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Senior Living Leadership for Managing a Retirement Residence

December 4, 2023

Whether you're an aspiring retirement residence manager, a dedicated team member, or simply curious about the dynamics of these thriving communities, this conversation with Miri Hadas Koller provides us an insight into the world of retirees and their post-retirement lives. We will be delving into retirement residence management and exploring how teamwork makes the dream work.

In this episode, the following topics were tackled:

Getting to Know Miri Hadas Koller

Miri Hadas Koller is an immigrant to Canada from Israel. She has been in the senior housing sector for the past 17 years, specifically in retirement homes. Miri started as part of a two-and-a-half-people group that started Greenwood Retirement Communities with a portfolio of 8 homes and a team of close to 500 employees. Having been the company's former president, she also became the CEO of Yee Hong Seniors Living, a subsidiary of the Yee Hong charity.

Miri started her own company called ClearPath, set to help owners and developers plan and manage their retirement home operations. ClearPath helps people create their dream retirement homes, especially those who come from specific ethnic groups or immigrant countries.

Experience of Immigrating to Canada

While she and her husband did not face any hardship regarding immigration with a career, education, English proficiency, and savings under their belts, Miri still felt like a teenager all over again. Their job experience and education weren't enough to land a solid job - she had to pass the driving tests to get a driver's license, and they had to handle banking without their parents. They also had to adjust when renting their first condo due to the lack of credit history and rental experience.

Miri's husband holds a Ph.D. in chemistry, and he would write their names as "Dr. Avi Koller" to appear more legitimate. It was tough. She always advises people that if they aren't a strong couple or good friends with their spouse, they shouldn't undertake this journey of immigration together. Miri believes teamwork is crucial, and having someone to rely on is essential.

During their initial years, Miri constantly listened to CBC. As a newcomer, she confesses that she felt disconnected from the context, culture, and history of Canada. Having CBC in the background helped her learn so much about the country, its culture, the people, and even the slang. CBC made her feel more at home, as she could understand what people were talking about. For aspiring immigrants, they must find a reliable partner and listen to the radio, preferably CBC.

Working in Senior Care in Canada

Miri's background is in real estate development, and she was hired into an Israeli family real estate investment company. Her goal had been investing in buying real estate, shopping plazas, and industrial buildings. However, the Israeli company already invested in one retirement home, and they were a 30% partner in another retirement home.

Continuing to look for investments in Canada, she ended up liking the retirement home sector. Having invested in the industry, Miri felt the need to manage her own. From being landlords, Miri and her partner formed Greenwood, and she became the CEO. Miri ended up in the senior housing sector eventually, despite not having any background in it. Today, she still works in the field, forming a company that she can call her own.

The Best Practices in the Field

Miri places high value on teamwork, claiming it comes naturally to her as she loves working with people. Miri adds that she values having conversations with her teammates and going places together. When working in a retirement home, teamwork helps significantly since there are many responsibilities to be done: the residents need to get their meals on time, all the suites need to be cleaned, and all the systems need to work.

Miri sees to it that communication between departments, such as the dietary, health care, and housekeeping teams, is smooth and that they are working harmoniously together. She gives the dietary team as an example, as they must know the people's food sensitivities from the wellness team. Recreation needs the support of the diet in planning events, while marketing needs everyone to work together to carry out successful campaigns.

To build good teamwork, she believes in seeing the actual people in the team. When someone is not performing, she believes they either have a problem or need help understanding the assignment, or something must be corrected. Miri wants to support her team members and establish teamwork, making strong personal connections with people on the team in turn.

Manager vs Leader in the Context of Retirement Homes

For Miri, a manager is someone who tells you what to do, how to do it, and when to do it, leaving you no room for creativity or taking the initiative. Meanwhile, a leader here is someone who points the direction of the team and convinces people to work together and follow them there. Miri believes true leaders give the team freedom, let them thrive, and allow them to be happy. If a leader's environment is one that they thrive in, that's the environment the team will thrive in as well. She references Simon Sinek as well - on leadership roles and skills like team management and conflict resolution.

Miri observes that there are way more job openings than people looking for employment and concludes that it's harder to hire and keep people, emphasizing having to earn the employees' trust. Going past the managers' era, Miri focuses on the leaders' era and surrounds herself with people who have experience helping, supporting, and removing their obstacles as well.

When team members have the technical abilities, Miri believes that they need someone to ensure that they have the right tools in order to deliver. The team needs somebody to help them identify when things are not working, when conflict arises, and how to find a solution. In her case, the nursing team knows way better what's going on in the retirement home than the head office. They tend to know where the problems are, and they often know how to fix them.

Advice for Aspiring Leaders

Miri thanks, admires, and respects her former boss in Israel for giving her a lot of room and freedom to do her job. That trust and delegation of important tasks like large projects and responsibilities meant a lot to her. She also shares that her former boss also supported them if they needed help. But if they didn't, he just let them work the way they wanted. She then proceeds to narrate how her then-new boss would how things went in the company.

"So, for every condo that was sold, I would review the contract. I would run the economic analysis, write down a summary, and give it to my boss, and he would sign the contract. When this new boss came along, he said, 'You read it, you analyzed it, you wrote a summary, sign it, you know it better than me.' I was like, 'Why am I the one signing it?' And it was just like, 'Oh, wow, this was mine.' It was mine from start to finish. And it just only caused me to be more careful because now it was my responsibility," Miri shares.

To Miri, her former boss is a role model - that is how we should all work according to her. Aspiring leaders should be the conductor of the orchestra, not needing to play all the instruments but just needing to make sure that everything works together. Miri believes this is "the way to do it."

Additional Insights and Sharings

Miri says she is always happy to support and help people. She wants people listening to the podcast to know that she grew in her career through curiosity - asking questions and sharing knowledge. She follows it up with advice when one is starting: don't be afraid to ask questions because people love sharing. She believes that people love helping and giving people the opportunity to help others.

As she always wanted to learn, this is what she believed paved the road for her. She constantly tells her team and her followers on LinkedIn, "If I can help you with anything, reach out to me." Receiving direct messages such as "I have a question" or "Can I just chat with you for a bit?" makes her feel accomplished, and she complies. Having started ClearPath, Miri became more careful with her time and made sure that her services were rightfully compensated. However, when she encounters those who are just starting their career, she lets them know that they can reach out to her.

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About The Author
Kate Piamonte
Content Writer

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