Author Andy Smith | Juniper Women in Leadership Series: Part Four of Five
In this, the next in a series of articles on women in leadership at Juniper, we focus on the intertwined roles of recruitment and mentorship in developing leaders and encouraging women to pursue their unique talents and passion for excellence.
The foundation for this successful approach to recruitment, mentoring and career development is fairly simple—Juniper is the only senior living provider founded and led by a woman, President/CEO Lynne Katzmann.
We’re also a company where women are strongly represented on all rungs of the ladder, as well as on the board of directors. At the Executive Level, five of seven members of Juniper’s Corporate Leadership Team are women. This is a break from tradition in an industry where women make up the bulk of the lower levels of the hierarchy, but seldom find themselves in the corner office.
“While our healthcare mission can appeal to anyone, it is one of nurturing, and women are known as nurturers. And that appeals to a lot of women and optimizes what many women bring to the table,” Katzmann says.
For women who want to excel, Katzmann stresses the importance of standing out, not blending in. “I’m little and I have short hair. I could easily have blended into the background if not for my big mouth,” she laughs. “As a woman I’ve never been afraid to be innovative and I send that message to my team.”
Keys to Successful Recruiting
At Juniper, active recruitment extends beyond the human resources department. One key to successful recruitment is giving leaders the power and freedom to trust their instincts during the recruitment and interviewing process. When someone shows an instinct for identifying talent, we usually let them pursue it.
A prime example—Sue Pappas, Administrator of Juniper Village-the Spearly Center, Denver, Co., who is, in Katzmann’s words, “a leader with unique insights and a gift for nurturing talent.” Longfellow describes Pappas as “very inclusive in her hiring practices, highly intuitive and strategic in mentoring and bringing up young leaders.”
Explaining her recruiting process, Pappas says, “I look for people who are excited to make a difference, who aren’t nervous about being in a place with a lot of ambiguity and grey areas. In behavioral mental health (her area of focus), there’s no room for (exclusively) linear thinkers.”
Often, potential hires aren’t even aware they’re being interviewed. Sue gets applicants talking, prompting them to share what motivates them. “It may seem like small talk,” but she knows what to look for in their responses.
Permission to Fail
Commitment to excellence is a goal, but not a by-the-numbers pursuit of safe perfection.
New team members are given more freedom than those in other senior living organizations, which also means they might fail more often as they try out new approaches to problem solving.
“Training staff includes a process I call ‘Juniperization.’ A pretty wide berth for people to experience management in their own way. Whether that comes with success or failure, letting them experience it for themselves,” Pappas emphasizes.
There’s freedom, but also intelligent supervision and feedback. “Throughout the process, I’m right there, walking with them.”
Nurturing the C-Suite of 2040
This culture of identifying talent—rather than scanning resumes and checking off pre-determined boxes—extends to the thriving younger generation. “Juniper does a great job of isolating innate abilities that might not have been fostered elsewhere. Our culture is one of finding those nuggets of gold in our younger leaders, in many cases women leaders, and nurturing them to fruition,” says Cindy Longfellow, Vice President, Business Development, Sales and Marketing.
“For the older team members, this is a really exciting aspect of our culture, Juniper’s commitment to identifying talent and giving them the tools to flourish. I think we really look at the person as a whole and think ‘I can do something with this individual. I think this person has potential. For example, we needed someone to boost our social media presence. We found a young woman in house who, though she didn’t have social media marketing experience, was a wiz on these platforms in her personal life. It’s worked out beautifully and she’s thriving in that role,” Longfellow continues.
“To find that nugget and nurture it—it’s fun and inspiring for all of us.”
Eyes Always Open for Talent
Anne Campbell, National Director of Special Projects is known as a mentor’s mentor, nurturing new talent through multiple stages of development and encouraging them to think independently and pursue new projects.
Taking advantage of the talent available in a diverse college town, Campbell has helped develop a powerful, effective community advisory board with a number of members from the university. “It includes people we’ve identified that wanted to hang out, talk and (most importantly) help,” she says. “These are people who are already fans of Juniper and they’ve become a great network for us.”
And a great resource for talent. Campbell’s approach to recruitment often involves finding the right person, then lining up a job or assignment to fit. “I have a friend who is an event planner who volunteers her time with Juniper,” she says. “There’s not a position available for her now, but, someday there will be, and I’ll have someone queued up and ready to go.”
Mentorship Made the Difference
Erin McDermott, Director of Community Relations, State College, PA., began working with Anne as an intern just three years ago, found a position with Juniper after graduation and moved into her current position in 2018. She’s shown talent, grit and initiative, but McDermott believes mentorship gave her career an essential boost.
“Anne’s support has been incredible; she’s served as a mentor to me throughout the process. She makes herself available to me for both professional and personal development. She’s been an amazing sounding board for ideas,” says McDermott, who adds that this ongoing woman-to-woman mentorship is prevalent throughout the Juniper system.
In our next piece, we speak in greater depth with Erin McDermott and Katie Kensinger, two of Juniper’s next generation of women leaders.