On this episode, we speak to Thomas Annarella, Licensed Nursing Home Administrator at Valley Hi Nursing and Rehab, a long-term care facility in Illinois.

Topics Tom discusses include:

– Through several different internships, Tom entered the LTC industry directly out of college.

– The evolution of Tom’s leadership style over the years.

– The demographic makeup of the residents at Valley Hi, a county-owned facility.

– The obvious differences between five-star facilities and facilities that don’t reach that standard.

– The four core values he instills in his team.

– The importance of running an organizationally healthy operation.

– His favorite book on leadership.

– How he deals with the challenges presented by having a team made up of multiple generations.

Rapid fire Q/A

How did you get into long-term care as a career?

I had intended to be a doctor, and I studied molecular biology and chemistry in college. I learned that wasn’t for me, so I transitioned to healthcare administration. I fell in love with LTC through an internship at a nursing home and I knew that was where I wanted to be.

How has your leadership style changed over the years?

It comes down to an emphasis on organizational health. I look for different ways to enhance the employment experience. I try to have an employee-centered workplace.

Describe that culture in your workplace.

When someone starts, I tell them on their first day to give me 100%. That is not the same as being perfect. Our structure is more like a team than horizontal or vertical. Every member has a role and if everyone gives their role 100%, we’ll win as a team.

How do you maintain organizational health?

Usually, everything is running smoothly, but when something happens, nobody points fingers. Nobody places blame. We look at the problem and work together to find the appropriate solution. There is a high level of trust in our organization.

I know you’re an avid reader. How do you retain all the information you consume through reading?

I’m pretty old-fashioned. I have different colored highlighter pens I use. I take notes on key points. Then I can organize what I’ve learned and present it to the team in a meaningful way.

What differences do you see between younger people just starting out in their careers versus people who have been around much longer?

You have to start with understanding where people are coming from. I have some older team members who get annoyed when a younger person checks their phone in the middle of a meeting. I tell them, “that’s the only way they know. They’ve been checking their phones their entire lives.” It’s a matter of understanding and trusting each other, not fighting each other.

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