Implementing Effective Communication Processes in a Major Crisis

Last Updated on February 27, 2022 by Owen McGab Enaohwo

Driven by a passion to administer care, Richard Mabe earned a nursing license and found his niche in operations while working at Waltonwood Senior Living.

As regional director of operations at Waltonwood Senior Living, Richard successfully managed the communication chain at the organization during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In this episode of the Process Breakdown Podcast, Dr. Jeremy Weisz discusses with his guest, Richard Mabe, his experience of streamlining the communications at Waltonwood through the COVID-19 crisis.

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Show notes

[0:26] Intro  

  • Dr. Jeremy Weisz mentions some of the past guests who have been on the show including David Allen of Getting Things Done, and Michael Gerber of the E-Myth.
  • Dr. Jeremy Weisz introduces SweetProcess, a workflow tool that helps businesses to streamline their operations even in life-or-death situations.  
  • SweetProcess offers a 14-day free trial without a credit card.

[1:48]  Dr. Jeremy Weisz introduces the guest Richard Mabe.

[2:38}  Richard talks about what they do at Waltonwood.

  • Waltonwood is part of the Singh Development Company based out of Detroit, Michigan.
  • The company has 12 properties between Michigan, North Carolina, and Virginia. 
  • They have seven properties in the Metro Detroit area.

[3:10]  How did Richard get into operations from being a certified nurse administering care?

  • Richard’s first passion is nursing. He started working at Waltonwood when he graduated from nursing school.
  • Serving seniors and their families and working with the associates at Waltonwood, he found his niche in operations.

[4:49]  Richard talks about how the organization managed its operations in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • The organization understood that seniors were a crucial group impacted by the pandemic. 
  • As the guidelines from the authorities changed rapidly, the team had to adapt to the changes to enhance their operations. 
  • They prioritized the safety of residents, their families, and their associates. 

[6:54]  What was the daily communications chain at Waltonwood during the pandemic?

  • As director of regional operations, Richard worked closely with the executive directors at the different sites. 
  • He informed the executive directors about the changes at the organization and how the changes would impact their operations on-site via phone calls, Zoom meetings, and emails.

[9:22]  Richard gives an overview of the communications frequency at Waltonwood pre-COVID.

  • Richard spoke with the executive directors multiple times a week pre-COVID. 
  • They had virtual meetings once a month or once a quarter pre-COVID, but started having regular virtual meetings with COVID-19. 
  • The team had a lot of onsite visits pre-COVID.
  • They are gradually moving back to having more onsite visits post-COVID.

[13:06] What important process did the organization implement to streamline its communications during COVID?

  • The team mostly communicated on a need-to-know basis. But with COVID, its communications became more problem-solving and efficiency-oriented. 
  • They adopted a more proactive communications strategy.

[14:48] Richard explains his method of communications in his engagements with team members. 

  • Richard operates under a CLEAR communications method: connection, listen, engaging and dialogue, action, and revisiting.

[17:40] How does the team communicate the health issues of residents to their families?

  • The team informs the families of residents about the situation and includes the residents in the communications.
  • They seek the support of family members in taking care of the residents through the issues.

[20:33] Richard talks about how the team protects residents’ privacy in communicating their health conditions to families. 

  • The team speaks with the correct power of attorney or health care agent. 
  • If there are family dynamics, they communicate to the designated spokesperson for the family chosen by the resident.

[22:34] Jeremy points the audience to Waltonwood’s website for more information. He also directs them to check out SweetProcess and the Process Breakdown Podcast.

[23:19] Outro

About Richard Mabe

Richard Mabe is the regional director of operations at Waltonwood. Passionate about serving, he works closely with a group of independent living, assisted living, and memory care communities. 
As a licensed nurse, Richard understands the clinical aspects of senior care. Also a licensed administrator in NC, VA and MI, he understands the operational demands in senior care and puts his expertise to work for efficiency.

Richard Mabe is the regional director of operations at Waltonwood. Passionate about serving, he works closely with a group of independent living, assisted living, and memory care communities.

As a licensed nurse, Richard understands the clinical aspects of senior care. Also a licensed administrator in NC, VA and MI, he understands the operational demands in senior care and puts his expertise to work for efficiency. 

Transcript of the interview

Speaker 1: Welcome to the Process Breakdown Podcast, where we talk about streamlining and scaling operations of your company, getting rid of bottlenecks and giving your employees all the information they need to be successful at their jobs. Now, let’s get started with the show.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Dr. Jeremy Weisz here, host of the Process Breakdown Podcast, where we talk about streamlining and scaling operations of your company, getting rid of bottlenecks and giving your staff everything they need to be successful at their job. I’m here at the Richard Mabe of Waltonwood.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: But I’m going to formally introduce Richard in a second. Before I do, I always like to point out other episodes, which people should check out. Past guests include David Allen of Getting Things Done, Michael Gerber of the E-Myth, and many more awesome COOs and directors of operations. So check out other episodes of the podcast. And this episode is brought to you by SweetProcess. And if you had the team members ask you the same questions over and over, and it may be the 10th time you spent explaining it, there is a better way, there is a solution. SweetProcess is actually a software that makes it drop that easy to train and onboard new staff and save time with existing staff.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: And I was talking with one of the owners, Owen, not only do universities, banks, hospitals and software companies use them, but first responder government agencies use them in life or death situations to run their operations. So you can use SweetProcess to document all the repetitive tasks that eat up your precious time and your team’s time. So you can focus on growing and allowing them to do their best work. You could sign up for a free 14 day trial, no credit cards required. And it’s at It’s Sweet like candy,

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: So I’m excited to introduce today, Richard Mabe is Regional Director of Operations of Waltonwood Senior Living in Detroit, Michigan. They have locations all over the place, but he’s in Detroit, Michigan. He’s responsible for managing the luxury senior communities day to day operations. He has over 15 years of experience in healthcare and as a licensed nurse. So he’s lived the caregiver’s life too. And his success is driven by his desire to serve seniors and caregivers and the community. So, Richard, thanks for joining me.

Richard Mabe: Happy to be here. Thanks for having me.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: We’ll get into, in the topic today, we’ll talk about is streamlining communication. How do you communicate quickly and effectively across executives, different locations? But I want you to just talk a little bit at first about Waltonwood and about the company. What you do.

Richard Mabe: Yeah, so Waltonwood Senior Living is part of the Singh Development Company based out of Detroit, Michigan. We have 12 properties between Michigan, North Carolina and Virginia. Here in the Metro Detroit area, we have seven properties. And I support the operations here in Michigan, along with our director of operations.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: How did you land on the, like I was saying, the regional operations side from being actually administering care?

Richard Mabe: Yeah. So as a nurse, that’s my first passion. And so I started working in senior living when I graduated nursing school. And I quickly discovered that serving seniors, their families and working with the associates, as the resident care manager, I found my niche. I knew that that’s where I needed to be. And so I think it’s evolved over time with learning the skills that I’ve needed to grow within an organization. Communication is big in senior living and working and building a team when taking care of people. So, that’s a skillset that I’ve grown and learned over the time to really hone in on creating that operational flow and being successful at that. So that’s kind of developed as I’ve grown in my career.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Well, talk about some specific examples. I mean, it’s ever changing, I wouldn’t want to be in the senior living space in COVID. There’s probably craziness going on, there’s so many changes. And you have to disseminate these very quickly and it probably changed daily for a while. And people didn’t know exactly what was going on. So talk about, during COVID, what were some of the things you had to take in and then disseminate? And how did you go about doing them? Because you’re not just talking even one facility, it’s across multiple facilities.

Richard Mabe: Yeah. So, like you said, almost daily our guidance was changing from our regulatory bodies and from the local government to national government on how we, as a society, were operating. And so, we knew from the beginning that senior living and senior citizens were going to be the most crucial and most susceptible individuals. So, as changes were coming at us left and right, as a senior leadership team, I was involved with quickly reading and analyzing the data along with our director and talking through, how does this really impact our operations?

Richard Mabe: So we would meet, I mean, sometimes at eight and a nine o’clock at night or six, seven o’clock in the morning to be talking about what these changes happened. And then it was up to us to have morning conversations or afternoon conversations with, "All right, this is what we have to do. It’s going to impact this part of the operation. Or we need to adjust this specific scenario." We would do had one on one conversations, Zoom meetings, telephone calls, group Zoom calls, if you will, around what specifically needed to change. I mean, and sometimes it was twice a day, we were literally meet call in the morning and then have a call in the afternoon to talk about what’s happened throughout the day, operationally.

Richard Mabe: Then clinically, we had separate calls. I mean, our phone calls, our days as operational leaders in senior living were around trying to figure out what exactly we needed to do to protect the residents, protect the associates and the families. Because we have to keep all three of those at the core of our decision making.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: I want to break it up into the chain of command and then kind of the mode of communication. So it sounds like maybe the leadership team meets and during those crazy times, maybe twice a day, maybe more than twice a day. So from that one meeting in the morning, what happens from there? Who do you have to distribute information to from, okay, leadership team you’re on the same page. Where does it go from there in the chain of command?

Richard Mabe: Yeah, good question. So generally, as a director of operations and regional director of operations, I work closely with the executive directors at each sites. And so those executive directors are then in charge of communicating with their direct reports, which are generally department managers and the nurses and the caregivers on site.

Richard Mabe: So part of my role is working direct with them, talking them through, how are our changes going to impact your operations? What do you need to be prepared for? These are the scenarios, let’s talk through them. And being able to identify where there’s going to be potential breakdown, looking at the risk of all these. And so being able to quickly talk about that with them and getting them to see and understand more of where we’re coming from as an organization, and how we are interpreting them. A lot of people were interpreting the guidance from a different perspective as Walton would. So how did we work with our communities, our residence, and our families to help them to understand why we were doing what we were doing?

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: So you’d have a leadership meeting maybe in the morning. And then the mode of communication, would it be then you on a conference call with all the executive directors? Or is it Zoom or are you emailing? How does it work from there?

Richard Mabe: I’ll say all of the above. I mean, we had conference calls, Zoom calls. Then it was a quick phone call with me, as a regional director, talking through specifics for that community. Then it was generally an email. All right, let’s follow up with the day, our midday email, this are the changes we talked about. Just so that it’s clear what we were expecting as an organization, what we were trying to do. And then it was generally, all right, the next day. All right, well, nothing changed from the previous day. So we’re going to keep moving on in this fashion. But generally it was a phone call, Zoom meeting and email if there was time or if we knew changes weren’t going to be happening for a little while longer, was generally how we operated with that.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: I mean, there’s a new normal now. But before COVID, what would that frequency look like? So as far as leadership to executive director, what did that look like either on a weekly, daily or monthly basis?

Richard Mabe: Yeah. Generally, prior to COVID, communication with the executive directors is still pretty frequent. I mean, you’re talking to them probably weekly, if not multiple times a week. As far as virtual meetings and virtual connections, such as what you and I are doing via Zoom, we’re pretty non-existent. I mean, maybe it was once a month, maybe once a quarter that we would have a Zoom meeting or a meeting.

Richard Mabe: And after COVID started, we quickly adapted to, all right, this is a daily kind of conversation. Whether it’s audio only or visual, or video and audio. It was our way of connecting with each other. For senior living in general, I think virtual communication and connection become our only way of being able to connect with someone. Because we weren’t going in and out of communities as a regional team, supporting the communities. Whereas before it was, we were in communities weekly talking to directors and teams to try to keep that engagement level there so that they were on the same page with what we were joining as an organization.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Were you doing a lot of conference calls or were you actually going on site pre COVID?

Richard Mabe: Pre COVID, a lot of onsite visits. We would go in and meet with the teams. And that’s where we were able to really build that relationship with the directors and the department managers, so that we could help them through those situations that would arise. Whether it’s performance management that they were struggling with, to how to manage their team. Or general engagement with the communities to be able to move a specific metric or operational process forward. So pre COVID, it was definitely visits.

Richard Mabe: Post COVID and during COVID, a lot of virtual meetings, a lot of virtual one-on-one calls. Our regional team all took some time out of our week to set up specific calls with our discipline. Whether it was activities, culinary, marketing, maintenance. So we all kind of adjusted to that virtual communication style and method to quickly talk through what those changes look like for those departments and those specific processes within those departments. And then now as we’re navigating post COVID, if you will, or maybe not as intense COVID. Now we’re getting back to those onsite conversations and onsite meetings and visits. Because we have finally figured out, along with the greater good of the world of how were you going to navigate this in person way of work again.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: I want to hear, Richard, an important process you put in place because of COVID and because you had to streamline communication. Before you answer it, so I just want to restate. So it’s interesting because you have a clear chain of command, you have a clear chain of communication with that. So it goes from the leadership team, the executive directors, the department managers, then to the nurses or any other care staff. What’s an important process you put in place now that COVID hits and you have to really get out the communication quickly?

Richard Mabe: I would say that one of the key processes I think that we have put in place is I think the heightened-ness around communication. We communicated before, and I think we communicated in a way that, oh, just FYI, this is what’s going on or this is what’s happening. Now, I think the communication process that we use as an organization … not so much as an organization, I should say. Because this is how I operate as a director of operations and regional director. Is, let’s talk, so I’m able to help you problem solve more quickly and more efficiently. So that way we’re not trying to make up for lost time. We’re trying to figure out how to deal with something.

Richard Mabe: So I would say more effective communication with me as their direct supervisor and manager. Let’s talk through what situations are happening in the community to be more proactive at handling them, if you will. And I think that’s been consistent with the team that I support is like, let’s just have that open dialogue and open conversation and communication around things. And I believe that that’s consistent with what’s happening, I think in the industry in general. So that we’re all prepared and able to handle things. So that we’re not behind and we’re not trying to figure out how to do things after we’ve already made a mistake or an issue.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Do you have a certain format to the meeting? Again, like you’ve so many different meetings and people you have to coordinate with. What have you found is effective in running these meetings?

Richard Mabe: So I try to operate under a clear, I use it as an acronym, clear communication method. I like to try to make some formal connection, either an in-person connection or a virtual connection or on the phone connection. I like email communication. I think that’s all always good for a follow up from communication, but make some sort of connection. I talk through specifics and what the agenda is, kind of make sure that they’re aware. I really try hard to listen to their feedback, whenever we’re having conversations, communication is a two way street. And I always try to listen to their communication and what they’re saying to me.

Richard Mabe: Then that leads to engaging in dialogue. I mean, dialogue is crucial to making sure that they understand what’s happening, what the purpose of the call is or conversation is. So that they can take away what their action steps are, what needs to happen after the conversation, what the follow-up looks like, what things can we anticipate from this communication. And then revisiting and follow up, I think that’s been key for me, as an operator, is following up with what’s been communicated. How are we doing it? How are we revisiting that communication? Where are we at with things in general? And I think that that’s been something that I’ve identified with people in general that follow up without communication is something that maybe they’re growing at and working at to grow that, as well.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: I may miss the A. So clear communication is connection, listen, engaging and dialogue. And what’s the A?

Richard Mabe: Action items and like-

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Got it.

Richard Mabe: Anticipating what’s next.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Awesome. Action items and anticipating what’s next. And then next is revisiting in the follow up, is the R. So I love that. Thank you.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: So when you go in and I want to … COVID is an extreme example of all of this. But when there’s day to day examples all the time, especially when I think of senior living facilities, I think of there is health challenges that people have. And I know that you have to communicate, you were talking a little bit before we hit record, not only with the staff, but with the family. So you gave an example before about falls. So can you talk a little bit about how you communicate those things to everyone, including the family?

Richard Mabe: Yeah. So, when a resident moves in with us, into one of our communities or any senior living community. The resident moves in and they’re our priority and they’re our main focus. But they’re our customer, if you will. But then we are now introduced to their family members, their power of attorney, their healthcare advocates. They also become our customer and a part of our priority system of communication. And so in general, when a resident has issues or they’re having a challenge with something, I use an example as a fall. Falls are very common in seniors and senior citizens, in general, and senior living, it happens.

Richard Mabe: So, identifying when a resident has a problem with falls, talking to the resident, including them in the conversation. And then also communicating with their family member or their healthcare power of attorney or their patient advocate. This is what’s going on with your loved one or with someone that you are working with. And this is what we, as an organization, or we, as a care team, are doing for them. We wanted you to be aware, can you support us? Can you work with us to provide reminders or assistance? And that has to happen pretty quickly because we want to mitigate any risk moving forward, if there’s a simple support mechanism that we can put in place. Not only for the family members, but for our staff and our team who take care of the residents.

Richard Mabe: Making sure that that communication happens quickly, effectively, and it happens a lot of different ways. It’s sometimes one on one conversation with a caregiver, it’s in their care plan that they have access to, to be able to read and know how to take care of that resident. So, that’s the written format. And sometimes it’s the nurses themselves going in and providing the care. I mean, that’s a lot of what the effective communication with the residents and the families look like when it comes to those care needs that changed routinely in senior citizens.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Richard, I’m wondering, what are scenarios that you have to watch out for with communication? I think of, maybe there’s family that doesn’t get along. Like, there’s a brother and sister … I don’t know. What are scenarios where you kind of have to tread lightly with who you’re informing of what? Because the person’s like, "I don’t want you to tell this person anything." I don’t know, I’m making that up. But what are some examples of that? Because I’m sure there’s a lot of just all these asterisks by people and their preferences.

Richard Mabe: Yeah, you’re spot on. I mean, in senior living, we really have to work with first and foremost, the resident. Making sure that they’re aware, if they’re in a cognitive state of mind to be able to comprehend what’s happening. So really work with a resident. But then, when it comes to partnering with a family member, it’s we’re not a healthcare entity, we are senior living. So, it’s not considered a hospital or a skilled nursing, if you will. But we do honor power of attorneys, so we make sure that we’re talking to the correct power of attorney if there is a family dynamic. Who’s the correct power of attorney? Are we talking to the correct healthcare agent or the patient advocate?

Richard Mabe: So really understanding from a legal perspective, who we can and who we can’t talk to. Then if we have dynamics in general, it’s, "All right, guys. Family, we need one person. And that is your loved one has designated you, Tom, to be the spokesperson for your family and for them. So we’re going to communicate with you. I understand there’s that family dynamic. But we, from an effective communication perspective, need to talk to one person. We need to be able to communicate. And then it’s going to be up to you to disseminate that out to whoever you would like to know." That happens often. So, being able to have the courage to have those types of conversations is critical. Because if not, you’re going to be running around circling five people a day when you need to have that siloed communication with the right person.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: First of all, Richard, thank you for sharing this because I don’t know, there’s so many complexities with the operations. Especially when you’re talking about the senior living. So I appreciate you sharing that with us. I just want to point people towards your website, so people can check out more. And they can go to as Are there any other places or on your website that we should point people towards?

Richard Mabe: No, I would say that’s it.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Cool.

Richard Mabe: If you have questions directly for me, you could contact me at That’s

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Great. First of all, go check out their website, go check out more episodes of the podcast. And Richard, thank you so much.

Richard Mabe: Thank you. Take care.

Speaker 1: Thanks for listening to the Process Breakdown Podcast. Before you go, quick question, do you want a tool that makes it easy to document processes, procedures, and/or policies for your company? So that your employees have all the information they need to be successful at their job? If yes, sign up for a free 14 day trial of SweetProcess. No credit card is required to sign up. Go to, Sweet like candy and Process like Go now to and sign up for your risk free 14 day trial.

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