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Empowering leaders: Walker Methodist’s leadership development program

Amy Weiss | Feb 18, 2020

Mentorship. Personal development. Professional goals.

These are all components of Walker Methodist’s year-long Leadership Development Program, culminating each January with graduation. In 2019, 13 employees graduated, each presenting accomplishments, challenges, and lessons. Before this inspiring ceremony, though, individuals put in a lot of hard work.

Walker Methodist's leadership development program graduates

Kim Johnson, director of organizational effectiveness, began the program in 2017. Working with Anneliese Peterson, vice president of operations, Kim selects high-performing, high-potential applicants to participate—employees like Laurie.

After Laurie Thompson had worked in an administrative position for a few years, she wanted to grow in her career. A member of the 2018 class, Laurie decided to focus on project management.

Like all other participants, Laurie attended four in-person sessions, three monthly online sessions, and a panel discussion with the executive leadership team. Training centered on personal and professional growth includes topics like active listening, empathy, team management, identifying burnout and compassion fatigue, conflict resolution, and servant leadership.

Start with self-discovery and learn from others

Employees are equipped with tools to grow in self-discovery while considering their leadership journeys.

“Deciding what kind of leader you want to be starts here. Before effectively leading others, you need to understand who you are, your values, passions, and who or what helped shape you,” explained Kim. “Then you can decide how to confidently live out your leadership values.”

Perhaps most impactful, each participant is paired with a seasoned Walker Methodist employee. Having a mentor proved beneficial for Laurie: “My mentor was supportive, and she was a good listener. She challenged me, asked for my ideas about the organization, and taught me to show how it would work out. I learned that being challenged is a good thing.”

With the guidance of mentors, employees create a personal success plan with goals, and they work together to develop action steps and accountability checkpoints. “Placing intention around expectations of leaders in how they transform and develop their teams will drive Walker Methodist to reach our vision of being the best place to live and work,” said Vice President of Human Resources Sarah Olson.

Creating the culture

The Leadership Development Program has clear objectives: empower leaders, give a framework for growth, and build relationships. The outcomes? Strong leaders, increased employee engagement, a culture focused on improvement, and a foundation for future growth.

“The emphasis we place on leadership development is essential to support growth,” said Sarah. “We are committed to growing leaders from within to ensure we deliver upon our commitment to our residents, families, and employees through a culture of servant leadership”.

Laurie has already advanced in her career at Walker Methodist and is now corporate project manager, a role in which she implements the skills and knowledge acquired during the program to lead others. Because the program is important to her, she now mentors new participants. “The program gives employees a good, solid ground,” said Laurie. “I’m still learning all kinds of new things.” Tailored to roles in senior living, the leadership program equips leaders—from registered nurses to life enrichment assistants to supervisors—for life. And all the living that goes with it.


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