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2020 ARGENTUM AWARDS


Today, when he interviews others, he encourages people


to be their authentic selves. “I tell people: I’m fine to work with as long as you can say three things to me: I don't know, I need help, and I messed up.” With this, a leader can create a culture of confidence and vulnerability.


Scott McAlister, left, helps with meal deliveries.


SENIOR LIVING COMMUNITY LEADERSHIP AWARD Scott McAlister Executive Director, The Residences at Thomas Circle Senior Lifestyle


HONESTY PLUS EMPATHY EQUALS


COMMUNITY


More than two decades ago, Scott McAlister was working in the hotel industry in the Caribbean, but his family needed a more stable environment than island life provided. His wife and their neighbor were “in cahoots,” he says, to get him to interview in Florida for a job in senior living, a field in which he had no experience. “I went in and was brutally honest,” he says, “and I walked out of there thinking I would never be offered the job.” They liked the honesty—and the hospitality industry expe-


rience. By the second day on the job, he says, “I had found a calling. I was at home with myself.”


32 SENIOR LIVING EXECUTIVE JULY/AUGUST 2020


Hospitality and senior living have a lot in common—inter- personal skills, attention to detail, listening for and delivering on needs and wants. The difference is in the depth of the relationships: Hotel guests stay only a few days; for senior living residents, it’s their home. Even so, McAlister says, the same drive to exceed expecta- tions remains: “Sometimes that urgency gets dulled, because a resident might say, Oh, I don't mind if the soup is only luke- warm today, because they were so nice and brought me a birthday cake last week.” That’s not a tradeoff he’s willing to make: “I want them to have the birthday cake, and I want them to have hot soup.” Some of the fruits of this close attention: • The longtime resident whose passion was baking: She had never been able to bake her famous Italian cookies for holidays, because her oven wasn’t large enough. Her two adult daughters mentioned it, and McAlister located a big- ger oven, and had it installed, to everyone’s delight. She baked cookies into her 100th year.


• The team member whose husband and son experienced health crises in the same year: McAlister offered alternative shifts and transportation help—even giving the son a three-hour ride to college on a Saturday morning.


• The college scholarship fund for women in health care: McAlister started this in memory of his Resident Services Manager, who had been the first in her family to attend college. Since McAlister was selected for the 2020 Senior Living Community Leadership Award he has moved to another posi- tion with a different company, but he and Senior Lifestyle have nothing but praise for his years there.


As the nomination notes, he is interested in the industry as a whole, and helping other leaders is a big part of what makes him special: "Scott makes a difference not only at the community that he operates, but also through his positive in- fluence, wisdom, and inspiration to the executive directors that he works with at other communities." In fact, McAlister says he found the supportive Senior Life- style culture made it easy to succeed. He welcomed visits from the corporate team: "That's great, let's learn from them," he would tell staff. "They're only going to make us better. We'll learn from each other. I just see it all as a positive experience." His mission, he says, is driven by a simple question: “If my


mother and father were sitting there, what would I want that executive director to do?”


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