Empathy. Critical thinking skills. People management techniques that reduce friction with fellow employees.

These are the kinds of soft skills that American Senior Communities is looking to strengthen with a broad new leadership development program. It goes beyond traditional career ladder and administrator-in-training programs to boost could-be leaders in a range of positions across the Indiana provider’s 100-plus facilities.

The long-term goal is to build cohorts of workers who can ask tough questions, think deeply about processes and procedures, improve retention and make clinical and operational gains organization-wide.

“Any kind of training and learning is gonna strengthen everybody around them,” says ASC Senior Adviser Donna Kelsey. “If we have leaders in the building that are strong and care for people that are independent and make good decisions, of course they have empathy and all those other wonderful things, then everybody’s life becomes easier because they’re gonna keep their staff.”

Listen to this episode hosted by McKnight’s Senior Editor Kimberly Marselas to learn how Kelsey is designing the program to encourage new long-term care leaders and “lift all boats.”

“We have that 20% of the buildings that are just killing it,” she says. “And then we have that challenged 20 due to location, physical plant, the type of residents … If we can strengthen those bottom 20, the whole company is gonna get better, as they say, with the rising tide.”