Listen and Then Listen Some More

Posted by Jack Callison Jr. on April 21, 2015

Recently, I heard a quote from a Greek philosopher that resonated with me, “We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.” I came across this wisdom while on the first leg of my 16-week CEO 2015 Listening Tour and the timing could not have been more perfect.  

It is our goal at Enlivant to enrich the lives of those we serve every day. While we have a strong team of thought leaders in place to execute strategies that support this goal, the most invaluable knowledge about what’s working and what’s not is from face-to-face conversation with our employees and residents. And so was born the Listening Tour.

Full disclosure – this is not my first Enlivant Listening Tour. When I joined Enlivant in 2013, I travelled across the country and visited more than 40 communities to engage in person with our employees and residents. Coming out of these visits emerged a list of key areas of focus that, once completed, would help further enrich lives. Most of what surfaced was quick hits - things we could easily solve for or improve. For example, we addressed one of the most common feedback themes by purchasing brand new Enlivant branded vans for our residents so that each community has full-time, reliable transportation. Our employees and residents spoke, we listened and then we did.

I fully expected a similar experience this time around – but I could not have been more wrong. Because we had already solved for the most pressing operational issues our teams were facing last year, employees now wanted to tell me about who they are: why they serve and care for seniors, what they need from us to have a more fulfilling career, and how they desire to be Enlivant brand ambassadors in support of our goal of enriching lives. Wow – what a difference a year makes.  

Listening to employees, really listening, has allowed me the opportunity to form more meaningful relationships with them – not just walk away with a list of to-dos. We have come a long way in the 18 months since my last tour.  Having a clear perspective of who we aspire to be as a company – the most trusted senior living provider in America – has put many things into focus operationally. So I guess I should not have been so surprised that the motivation behind this – the culture we are creating daily – is where employee focus now lies.  And this is not to be taken lightly. It is an honor and privilege to be able to share a moment in time with another – to begin to uncover who they are, what they believe and what motivates them. Employees are our culture carriers – so these conversations with them are the foundation for true transformation and breakthrough. These conversations will fuel our continued evolution to fulfill our vision of becoming the nation’s most trusted senior living provider.

Take the recent dialogue I had with an employee in Ohio. He shared with me his personal career goal of becoming an Executive Director – the leader at each of our communities. He knows that we empower our employees to grow and develop so he has taken it upon himself to seek out jobs within his community to gain an understanding and appreciation for all facets of our business. For example, he started with us as a CNA caregiver and recently moved into the role of maintenance technician. Next, he aspires to become a trained chef so that he has rotated through each of the various disciplines in our community. He knows that this approach will ultimately make him a better leader someday. He shared this story with me and as I was listening, I could feel his passion and excitement for what his future holds. This made me so proud. I told him that I fully support his personal career path plan and that we want to continue to provide opportunities like this for all employees. So often on this Tour, it is these conversations that remind me of why I do what I do, and why I’m here at Enlivant. And it has focused me on making decisions, along with our entire senior leadership team, that will directly impact the well-being of our employees – who, in turn, directly care for and serve our residents.

So I strive to continue to listen twice as much as I speak. Enlivant is home to so many remarkable, dedicated, and truly wonderful people for whom I care deeply. I will listen, and continue to listen, to all of them as they are the ones who will help us achieve our vision of becoming the nation’s most trusted senior living provider.