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It’s not goodbye, it’s see you later!!

One of the most important questions I ask every new applicant that wants to join COR is why did you apply here and most will say it’s because they want to help people. Whenever I’m gathering feedback in our annual survey about what everyone likes about COR, the vast majority of answers will say they love the people. And whenever I’m meeting with someone to do an exit interview, I’ll ask what they will miss the most about COR and everyone always says they’ll miss the people.

It is with a heavy heart that I announce I will be transitioning out of my role with COR to join the Human Resources Team at the University of Regina. This is something that found me by surprise and presents an opportunity to further my professional development in such a way that I couldn’t miss out on. Although I am excited for this new challenge, it feels bittersweet because I’m also saddened to leave you all. There’s nothing that can replace the culture at COR. We’ve got something really special here and I’m forever grateful that I got to be part of it. I’ve grown as a person in ways that I could never have imagined and probably still haven’t fully realized.

I remember applying for the position on a whim with tempered expectations and soon after found myself feeling excited about the possibility of becoming part of something very unique. I remember saying I’d be happy to fill any position available and upon stepping into my role I felt like it was too good to be true. I remember thinking about how I didn’t want to fail or let anyone down or have someone find out I wasn’t good enough. For the first several months I referred to a dozen different sticky notes and jotted down things like “don’t say shift!” or “what’s a CLSD?” What I learned very quickly was that COR is a safe place to learn and grow. You can make mistakes, step out of your comfort zone and truly make a positive impact in the lives of others. I’ve been lucky enough to be here for almost four years and in that time I’ve had the pleasure of welcoming many of you into this family and watching many others develop into absolute rock stars.

You are all amazing people and you have taught me so much in ways I cannot describe. You are the most caring, compassionate and supportive people I’ve ever met and I’m grateful to have worked with you. As COR continues to thrive in the community, challenge the status quo and change the way our society views and values people, I am excited to watch and support all the work that will continue to make our community a better place.

Thank you COR for taking a chance on someone who didn’t know much other than the fact he wanted to help people. I am grateful for all the opportunities I’ve had to grow personally and professionally. It’s not goodbye, it’s see you later!!

Rory McCorriston,

COR Family Member

 

I have allowed the practices of Gentle Teaching to bleed into all aspects of my life

Making sure someone is feeling safe, loved, and engaging in whatever we are doing has allowed so many relationships to flourish and has made me a better care giver and support

When I started supporting with Creative Options Regina two years ago I had a very different understanding of Gentle Teaching. After supporting in this environment, having the pleasure of taking both Gentle Teaching Levels 1 & 2, as well as the countless other training’s provided by COR, I have completely transformed my understanding, and my way of supporting. Being able to support someone in such a positive environment, one that is flexible to the needs of the individuals rather then having them bend to the needs of the organization, has allowed me to see so much growth and positivity in the lives of the individuals I support, as well as one’s I have had the pleasure of meeting and spending time with. I have allowed the practices of Gentle Teaching to bleed into all aspects of my life. Making sure someone is feeling safe, loved, and is engaged in whatever we are doing has allowed so many relationships to flourish and has made me a better care giver and support.

I have allowed the practices of Gentle Teaching to bleed into all aspects of my life

Lauren,

COR Family Member

Patience, openness and my casual approach has helped me connect

I create gentleness with the individuals I support by being creative in how I approach teachings of connectedness, companionship and community. I come to a person’s home with an open mind and am accepting of other supports’ ideas, while trying to fulfill one’s personal desires. I have been able to help the people I support discover a sense of community, a sense of companionship with the use of my puppy and tried my best to connect to them on a deeper level.

create community connections

I taught them about companionship with my puppy, Ambrosia. When I started supporting, my puppy was about two months old and by regularly bringing her with me during my support times, they watched her grow. They were very engaged with Ambrosia and learned about gentle hands, exercise and appropriate levels of play with animals. Ambrosia was especially good at redirecting when one was was fixated on something. They enjoyed walking and going to the park, they would help me trim her nails and bath her, sometimes they even tried to play cars with her! Through the use of my dog, I helped the young men understand that companionship, hygiene, exercise and play are all essential parts of everyone’s life.

I have helped create community connections by exemplifying manners and polite greeting to strangers in public. The young men are very friendly and willing to greet neighbours, store employees and strangers. We sometimes visited a neighbour at her house after she invited us for a play date with her baby and puppy. I encourage the young men to be confident in public and show them I trust them by letting them work through transactions, conversation with employees and other interactions. I sensed that they feel fulfilled when they are allowed to be independent and have a sense of belonging when they interact with others. Other ways I have helped foster a sense of community are connecting with Pita Pit for recycling, bringing going to a MMA club to hit a punching bag, introducing them to my personal friends, going to the humane society to play with animals, playing with children at the park, and helping to use the one guy’s recycling knowledge at community parks and friends homes, etc.

In my support work, I try to be enthusiastic about the interests they enjoy, find common interests that we enjoy together, and encourage the opportunity to explore new interests. Patience, openness and my casual approach has helped me connect  and it did not take long to gain trust. At times, my commitment to our relationship was tested . I would open grounds for conversation after a difficult moment by apologizing first for not understanding, or making the person upset. In my opinion, that has allowed me to show the young men that I do not see myself any different than them and hold part of the responsibility.

 

-Jacob, COR Family Member

Gentle Teaching has helped me understand the importance of presence in a world that idealizes busyness.

Five years ago, I began supporting with COR and was introduced to Gentle Teaching for the first time. Unfortunately, I had to move from Regina soon after, so was only able to support for a few months. However, Gentle Teaching has stuck with me ever since. Since returning to COR in September, my understanding and knowledge of Gentle Teaching has expanded greatly. Gentle Teaching, particularly the tools and pillars of Gentle Teaching, have greatly impacted the person I am today, as well as the person I strive to be. Since my introduction to Gentle Teaching, I have used the tools (words, hands eyes and presence) as well as the pillars (engaged, safe, loved/valued and loving) of Gentle Teaching to improve the professional, social and therapeutic relationships in my life. I strive to create relationships with all people in my life that are supportive, strength-based and built on the foundation of gentleness.

One of the tools that I find incredibly important is presence. It is also the tool I find myself needing to work on most frequency. Being a student, supporting at COR, and maintaining social relationships is very hectic and I often find myself incredibly busy and overwhelmed. I often feel as if I am being pulled in many directions, and my mind is often focused on the next thing I need to do (support, exams, deadlines, volunteer, birthday parties, etc.). Gentle Teaching has helped me understand the importance of presence in a world that idealizes busyness. Since being re-introduced to the tools of Gentle Teaching, I have allowed myself time to put down the phone, relax my mind and really be attentive and conscientious of what I am presented with in the moment. I have noticed the impact this has had on my life, especially in clinical practice with school. As nursing students, we have a lot to think about and learn during clinical placements in hospitals and in the community. Whether it is researching medications, implementing care plans, learning new assessment skills, implementing techniques for the first time or trying to find the right questions to ask, this experience can be crazy and overwhelming. When I remind myself of the tools of Gentle Teaching and the importance of being present, I am able to take a step back and focus on the moment. I am able to take the time to focus on the most important part of the experience, the patient. By doing this I am able to then use the other tools of Gentle Teaching (words, hands, eyes) to support the apprehensive, reassure the nervous, listen to those with stories to tell and see the patient as a whole person. I believe this makes me a better student, and I know it will make me a better nurse, and a nurse I strive to be.

Gentle Teaching has greatly impacted the person I am today, as well as the person I aim to be. It has helped guide me in creating compassionate and gentle relationships with those around me. It has also helped me give myself permission to be gentle with myself. I am incredibly grateful that COR has introduced me to the pillars and tools of Gentle Teaching, and I know I will take them with me through the rest of my life.

Gentle Teaching has greatly impacted the person I am today

Lindsay,

COR Family Member

Adopting Gentle Teaching is a unique process for everyone because it becomes a natural element within us

adopting gentle teachingThe person I aspire to continue to be:
Gentle teaching was given to me as an analogy in the form of a hat. A hat is worn during the day, you can choose what hat you wear, or you can avoid the hat that day altogether, but at the end of the day, you hang that hat up. Gentle Teaching cannot operate with authenticity and genuineness if you hang up this philosophy at the end of your support time or when you interact with others. Adopting Gentle Teaching is a unique process for everyone because it becomes a natural element within us at different points, serving different purposes. It has transformed the person that I continue to be each day by allowing me to find positivity in any situation and seek the optimism required to solve problems.

It has shown me that all growth initially depends on identifying necessary change within ourselves to accommodate others first. However, the power of relationship capacity building allows us to progress from giving people what they desire (showing that with us, they are safe and loved), into compromising and then into natural win-win outcomes, which is one of the most meaningful feelings of growth and connection. Keeping Gentle Teaching within my character has taken me to new heights as an individual. It directly impacts the service I provide through COR and simultaneously teaching me the value of being present in the lives of loved ones. It has taught me the importance of my presence and how to project my energy in a loving, safe and welcoming way to those I communicate with.

gentle teaching has taught me-sawyer quote

A large portion of communication is non-verbal and based on body language, facial expression and our eyes/hands as tools to deliver a safe, never-violent message. Non-violence requires an understanding of what the other person perceives as violent – not what we view as violence. Gentle Teaching has taught me perseverance by seeing setbacks, failures, relapses and struggles as necessary stepping-stones to success and achievement together.

For example, diet and physical exercise are seen as a daunting, uncomfortable experience to most, yet it is essential for a healthy, balanced life. From the beginning of serving individuals within COR, this concept has been no exception. The setbacks, lack of motivation, struggles to engage in healthy dietary choices and adopting health-balanced lifestyles have all been very prevalent. The persistence and patience acquired through this philosophy, however, has disallowed me to give up on people in their process of change. Slowly but surely, we make incremental gains in change, transforming into habits and a valued component of our time spent together. This is only possible through relationship building due to three distinct reasons: they will see that we aren’t going to leave their lives or give up on them, no matter what we go through, we go through it together and lastly, our persistence is received as the care to see their quality of life improve.

Gentle Teaching has taught me the importance of expanding relationships as the core of providing meaning in others lives -it will never be what we do or say that is remembered, but how we make others feel through the time spent together. Treating the janitor of a building in the same fashion we treat the owner of that same building is who I will continue to be and strive to empower others to be as well.

Sawyer,

COR Family Member

 

Our presence can change the way a situation can unfold

As I embark further into my nursing career, I am truly thankful for the philosophy that COR has ingrained within me and my practice when it comes to helping others. During my last rotation, I assumed I would not learn anything new because I was placed in a community Mental Health setting. To my surprise, I learnt a lot about myself and how I care for others based on the philosophy that I have been practicing throughout my years supporting with COR. It really opened my eyes to how ingrained Gentle Teaching was in my blood.

There were many difficult moments that occurred during my time in this Mental Health community setting, but because of my experience with COR, I was able to approach each difficult situation with an open mind and open arms. My instructor was the first to point out how my face did not necessarily express the fear and anxiety that I should be feeling in moments such as this as a third year nursing student. I explained to her that from my previous experience, there is an underlying reason for such behaviour and that our presence can change the way a situation can unfold.

Our presence-Shelby, COR Family Member

She was curious to where this knowledge had come from, and how I managed to create such an inviting space for someone who was experiencing such emotional trauma. I explained to her the philosophy of Gentle Teaching and how it can completely change our interactions with people who are struggling. She was very curious, and was eager to learn more about our philosophy. For the remainder of my clinical rotation, she encouraged me to mentor some of my fellow classmates on how important it is to be able to change our approach to yield a more positive relationship with those who we are caring for. The idea of person-centred care closely aligns with the nursing philosophy of patient-centred care which makes this transition into nursing very inviting for myself.

This is only one example of how Gentle Teaching has transformed the person I am, or aspire to be. I am looking forward to see how Gentle Teaching will influence the rest of my nursing career, and how I can educate others on person-centred care.

 

Shelby,

COR Family Member

Caring for the caregivers is key for Creative Options Regina

Caring for the caregivers is key for Creative Options Regina

Employees at Creative Options Regina with a client. Supplied photo  

The job of providing supports for people with disabilities or those struggling with their mental health can take a heavy toll, though Creative Options Regina discovered when you care for the caregivers it benefits both the clients and the company.

This is their second year being named as one of Saskatchewan’s top employers. This year will mark Creative Options Regina’s 10th year in business though executive director Michael Lavis notes it was about seven years ago when the company started to refocus their efforts to create a healthier and happier work environment for their employees.

“The field of work we are in may not be physically demanding, but it’s very emotionally demanding,” he explained. “We need to ensure our employees feel supported and have the supports they need to be doing well both physically and mentally to be able to provide the quality care.”

Lavis said the key to providing this supportive work environment was to understand the needs and wants of their employees, which he credits as being the non-profit’s most valuable assets, and make sure they felt valued, respected and that their voices were being heard.

Not only do they offer their more than 200 employees flexible hours — including the opportunity to work shortened and condensed work weeks — and the option to telecommute, they also encourage the employees to share their passions — leading to the introduction of a number of sports teams, clubs and fun nights out.

“It’s about facilitating relationships both in and outside of work,” Lavis said. “When you think about the amount of time people spend in the workplace throughout their life, you would hope they have those relationships and connections with their coworkers.”

Putting these extracurricular activities in place is generally at a very minimal cost to Creative Options Regina, Lavis said. Even when there is a fee — such as the $1,000 entry fee to participate in the Regina Dragon Boat Festival — the amount of time and the number of employees who come out to support is more than worth it.

“All summer long they practice once a week, they’re engaged in this physical activity and connecting by doing something that they all love. So to me, thats $1,000 well spent,” he said. “Sometimes you just have to give it a try.”

Though Lavis notes it’s not always easy to manage the different needs of all their employees, he says this approach has also helped them retain employees longer — which in turn has helped maintain a sense of trust with their clients alongside the high quality of care they are known to provide.

“In the support services sector the turnover rate is quite, quite high and we’ve been year after year between nine and 14 per cent — which is a fraction of the provincial average,” Lavis finishes. “I believe a big part of that is because of the work environment we are cultivating and the attention we pay to our employees.”

Click here to view article on the Leader-Post site.

 

Two organizations prove that nice guys can finish first!

Mastermind Toys and Creative Options Regina

September 17, 2018
Your Workplace Sept-Oct 2018
While they may not seem that similar on the surface, Mastermind Toys and Creative Options Regina (COR) are two organizations proving that when you take care of your employees, your employees will take care of your clientele. One is a toy retailer and one is a non-profit providing services to people with disabilities, but both focus on creating a warm and caring atmosphere and building a culture based on shared values.

The result? These two organizations have earned exemplary reputations with the communities they serve and enjoy unusually high staff retention rates for their industries.

Mastermind Toys

Mastermind has a unique philosophy for selling children’s toys and books. By fostering an educational approach, the company enriches not only the customer experience but the employee experience as well. In fact, they enjoy an average employee tenure of close to seven years — an almost unheard-of retention rate in retail stores.

Ryan Thorson, store manager of Mastermind Toys Terra Losa in Edmonton, Alberta, believes that the company’s workplace culture promotes a fun and inviting atmosphere that lives up to their motto: “We take play seriously.”

“I wanted to find a company where I could not only pursue career advancement,” Thorson says, “but also have it be a place that shares my values… a family-like atmosphere and a track record for treating its employees with fairness and respect.”

Mastermind was originally opened in 1984 by brothers Andy and Jon Levy in Toronto to sell educational software to families excited about their new home computers. Two years later, they opened a store in the Ontario Science Centre. Now with 60 stores across the country, and growing, Mastermind’s CEO, Jon Levy, understands the impact that his company can have on the communities where the stores are located.

In 2015, the company launched a partnership with WE (formerly Free the Children), a charity that supports youth education in Canada and overseas. In 2016, Mastermind stores raised $400,000, but the initiative isn’t just about giving back to the community; it’s also about engaging employees.

“Anne [Baston, vice-president of marketing] and I started to talk about the charitable side of our business and what we could do to broaden our horizons from the standpoint of how our employees were engaged charitably,” says Levy.

After much deliberation and brainstorming, the company selected WE. Its educational mandate plays well with Mastermind’s objective to sell toys that educate.

When they launched the initiative, many of the company’s younger employees were already familiar with WE from their school days. Selecting a charity with broad appeal, and that their employees were already comfortable with, made for a smooth, easy transference of enthusiasm from the top down. To drive home the impact that they are making through their charitable efforts, Mastermind takes managers of the stores that raise the most funds to Kenya on a yearly basis.

“Behind every great manager is up to 60 employees that get that store to greatness. Two store managers went with me and my wife, Karyn, who also works in the organization, the first year. The rest of their teams back in Canada got a fantastic reward package … Even though they didn’t go on the trip, they were highly congratulated with lots of prizing.”

Levy is always on the lookout for ways to connect with his employees. He started creating videos for the staff that, in addition to educating about a product, also introduces him to all employees in a playful, easygoing manner. This, in turn, helps break down uncomfortable hierarchy in the organization.

“Our inner kid, the way we like to play and what we think resonates with the community, really comes through in a personal way [with this] video program… so, it’s kind of fun,” he says. “When I visit stores, the newly hired staff say, ‘I know you, you’re on the video.’”

“Every store you go into, whether it’s out in B.C. or in Nova Scotia, it feels like family,” says Baston. “There’s a community feeling to all of the stores. Despite the fact that we’re growing… Mastermind does a really good job of hiring people with similar values. You can feel that when you walk into the stores, into the home office. I think that makes it very different from other retailers.”

Creative Options Regina (COR)

A culture of gentleness is woven into all aspects of the organization at COR — not just in how the individuals and families COR serves are treated, but in the people it hires and how each employee is mentored.

Michael Lavis, executive director, says that their method of “gentle teaching” is not specific to disability but rather can be applied to all people constructing supports for marginalized populations. “There are a handful of organizations — I think there are four of us now in Canada — working on this philosophy… which is really the foundation, the bedrock of the work that we do. And this is rooted in whether or not a person feels safe and valued — putting relationships at the core of care giving,” says Lavis.

The company is the seventh-largest care provider in Saskatchewan and employs 200 staff who serve 20% of the most challenging cases in the province’s service delivery system. Like other service providers, COR is contracted by the government to provide personalized support services for people with disabilities. What differentiates them from other providers, though, is the intentional shift they made to focus on their employees — the caregivers.

“By making that shift — by making sure we are nurturing our caregivers and that our employees are feeling cared for — what ends up happening is they give the utmost care to [our clients],” says Lavis. “So, it’s shifting the focus as an organization to our employees — to what the employee experience looks like, what the employee wants, what they need from us to feel supported and how we can really understand what is meaningful to our employees.”

Organizational culture is a popular topic these days, but Lavis challenges people to go one step further and work on shared values, as he feels that that has the greatest influence on culture. “What drives culture is value alignment. That’s something we’ve focused on, understanding the values of our employees … and where we see that alignment and shared common purpose,” he says.

In the Saskatchewan disability services sector the employee turnover rate was around 60% in 2015. By contrast, the turnover rate at COR has remained at a steady 9 – 14% since the company’s inception.

Creating a caring staff atmosphere is about understanding who is working for you and what is important to them. For most employees, a fair wage is critical. But for many that is only a small piece of a larger picture. There are other crucial factors, such as whether or not employees feel engaged and if their ideas and suggestions are listened to and valued. At COR, they have found that exploring employees’ passions and helping them bring those passions to life in the workplace is key.

“We have to have that conversation with our employees, because we need to know what it is that they want and need and whether that is something we are able to provide,” says Lavis.

Helping employees bring their passions into the workplace enables them to impart important life skills. For example, one COR employee who loves cooking offered to teach other employees to cook. As the average staffers’ age is 28, this is a skill that some of them may lack. COR helped the employee develop a monthly cooking class with regular attendance of 10-15 staff, who can now pass that skill onto COR clients.

Lavis says they plan to develop an art initiative next. The idea was brought to him by two employees who wanted to share their passion for art. “It’s a pivotal moment,” says Lavis. “A matter of us saying, ‘Yeah. I’d love to help you. How are we going to do this?’

“It’s easy to think of barriers of why they can’t do it. And that takes the wind out of their sails. But, by saying, ‘I love this idea. We just have to think it through a little bit more. Let’s talk.’ — Then, they are motivated and energized, and you know what? [Here we are now] developing an art studio. There were lots of barriers, but we have been able to work through [them] to be able to see it realized.”

Lavis believes that a customer-centric focus has actually harmed many companies. “People tend to focus on the customer and forget about their employees,” he says. “I think that, whether it’s a for-profit or not-for-profit business, if we want to provide the utmost care for those we are contracted to provide services to, that starts with us caring for our employees. If they feel well cared for, they are going to provide great care.”

 

Click here to view on the Your Workplace website.

 

I have seen tremendous transformations in the people I support

I, Jusinda, have had the opportunity to work with people who each have their own unique abilities. I have been able to become creative in a variety of different ways to create a barrier free environment for the individuals I support. The training I received — Gentle Teaching and application has given me the tools to give value to relationships. I have come to have more compassion for individuals that have been in the system for most of their lives. It can be very complex; respect is not complex. Since I have been able to apply the skills I have acquired at COR I’ve come to realize our time and attention are our most valuable resources as people. So when we choose to focus our time and attention on people, and with that compassion, beautiful things can grow.

its what i look up to

I have seen tremendous transformations in the people I support at COR with Gentle Teaching tools I have utilized. I have had the ability to learn from mistakes and grow through relationships. I have learned that relationships are not easy in this context, but I have chosen to give my time and attention to the individuals that I serve because I genuinely care about their progress and passions. I truly pride myself in being a part of the COR family, because COR is not your typical 9-5 job, as a support worker my job has taught me to be patient in the process of growth, and that growth is ongoing. The individuals I support at COR are my equals, my friends and the level of passion I see in them are what I look up to. They have shown me more about myself than I ever imagined. Gentle Teaching is effective and in line with my values about the approach taken when having a working relationship with individuals with varying abilities.

 

Jusinda

COR Family Member