Retirement Community Working to Develop a Coaching Culture

February 18, 2015

PHI is proud to highlight Clark Retirement Community, an organization with a rich heritage and a long history as a quality provider of eldercare in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Clark is widely known for its work in the area of dementia services and is a willing partner with fellow providers to create an innovative network of services for elders in the Grand Rapids area.

And Clark isn’t stopping there. To continue its quest for quality, Clark has turned its attention inward to developing a coaching culture across the two-campus organization. Clark understands that an internal culture of coaching will provide the foundation for person-centered living and continued quality and innovation.

In early 2014, the Clark team contracted with PHI to strategically move towards person-centered culture transformation. Specifically, the leadership team’s goal was to build a culture of trust, accountability, and openness while defining a clear person-centered living framework for the Clark community. 

The PHI team began with an all-inclusive, organization-wide culture assessment, identifying the strengths and opportunities of the Clark organization. A three-day Executive Leadership Seminar was held to sharpen the vision and to ensure leaders had the tools and skills to use a coaching approach to leading the change.

Fundamental to the changes Clark would make were the coaching communication skills. Following several sessions of the Coaching Approach® to Supervision and the Coaching Approach to Communication, a cadre of 10 trainers graduated in mid-September 2014, prepared to teach both coaching workshops to all remaining Clark employees.

There is a deep belief that Clark’s underlying culture will not change until people’s behavior changes.

The training teams hit the ground running, effectively training all Clark staff before the end of 2014. There is a deep belief that the underlying culture of the Clark organization cannot and will not change until people’s behavior changes; and that behaviors will not change until people have the interpersonal skills necessary to do so.

In the meantime, PHI staff facilitated a retreat focused on identifying and defining the elements and definition of person-centered living at Clark Retirement Community. A broad group of stakeholders, including elders, staff, and leadership engaged in an intensive, day-long exploration and came away with a compelling draft definition of person-centered living that was anchored in the Clark mission and values. Clark culture leaders continue today to vet the definition-and-element document with groups of elders, family members, and staff, as well as board focus groups, with the goal of gaining community-wide consensus, enthusiasm, and buy-in throughout the organization.

A supervisor reflected on how the skills have made her better, more effective.

Although Clark has developed the internal capacity to embed a coaching culture, PHI continues to support and partner with this great organization. PHI staff recently delivered a day of coaching booster sessions to various groups within the community, including the training team, the executive leadership team and two supervisory teams. 

Many stories were shared from all levels of the organization about the positive impact coaching implementation has had. The Pastoral Care coordinator described a notable increase in trust and openness among staff members, while another supervisor reflected on how the skills have made her a better, more effective supervisor, able to inspire her team — an observation also shared by the people who report to her. Still another supervisor shared a story about two certified nursing assistants, who — much to their own surprise — were able to openly work through a problem and come to a mutual resolution. There was an ever-present sense of enthusiasm and hopefulness echoed by every group.

Looking forward, Clark continues to innovate and challenge the status quo and reimagine how best to support and serve the elder population in Grand Rapids and beyond.

— by Cean Eppelheimer, PHI Organizational Change Consultant

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