Posts

National Post features COR’s Culture of Gentleness

A culture built on Gentle Teaching

A conscious decision to nurture the health and wellbeing of COR employees has helped bring exceptional care to those that the organization supports.

Three words that exemplify the corporate culture at Creative Options Regina are family, value and respect. “Everyone here is a passionate individual who embodies our culture of gentleness to the fullest. We nurture a culture of belonging, lead with purpose and we approach people with compassion,” says CEO Michael Lavis.Creative Options Regina (COR) is a non-profit charitable organization that provides support to youth and adults experiencing intellectual disability and mental health struggles.

A conscious decision to nurture the health and wellbeing of COR employees has helped bring exceptional care to the people and families that the organization supports. That focus has also brought COR a Canada’s Most Admired Corporate Cultures Award in the Broader Public Sector category.

When COR was established 10 years ago, the founders were determined to challenge the status quo and demonstrate that care could be done differently. The goal was to give those they serve the opportunity for choice and control in their lives, and put each person in the driver’s seat of their own destiny. In embracing the Gentle Teaching philosophy, that goal has been, and continues to be, met.

The Gentle Teaching philosophy is a passion for the COR team. Morianna Fink, member of the organization’s mentorship and outreach team, says, “Gentle Teaching is rooted in the foundation of who we are and how we support those in our community and each other. It helps us to see the value in each individual and place it at the centre of our caregiving and our culture. When people are nurtured, they flourish.”Gentle Teaching is built on four pillars:

Safety When a person feels safe, both physically and emotionally, he/she can begin to heal.

Unconditional love When a person is valued, they learn that life can be good and hopeful.

Loving When you are loving, and others reach out to receive that love, it builds trust.

Engagement A relationship built on safety, trust and love brings engagement and the freedom to make choices while knowing that support is always available.

To help support these pillars Gentle Teaching uses four primary tools that help shape relationships with coworkers, family, spouse, friends and more:

Hands Use hands to help, never to harm.

Eyes Look at others kindly and uplift them.

Words Use words to build up, not tear down.

Presence Be in the moment and non-demanding in every encounter.

“Gentle Teaching is the most important aspect of all new employee training. Coaching takes that training further and allows people to have important conversations with their teams and with each other so that any struggles are addressed proactively,” says Fink.

The pandemic brought overwhelming confusion and challenges for those to whom the organization provides services. In concert, employees were nervous and concerned about the health and wellbeing of their own families and loved ones. Yet still the strength, resiliency, and caring of the COR team came through.“

COVID shone a light on the challenges of caregiving. We hope that the learning throughout this pandemic will create change in systems that have long been forgotten. Our approach is quite unique and only practised by a handful of organizations. We have demonstrated and continue to demonstrate how care can be done differently,” says Lavis. “Our gentle approach is not only for those we provide services to, but woven throughout the fabric of our organization and how we interact with our partners, families, and stakeholders. It is having a profound impact on our entire community.”

COR has a young workforce and over 90 per cent joined the organization without prior experience in the disability services sector. The approach to recruitment is very different from the norm, says Casey Sakires, employee experience adviser with COR. “We do not post support positions. Instead, we look for creative ways to share what we do and start conversations with potential candidates. That includes being active in the community, participating in marathons and other events, and through our corporate social responsibility programs.”

While the organization attracts a great many students of social work and kinesiology, surprisingly those with less obvious backgrounds such as engineering and education also find a fit with COR values. “It’s about finding people who really want to make a difference in the lives of others and who mesh well with our Gentle Teaching ideals,” notes Sakires. “Just as we do in the outside community, we celebrate the diversity of thought that a wide range of expertise brings to the team. Once on board, each individual is supported to the fullest with tools and training, mental health resources, and opportunities to grow and learn beyond COR.”

Staying true to its roots, and using the principles of Gentle Teaching as a guide, COR remains committed to nurturing a culture of gentleness and belonging, where everyone feels safe and valued. Through the learning and experiences of the past 10 years, and the people who have supported the organization along the way, COR will continue to grow.

That growth will come through enhancing the employee experience, cultivating strong leaders, and bringing flexibility to the workplace; strengthening mentorship while deepening the coaching culture; embracing a holistic approach to wellness; building strong, resilient teams to support the evolving needs of the community; ensuring values and purpose align across the organization; and building stronger connections where everyone’s gifts and contributions are welcomed and celebrated.

Kindness counts

To actively express its commitment to the pillars of the Gentle Teaching, COR initiated its 100 Acts of Kindness campaign. The program, which initially began as a winter blues buster activity four years ago, has morphed into a community-driven mobile surprise party to recognize the silent heroes in everyday life.

The success of the campaign came from community partners and the general public that nominated difference-makers in their circle. “These are the people that walk among us and bring us joy in the seemingly little things they do. Whether it’s providing change at a gas station, putting in overtime in the classroom, or keeping our community clean, these are giants that rarely look for appreciation — and that is why we need to recognize them,” says Ben Morris, COR’s creative director.

In 2019 COR partnered with Strategy Lab Marketing, My 92.1 FM, Campbell Collegiate, and students at the University of Regina to help expand the program reach.

“There are so many incredible stories to share. Like the university custodian who we were lucky enough to celebrate. We found him mopping floors, gifted him with a cupcake and t-shirt, and shared words of appreciation from members of the community. He was moved to tears by a level of kindness he had never before received. You really don’t realize how much such a small act can mean to one individual until you experience it firsthand.”

In 2020, the pandemic changed everything. Public recognition became impossible in an instant as everything shut down. “There was concern we may not bring the program back, but the community showed us some love and rose to the challenge. We partnered with our local high school and began socially-distanced, video-recorded surprises that were posted to social media.”

The campaign has become such a success that COR is now taking calls from communities across Saskatchewan looking to be a part of the 100 Acts of Kindness movement. “This inspirational program has taken our whole organization and philosophy and wrapped it in a blanket of kindness that we live, breath and share with others.”

View Article on the online.

This philosophy has such a unique meaning and purpose in everyone’s life!

gentle teaching has taught me-trent

Gentle Teaching has genuinely transformed the person I am today, but most importantly, the person I am continuously working to be. Gentle Teaching has not only showed me a fundamentally different way of approaching life here at COR, but it has allowed me to approach my everyday life differently. Through my training, through the conversations, and through my supportive role here at COR, I have been exposed to the importance of empathy. Gentle Teaching has indisputably opened my eyes to the ability to understand why people react in the ways they do, why people feel the way they do, and furthermore, gives me the skills towards painting a picture of their reality to embody who they indeed are. This philosophy has such a unique meaning and purpose in everyone’s life, and I believe that is the pure beauty in it. For me, I have grasped raising Gentle Teaching as a way of living, not only for myself, but so that I can positively make my mark on each person I encounter. Gentle Teaching has embedded in me the importance to take on every day with the hopes of lifting others up through collaboratively and patiently working together. Applying Gentle Teaching to my everyday life has been a transformation I could have never imagined when I began here at COR. I have learned to value each person for who they are genuinely, but more importantly, to live a life of empowering each other. I have always been a team-oriented person. With the addition of this philosophy, they want for the empowerment of everyone around me, they strive to build everyone’s confidence with their own identity, and their meaning is amplified.

Trent,

COR Family Memberthis philosophy has meaning in it

 

Smiling, caring and listening is all a part of creating this gentle culture

Throughout my years of experience with COR (which started in October of 2015) there has been several challenging situations!

This culture of being genuine and gentle is maintained by being patient

However, this did not discourage me! Genuine care is the key to my consistent ability to support those in need.  Being genuine and gentle is maintained by being patient, forgiving and optimistic! Not getting caught up with the little things and assuring to leave at the end of the day on a positive note. COR allowed me and others to make a difference on a daily basis, and that is the long term goal. Making a difference every day allows me to come the following day demonstrating positivity and genuine care. “Be kind to one another”- Ellen DeGeneres. Ellen has been a television host that I follow and watch religiously; she reminds us to be gentle, kind and mild-mannered to each other. Every home deserves this attitude, and the individuals I support really need a gentle environment. This is a culture that will affect the world in a positive way. Smiling, caring and listening is all a part of creating this gentle culture within the team of individuals I serve.

Jason,

COR Family Member

Smiling, caring and listening is all a part of creating this gentle culture within the team of individuals I serve

It is an amazing thing to be surrounded by so many kind, genuine, and warm people!

The way that I create and maintain a culture of gentleness surrounding the women I support is through curiosity, warmth, and the building up of others. These three elements feed into one another and are tangibly helpful in sustaining the positive morale and affectionate atmosphere that are vital to a culture of gentleness.

curiosity implies -cor

Curiosity implies interest, attention, respect and good-naturedness, all of which are essential to building and maintaining a culture of gentleness. In the time I have been supporting at COR, I have consistently made a point of asking questions and approaching those I serve and my team with openness and attentiveness. I have found that it is much easier to build pleasant, amicable, and trusting relationships when the other senses your interest in them. Approaching the individuals I serve with curiosity means that I do not assume I know what they want, nor do I cut them off mid-sentence because I think I know what they will say. Instead, I try to listen with fresh ears every day in hopes that I might see and hear things that might otherwise get missed for that individual. Approaching my fellow team members with curiosity means asking how their day went and actually listening to the response. It means refraining from gossip or judgement when someone has made a mistake, and giving that person the benefit of the doubt. I truly believe that this is an essential piece to maintaining good team morale, and by extension, a happy and healthy emotional climate surrounding the individuals we serve.

Hence, I take that curiosity one step further by projecting genuine warmth and care to everyone in our circle. The most important aspect of the culture of gentleness for me is the sense of ease and comfort I feel when approaching others within our community. It is an amazing thing to be surrounded by so many kind, genuine, and warm individuals and to feel safe from judgement, ridicule, or rejection when moving through said group. It is important to me that others feel that same security in me, and so I strive to project amiability, not only to those I support and my teammates, but to everyone else within our immediate community.

That warmth and openness can be taken even further in the form of building up others around me. Greeting an acquaintance by name, remembering what they like, or asking a thoughtful question can make them feel seen and important. Encouraging and complimenting can likewise give someone a well-needed boost to keep doing their best. If I can build up the individuals I support, other supports or even COR friends and family members by doing any of these things, then that person I uplift is more likely to turn around and pay the same kindness forward to someone else. That, to me, is life force behind a culture of gentleness.

Ashley, COR Family Member

It is an amazing thing to be surrounded by so many kind, genuine, and warm individuals

Gentle Teaching has inspired me!

Gentle Teaching has inspired me to not only become a better support, but a better person, future educator, friend and family member. Gentle Teaching is not something I do when at work, but rather a lifestyle change to improve the way I live my life with the hope to influence those around me. It is important for me to build meaningful relationships that will last a lifetime with the people I support. Gentle Teaching has taught me the importance of valuing someone regardless of any mistake or negative behavior they might display. Gentle teaching has also taught me the importance of unconditional love — this can be shown in many forms, such as getting involved in the individuals lives, learning their likes and dislikes, sticking with them through hard times and providing reassurance we will get through this together.

Gentle Teaching has transformed the person I am today by guiding me away from your typical caregiver role into a support who plays a more meaningful role in a person’s life. I am inspired to be a better person than I was yesterday and who I will be tomorrow.

I am inspired to be a better person than I was yesterday

Brooklyn,

COR Family Member

 

Gentle Teaching has taught me that relationship building is so important when helping people.

Gentle teaching has changed the way I have relationships in my personal and professional life

Prior to supporting at COR, I hadn’t heard of the term Gentle Teaching; however, it is the main reason that I wanted to support at COR. Growing up, I knew I wanted to help people, but there is so much more to just helping people. Gentle Teaching has taught me that relationship building is so important when helping people. I have learned that there are many factors that make up building a positive relationship. That is where the four pillars of Gentle Teaching come in. One must first feel safe. When someone feels safe with another person they can open up and create the basis of a strong relationship. I use this with the individuals that I support and with the people in my everyday life. This is a skill I have learned, that I will use in my future practice as a Social Worker, when starting new relationships with my clients. The next pillar is to feel loved. Every person wants to feel loved, valued, and respected. I want the people that I support and work with to feel loved, valued, and respected by me. The next pillar in Gentle Teaching is loving. I love this pillar, as it lets people know that it is okay to show others that you love and care for them. I used this everyday in my personal life and when I’m supporting by letting others give me hugs, high-fives, etc. Everyone desires human connection, and I believe it is so important to make sure people who want human connection, get that. The last pillar is engaged. I think this one is very important. Healthy relationships are ones that have good communication and engagement. I have learned from COR and my studies to have branching conversations with others. This means to not just listen to someone, but to actively listen by making eye contact, asking questions about what the other person is telling you, and being present the entire time. I use these skills with my friends, family, and partner when they are talking to me. I also use these skills when I am supporting, so that the individuals feel heard, valued, and respected. I hope to also use this skill in my future social work career, as I hope to be a counselor one day, and being engaged during a counseling session is very important. I also love that Gentle Teaching doesn’t use the reward/punishment way of altering behavior. By using the four pillars of Gentle Teaching, I hope that the people I support now and, in the future, will change and grow with me, by going at the pace that each individual needs. Gentle Teaching has changed the way I have relationships in my personal and professional life.

using the four pillars of gentle teaching

Amelia,

COR Family Member

 

Regina Leader-Post: Celebrating the Value of Every Person

On December 3rd, 2019, COR was featured in the Regina Leader-Post in celebration of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities.

Read the article below:

To view online, visit: https://www.pressreader.com/canada/regina-leader-post/20191203/282175062982247

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