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The senior living industry has a voice. You can hear it on Bridge the Gap podcast!

Episode 93: Leslie Campbell

Leslie Campbell, Chief Operations Officer of Diversicare Healthcare Services, discusses intentional hiring and the experiences that have shaped her leadership style in senior living.

This episode was recorded at the NRC Health Symposium.

Watch this episode here

Lucas: Welcome to Bridge the Gap podcast, the senior living podcast with Josh and Lucas. We’re in Nashville, Tennessee at the NRC Symposium and we have an incredible guest on our program today. I cannot wait to have this conversation with Leslie Campbell. She is as the COO of Diversicare here in Tennessee. Welcome to the show.


Leslie: Thanks. Thanks for having me, I’m excited. 


Josh: Yeah, so it’s great to have you on. And it was awesome to hear a little bit about y’all’s tie, a Texas tie and a commute to Brentwood, two awesome towns.


Leslie: That’s right. Absolutely. 


Josh: So glad you could join us today.  


Leslie: Great music cities right?


Lucas: Incredible, and the energy is really good here. We’re at the Omni, which people in the healthcare and senior living business, there’s a lot of that goes on in Nashville. And so most likely they’ve been to the Omni in Nashville and spent a little time down here having some thought leadership. And so Leslie, we want to know more about your passion and your why. You’re at a very high level in this organization that’s very well known and so we’d like to hear some of your thoughts on culture and just topics that are burning inside of you. So give us some of your background to help educate our listeners.


Leslie: Sure, that’d be great. So I am a clinician at heart. I’m a physical therapist and  was one of those therapists that went to school, had all of my internships in the acute care environment and I was one of those therapists who said I will never work in a nursing home. And I started my career in the acute care setting and I was actually doing wound care in a clinic in Temple, Texas and I cared for this lady, Lola Pitruco, a long time ago. We became friends and she discharged back to the local nursing home. About a week later the local nursing home administrator showed up in my office and said I’d like to take you to lunch. And I paused a moment but something made me say yes, and before I knew it I had signed up to be the director of rehab in this nursing home.


Josh: Which you would never do. 


Leslie: Right, never do. And I did it sight unseen, so  it was almost as if it were bigger than me. I’m sure you hear that a lot in our profession. It was bigger than me and it was at that nursing home in Temple, Texas that I fell in love with the profession. And from there I became an administrator and just had the opportunity to step into a role that I thought allowed me to make a bigger impact while still leveraging my clinical skills, and I’ve just had the good fortune and blessing to be surrounded by a lot of people, great mentors and fellow team members as I’ve progressed throughout the years and led into bigger roles and allowed me via teams to make a bigger impact. So I have a passion for serving people, I have a passion for leading people and I have a passion for developing future leaders and this role kind of allows me to do all three. 


Josh: That’s so cool. So tell our audience that might not fully understand what Diversicare does, and  your role. You just kind of alluded to it a little bit but what is daily life like in the Diversicare world? What what are your missions and what are you doing?


Leslie: Sure. So our company is a post acute healthcare company, we have some assisted living beds, and sniff beds. We have seventy two centers across ten states in the country and we have about 8,000 team members. The great thing about Diversicare, when I joined the company about seven years ago with our CEO J McKnight, he was CFO at that point in time, we embarked on an endeavor to transform the company. And this basically consisted of taking the foundation of this great company, the sweet little nursing home company built on a foundation of strong, loyal team members providing great care to residents and communities where we existed and transformed it into something that would allow the company to not just survive but thrive in the new environment and that was founded on creating a culture around our team members around team members. Around team member engagement, giving voice to our team members, empowering our team members and we kind of did it in a unique way. 


I remember I was running, I’m a little bit of a runner, and I was running one day listening to the book by Seth Godin “Tribes” and something clicked. This is, this is where we are as a company. We need to disrupt the status quo, create a ruckus and create something really special, meaningful and lasting. And that essentially started with crafting a mission statement around which all of our team members could get aligned. This consisted of bringing team members in from the field and crafting a mission statement that was consistent across all of our company and allowed our team members to really connect at a heart level with it. And it’s a real simple mission statement, but I believe it captures the essence of why we do what we do and then noble work that our team members do everyday. It’s just, “Improve every life we touch by providing exceptional healthcare and exceeding expectations.” And that’s really what we center everything we do around. 


Josh: So engaging the team around that mission you obviously created a consistent mission statement that was somewhat easy for them to understand and connect with but then when you roll that out and you start engaging with them what have been some practical wins for you guys and how have you measured all of that?


Leslie: Yeah I think that’s a great question and that was the whole intent of creating something that could be memorized, right? And that was really the first step, let’s introduce it in a consistent way, link it to those we serve. And the first step is just memorize it and include it in our daily vernacular and say it over and over again. So memorizing the head knowledge and then it’s in our words everyday and the head knowledge eventually becomes heart knowledge, that head to heart connection, and then suddenly it’s manifested through our daily actions. 


And we measured that in several different ways. We really wanted to give voice to our team members throughout this process. And we had done the annual team member satisfaction survey, but we wanted to increase the frequency with which we were hearing from our team members. So we started a pulse survey that asked ten simple questions around engagement and one of those questions was, I know the mission statement first of all, and I understand how my job role connects to the mission statement, helps us fulfill as a company the mission statement. In making that very personal for our team members really resulted in buy-in, alignment and better outcomes on our balanced scorecard. It translated into everything that we measure starting with turn over, increased retention, increased team member engagement and then you flip up to the quality side of what we do and there was a direct correlation to that as well.


Josh: That’s so cool. So, you know, I think every organization that I’ve ever been apart of or that is ever sought to do some things like probably experiences some frustrations, some hiccups. So what are some of the lessons you’ve learned on this journey that it might have been something that was a frustration or a hiccup and you had to pivot a little bit or maybe it was something as simple as trying to get those team members to fill out the surveys, to engage with the surveys and things like that. Are there any practical things that you’ve experienced that you’ve learned?


Leslie: First of all, in order to get our team members excited about participating, we did some of the in the box kinds of things, just simple little things. Just some little incentives. We had it at the kiosk, so we automated it and while they were doing their charting they can just go in and do that quick ten question survey. We gave a little five dollar gift card. We want to hear your voice, but the most important thing was after every pulse survey was following up. Following up and letting them know hey you spoke, we heard you and here’s what we’re doing about it and we’ve done that in a number of ways. We take the feedback directly and have small groups with our team members, we have payday Thursdays where they come in and have lunch with the administrator and small groups, but publishing the results and then showing our action plan around the results and then checking back with them and saying hey is this working for you? 


Josh: So when you say publishing the results, I think probably some of our listeners immediately their heart sinks and they think how could we ever publish that because there might be some things that aren’t too positive that they hear on some of those things. So when you say publish explain that. What exactly do you mean, is that publishing just back to the employee, the small group, is that to the overall community or how do you publish that? How do you take those things that may be constructive or maybe even mentioned in a way that’s doesn’t feel that constructive and turn that into a positive environment?


Leslie: Yeah that’s a really great question. We publish the results, the aggregated results globally at the center level so that the center team members can say hey, here’s what you’re telling us. And then we really promote those positives and say this is what you’re saying that we need to continue to do. And then we call out here’s what you say we need to do better. We also, amongst our leadership team, we really honor and acknowledge and reward and recognize those administrators and DNS’s who have stellar results and then tap into them for best practices as to how they’re engaging their team members locally. And then privately those administrators and DNS’s who are challenged with their team member survey results, helping them along the way, coaching them, providing extra resources and support to help them create action plans that resonate with their team members. 


Josh: So cool. 


Lucas: Have you seen that some of these results have actually impacted you recruiting efforts? 


Leslie: Yes, we have. We’ve seen market improvement in our team member retention, in our team member turnover year over year over year, and we’ve also interestingly seen an impact to these results. We’re selling them. We’re selling them from a talent acquisition perspective as being a good place to work and it’s helping us in it that recruitment effort.


Lucas: Sure, and Josh you and I have mentioned many times on the podcast that really there’s both sides of the equation that a business in caregiving, healthcare, senior living offers it’s a dignifying work that’s being done and when you mix and match that with a great culture place to work with, to me I think that the value proposition that this industry has out to essentially anybody looking for a rewarding career, but in particular a young group of people that are coming into the workforce. I think that’s a magical equation. 


Josh: Absolutely, and so for our listeners that are really seeking and they’re listening to this episode, they may be watching it on YouTube, we’ve heard a clear mission statement. We’ve heard some very tangible things that can be literally absorbed, memorized to the heart then basically manifested, I love that word that you used. And we’ve talked about engaging the team around that mission and measuring, is there anything else that you feel has been your secret ingredient to this whole culture that that maybe we haven’t touched on yet?


Leslie: Yeah, if there’s something that’s really unique about our company it’s this culture of connectivity where one of our core values is teamwork. And that and that seems pretty straightforward right? But then at Diversicare we take it a step further, a team where we care about each other professionally, but boy do we ever care about each other personally.  That goes to the core value of compassion too. We recognize the needs of others, we’re empathetic to them, bt again at Diversicare my experience has been it’s that next step. We recognize the needs of others, we’re empathetic to them but we take action to do something about them. And every single day I hear a story if not more, of how our team members are connected with each other in a very personal way. It’s that whole idea of having a best friend at work. And our team members have life events that are happening and we’re rallying around them and it’s bigger than a job. It’s connecting to one another and we’re caring about each other in a very personal way. 


Josh: I love it. I love it. So, tell us a little bit about- you’re here, we’re at the NRC symposium, how has the collaboration the partnership what we experience here at this conference, this is actually our first symposium. We’re really excited about it. So tell us a little bit about that collaborative effort with you guys. 


Leslie: So I would say we exploit our partnership with NRC For us it’s really about giving voice to our stakeholders. And NRC affords us an avenue to do that. We give voice to our team members as I’ve mentioned, importantly we give voice to our customers and that includes our patients and our residents. And interestingly we link the two. There was a time when we were really focused on our customer results and it became very clear to us that we couldn’t get exceptional customer results unless we were really hearing from our team members and linking what our customers are saying to what our team members are doing and giving visibility to our team members at all levels of the organization as to the feedback of our customers. So we’ve been very intentional about hearing from our team members and really ranking what they’re saying actually on our balanced scorecard higher than what our customers are saying because we believe when they feel good about where they work, our residents will feel good about where they’re staying in the case of patients, or living in the case of residents.


Josh: I can wholeheartedly support that and I’ve been a firm believer and a lot of times we talk about filling the love tanks. So we’ll say very often hey, we got to feel the love tanks physically, emotionally, spiritually, relationally of our team members out of that abundance. It really flows into the resident experience and you fill those love tank. So I love, love, love that. Thank you for sharing that. I think that’s a really key element and to hear that NRC has really been a great exploit for you guys, that’s awesome. 


Lucas: So if I’m hearing you correctly, there are a couple of takeaways that I have is that when you are in caregiving you build a community inside your community, not just with the people that reside there that that are being cared for, but you build a community in your workforce where they have friends at work. And then you build a platform to be able to measure that and then you build a billboard to put it on.


Leslie: That’s right.  


Lucas: And that then impacts your culture, overall that impacts your recruiting, your retention and just everything from there as far as the outcomes, which is ultimately from what I understand is that you want a great outcome for the people that you’re caring for. 


Leslie: That’s right. 


Josh: Well, you know this sounds like common sense when we’re sitting here talking about it, but so often it’s not common.


Lucas: It’s complicated. 


Josh: It is complicated, it requires I think a very intentionality, a strategy, some partnerships that you can exploit and diligence in the hearts that surround it from the leadership down. So thank you for spending time with us and sharing that. I can’t wait for our listeners to be able to connect with you, which we definitely want to do in our show notes and hope you don’t mind that.


Leslie: No. 


Lucas: So I ask you for a parting gift because you mentioned mentorship and I can tell that you really do have a servant’s heart, it’s very apparent. Give some advice or some admonition to that young female adult or young male adult that’s trying to get into the business or trying to make an impact in the career that they’re they’re choosing and maybe they are just hearing this for the first time or they just need that encouragement about what this business can offer for them. 


Leslie: So I think what this business offers is an opportunity to make an impact. It’s bigger than like I said, it’s bigger than me. It’s bigger than an individual. It’s the opportunity to make a big impact. It’s an opportunity to make a lifelong impression. One of the things that I would encourage young leaders, and I wish I would have had someone tell me this when I was a young leader back in the day, is to be intentional about honoring the uniqueness and individuality and story of everyone in our care and that includes our team members. I mean these team members sometimes come to work with stories that we can’t even imagine, right?  And then it really puts into perspective some of their actions, and even sometimes some of their words. And instead of responding to that in a way that is in a disciplinary way, we’re really able to wrap them in and bring them in and understand and be empathetic. Take action to do something about it. And then that builds loyalty and trust which translates into great care and outcomes for our residents and patients. So honoring the uniqueness and individuality of all of those in our care, including our team members. 


Josh: So awesome. 


Lucas: Huge, huge. Well, we’re going to connect to you and your company in our show notes. I know that our listeners are going to want to reach out and connect with you guys. Thank you so much for your time today, it’s going to be a great conference. We look forward to spending more time with you as the conference goes on and thank everyone for listening to another great episode of Bridge the Gap. 


Thank you to our supporting partners NHI, RCare, NRC Health, TSOLife, ERDMAN, TIS, and Sherpa.

Episode 93: Leslie Campbell