“I was kind of surprised every now and then to fi nd that my previous experience became so valuable in my new role,” Richardson said. “Thinking about it now, it seems so simple and obvious, but on the front end of that experience I didn’t really expect it. There were diff erent issues that would come up where I would fi nd myself saying, ‘I remember facing something like this before.’” Richardson is among a multitude of se-

nior living executives who came to the fi eld after extensive careers in other industries. Those executives have brought an array of backgrounds to the industry, off ering fresh ideas and insight and occasionally integrat- ing practices borrowed from their previous fields into their adopted one. Executives such as Richardson said the leadership lessons they picked up at previous jobs have translated easily to senior living and helped guide them in their work, even as they have acquired new skills, knowledge, and leader- ship expertise in the senior living realm. Doug Dollenberg is president of

Brightview Senior Living. Before entering the senior living fi eld, he worked at an engineer- ing fi rm, as a consultant at McKinsey, and as vice president of a telecommunications fi rm. Dollenberg said he has found with each new post, including his current one, that leader- ship lessons tend to travel well. “I'm just a huge believer that core busi-

ness skills, core leadership skills, and core management skills are transferable across industries,” Dollenberg said. “When you think about stuff about motivating the team and solving problems and building relation- ships and driving for results and listening, those are things that are independent of industry. And those are leadership traits. I'm defi nitely not dismissing the value of indus- try expertise. I think it's hugely important. But I think there is value in an organization of having folks who are deep experts in the industry with long backgrounds serving in a particular industry or functional area and combining that with people who are coming from diff erent industries.” Judy Whitcomb, senior vice president

of human resources and learning and or- ganizational development at Vi, previously worked for 19 years at United Airlines in fi nancial services, human resources, opera- tions, and business development before a stint in account management at a provider of employee benefi ts. She said leaning on


past experiences is essential for any leader, no matter their background. “You try to apply what you learn and

gather all of your experiences—the positive and negative things, including the times that you failed—and use them all because that’s what makes you who you are,” Whitcomb said. Whitcomb said senior living is a unique

industry but also one that overlaps with dozens of other industries in certain aspects of their operations.

but the thing was that my employees saw me there,” Goldberg said. “They knew who I was. And I think there’s a lot of value when the boss knows you, knows your job, knows your children’s names, knows what your hobbies are.” Goldberg said the visits largely were

about the personal side of management. He wasn’t there to provide quality control but to provide support, he said. “I was there just to be there and show some love,” Goldberg said. “I think that’s

“I'm just a huge believer that core business skills, core leadership skills, and core management skills are transferable across industries,” Dollenberg said.

“We can learn by stepping outside of

our industry and taking a look at practices that other high-performing organizations use that are applicable to us, whether it’s from hospitality or whether it’s a service industry,” Whitcomb said. “There are many fi ne organizations out there, and there are a lot of great lessons out there for us to learn.”

Focus on employees Whitcomb said a key lesson that has followed her through multiple companies and indus- tries is the ironclad notion that employees will determine an organization’s success. “Early on I learned that relationships

matter,” Whitcomb said. “Your ability to execute is dependent on those you rely on to get the work done and also on those who your work impacts.” Whitcomb said she learned in previous

positions the importance of cultivating re- lationships throughout an organization and staying in touch with “the fi eld,” spending time out of the offi ce and understanding “the impact of what you do,” she said. When Scott Goldberg, who is now

president and CEO of Atlas Senior Living, served as CEO of a quick-service restaurant chain, he estimates he spent 90 percent of his weekdays between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. at one of the chain’s restaurants. “I was there doing little things to help,

maybe throwing trash away for customers or talking to them about their experience,

really translated to our senior housing venture here. Our upper management does a great job of going to the communities to visit with employees and doing it without an agenda.” Goldberg said he cannot be in the com-

munities every day, but he’s able to maintain “a healthy appreciation for what it takes, and I feel like that’s in the forefront of all of the decisions we make.” In Dollenberg’s fi rst job at an engineer-

ing firm, one of the firm’s partners was “unbelievable about knowing everyone on the team, caring about everyone on the team, and spending time with everyone on the team.” For that reason, Dollenberg said he emphasizes listening and learning from his team at all times, including placing a priority on learning from those working in the senior living communities themselves. “I saw fi rsthand how that motivated and

inspired people to work harder,” Dollenberg said. “They connected with a top executive in the organization and that was powerful. That’s something I’ve paid close attention to at all of the stops in my career since then.” Tommy Comer, chief human resource

offi cer at Commonwealth Senior Living, said part of the importance of personal interaction with employees is understanding the context of how their jobs fi t into their larger lives. He said it’s a “fantasy” to ask employees to simply leave home at home when they come to work—“that’s not how

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