Employee Spotlight: James Lee, Brookdale San Antonio Executive Director
September 14, 2017
Our associates are the heart of everything we do. Their passion for creating joy-filled, safe environments at our senior living communities shines through the work they do every day, and we’re proud to call them part of our family.
We spoke with James Lee, Executive Director at Brookdale San Antonio, to learn more about his role and the meaning he finds in his work.
Q: Tell us about your role as an Executive Director. What are some of your responsibilities?
James: I lead our team in ensuring that our mission statement is, in fact, our day-to-day operational practice. I have tried to synthesize my responsibilities into three major categories: serving our residents, empowering our associates and growing our business. They are all equal and connected goals.
Q: How do you typically spend your days at Brookdale San Antonio?
James: Not to split hairs over wording, but I don’t think of it as spending my days, but rather investing my days. This distinction helps me to be productive and not just busy.
I start each day with a review of the upcoming day’s priorities and take care of any email communication. Then I divide my time into one of two things: investing in relationships (i.e. listening to an associate, coaching a manager, calling a family, engaging with a resident, etc.) or investing in business processes (i.e. collaborative care review, sales and marketing analysis, financial review, etc.).
The day ends with a final round of email communication and rounds with associates in each department. When I’m seated, my focus is on strategy. When I’m walking, it’s on building relationships.
Q: Did you always know this role was an option for you, and is it something you had in mind for your career?
James: I absolutely saw this role as an option. The moment I fell in love with senior living as a caregiver, I knew that being an Executive Director would one day be a critical step in my career. My goal has always been to positively impact the way our world regards aging, and I have learned that the quality of an Executive Director is the linchpin that holds that promise together.
Q: What do you feel is the most rewarding part of your job?
James: Each day, I, along with my team, am rewarded with a tangible sense of achievement and service in equal measure. Of course, it feels great to know that I’ve helped a resident or a family member, but truthfully, I feel the most reward when I see that an associate has been inspired to do more than they thought they were capable of in serving others. An ED has the capacity to either make each role feel like a job or, alternatively, a calling.
Q: What have you enjoyed the most about working for Brookdale?
James: I have really been appreciative of the opportunity to travel the country with my work for Brookdale. When I was in a training and development role, I flew all over the United States visiting communities, working with leadership at all different levels and meeting associates from all corners of the world. This invaluable experience helped me to deeply appreciate how connected we all are in this profession. Hearts for service tend to beat at the same tempo.
Q: What advice would you give to others considering an Executive Director role with Brookdale?
James: Hone your skills in emotional intelligence. People tend to get hung up on practical matters like getting certifications, gaining business experience, learning about clinical regulations, etc. While these are certainly important, they pale in comparison to your relationship management skills.
As an ED, you have dozens of people who can help you with financial reports, systems, licenses and more. But no one can help you build trust with an associate, deescalate family tension during a visit, inspire managers to work toward a common cause, and other matters of interpersonal dynamics that truly make the difference at a community.
Along these lines, assess — then build — your set of leadership skills through each role leading up to your application for an ED role. Don’t just build a resume of responsibilities; build a record of achievements and the skills utilized to earn them.
Join the Team
Working with Brookdale isn’t just a job — it’s a passion. If you’re interested in enriching the lives of seniors nationwide through a career with Brookdale, you can browse current openings hereShare this:
Housekeeper Job Leads to Executive Director Position
February 20, 2017
Four years after joining Brookdale as a housekeeper Ashley Woodcox was offered the position of executive director, the top job at an assisted living community in Marion, IN. Her career advancement story is just one example of the opportunities associates find at Brookdale, a company that supports employee growth, rewards hard work and looks to promote from within. Ashley’s transition from cleaning rooms to calling the shots at a Brookdale community illustrates how a good first impression, strong relationships and dedication can lead to the fulfillment of career goals.
While studying healthcare administration at Indiana University in Bloomington, Ashley developed an interest in senior living. Veering away from the hospital industry was a career move that separated her from many classmates.
“I felt like if I went into the hospital field I’d be in a cubicle pushing papers for years and years and years,” she said.
Ashley started taking classes to become a certified nursing assistant in the summer of 2010, and decided to seek a position at a local nursing home. She applied at all of the Bloomington area’s senior living centers and visited several in person to see if they had any openings. The last place she checked out was Brookdale Bloomington.
“I rang the bell and a nurse came to the door,” Ashley said. “She looked at me and said, ‘Oh hey, it’s you.’ I felt like she knew me, but we’d never met. I told her I was looking for a job and she went on and on about how the residents are awesome and she had actually taken a pay-cut to work here because she loved the place so much. From then on I was set on working at Brookdale. It was the only place I wanted to work.”
Ashley took a job as a housekeeper and, after getting her license, she began working as a CNA. Brookdale offered her a flexible schedule, allowing her to pursue a degree while picking up shifts on weekends or days when she didn’t have classes. She eventually worked up the courage to ask Cheryl Sarver, the executive director at the time, if she could do an internship.
“I knew at that point that I wanted to do what she did,” Ashley said. “I walked up to the front area five or six times then finally went over to her and asked her how people become an administrator and told her I really wanted to do an internship there. She didn’t hesitate. She said, ‘Yes, I’m a preceptor.’”
That internship helped Ashley develop an understanding of what it would take to become an executive director and allowed her to build a relationship with Cheryl Sarver, who eventually became a guiding force along her career path. After graduating, Ashley became a sales manager, then a marketing director at another company before being given the chance to become an executive director with Brookdale.
Cheryl, who is currently a district director of operations, says she and other Brookdale leaders are always looking for associates with drive, ambition and determination. Five out of the 12 executive directors that Cheryl oversees were promoted to their positions. Cheryl said she knew Ashely had leadership potential from the moment she was hired.
“I knew that she was an individual with the passion and the drive to succeed in this business,” Cheryl said. “She had her future pretty much thought out and that impressed me. She was using her initial job as a ladder to take her career where she wanted it to go.”
While she relishes her job as executive director, especially the relationships she has with residents and their families, Ashley said she’s open to further advancement. Brookdale is a company where Ashley, and anyone with the drive to succeed, can reach new career heights.Share this: