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Add your voice to the conversation

Kelvin Glen – CEO of Methodist Homes Association, Johannesburg

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Kelvin Glen, 43 years of age, is the new CEO who took over the reins in February this year. Trevor Joseph, past CEO retired after 15 years of service, and Kelvin was approached to take the organisation forward and build on what Trevor had put in place.

The Methodist Homes Association was started by the Methodist Church, 45 years ago, to meet the needs for its ageing congregants and clergy in terms of affordable accommodation and services.

It began as a goodwill religious charity and has grown into a multinational organisation with 14 homes, a very healthy balance sheet (MHA doesn’t owe the bank anything!) and good reserves. Although registered as a non profit organisation it has grown into a professional business providing best practice and quality care at affordable rates.

Kelvin maintains he is still finding his way after six months – his first foray into aged care – but sees great opportunity for growth of the organisation and exploring new ways of doing things. He has inherited a stable well-governed organisation. He is adamant that for organisations to remain relevant they need to continually reinvent themselves, and not become complacent.

Kelvin has spent the majority of his working life in the social sector, having studied social work and subsequently an MBA. He started off in the Red Cross and has worked in a variety of NGO’s in health care, schools programmes, and consultancy work , serving on two NGO boards and currently the President of SAIF (Southern African Institute of Fundraising). He left the social sector and entered the corporate world to assist Tiger Brand set up its Foundation focused on school feeding programmes. His speciality is efficiency in people and systems, so his focus is on pushing his teams to ensure delivery of best practice.

He believes MHA has become a significant role player in the retirement industry and its success has been investing in capital, constantly renovating, responding to a changing market and changing consumers. He also believes one of MHA’s strengths is an astute and focused board, very clear on lines of responsibility, leaving the day to day operations to the senior management team, and focusing on policy and governance. Another strength of the organisation is their constant focus on quality and day to day management, with constantly moving targets of the people dynamic – staff, residents and families – and their willingness to listen.

These are also the challenges – staff, residents and families – their constant mantra is what is in the best interest of the resident? His challenge is the lack of education of families and residents – they aren’t informed enough about retirement and care. People benchmark the organisation against the new developments that have all the bells and whistles in terms of physical facilities, but no track record on care, and how do you judge quality of care?

The challenge for MHA is to market themselves without lambasting the “opposition”. The team at MHA have never had to do marketing before, they aren’t trained in this area, so this is a challenge. They need to now put on a “corporate hat” and this is a culture shock for the team.

Current excitement in the organisation is just knowing each day that they have provided a safe and affordable place for their 3000 residents. Kelvin believes there is so much opportunity to grow and collaborate with others to influence the way they work and to do things differently.

Kelvin sees his role going forward as being the driver of the bus. MHA is on a journey, they don’t know their exact destination, but it is going to take the whole team. As a leader and CEO he is hands-on, spending time with staff and residents in the homes. His role is to shape and influence the future way support is given, and the legacy he wants to leave is knowing he has in some way helped shape a better world for older people. His key role as a leader is to influence change. For him it’s all about an opportunity to make a difference.

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Kelvin doesn’t like the traditional term “succession planning”. He believes it should rather be developing individuals, and he is trying to put that system in place. It is important for people to understand the opportunity for development there is for them, and he asks how do we reward growth? How do we reward someone who always goes the extra mile – we need to reassure them there will be a future for them in the organisation. There needs to be a development plan for everyone in the organisation.

Being a leader means for Kelvin working with integrity, not always being popular, being direct without jeopardising integrity and respect. In terms of leadership as an organisation, they continually remind themselves why they are here, and he believes they must never become complacent. In terms of the care sector, Kelvin’s opinion is that there is still a culture of not sharing. He believes there is poor networking and little collaboration, and too much “competition”. He believes we need to get away from this attitude and the sector needs to take “collective responsibility”. Catalysts are needed to change this. He believes much of the leadership in the sector is stale – there is not enough charisma, and passion, which means people are past their expiry date. The sector needs younger more dynamic, passionate people. To put it bluntly, the sector needs a shake-up! There is need for the right people to be driving the sector. MHA is seeking to develop partnerships with like-minded businesses and organisations to pursue this collective responsibility. Key is finding the right partners, not just getting into bed with everyone. There must be shared passion and purpose.

In terms of his leadership, he has a five year plan and will then review it. He believes a lot of people don’t understand the aged care sector, and if there is not quality leadership in organisations, it can lead to huge damage of residents. He is insisting that all new recruitments at MHA focus on passion and personality – the pieces of paper are not so important.
Asked whether organisations should “shed their skin” and move from provider to facilitator role, he felt that would be a very brave, bold move and would depend on how strong the CEO is, because such a move may be stopped by the board.

What inspires Kelvin? To see smiles on residents’ faces and to see passionate staff. His goal is to keep them passionate and always affirm them. It is inspiring to see people taking time to work with integrity and respect, not just rush through the tasks of the day.

Kelvin is passionate and dedicated to making a difference in the lives of people. He is a socialist, a true humanitarian always concerned about social issues. In his personal life he is an introvert who enjoys spending time alone in mindfulness and reflection. He is a private person who enjoys spending time in nature, and is an animal lover who enjoys getting home and being welcomed by his dogs every day.

Kelvin Glen, the South African Care Forum welcomes you to the aged care sector and looks forward to the roll out of your passion and commitment to making a difference. Change agents like you bring a new dynamism to our sector. We welcome you and salute you!