‘Leading by influence’

Riderwood’s new associate executive director focuses on resident experience

Created date

August 15th, 2019
Earlier this year, Alphonso Westley became associate executive director at Riderwood, the Erickson Living community in Silver Spring, Md.

Earlier this year, Alphonso Westley became associate executive director at Riderwood, the Erickson Living community in Silver Spring, Md. 

Earlier this year, retirement living industry veteran Alphonso Westley joined Riderwood’s leadership team as the Erickson Living community’s associate executive director. 

Working alongside Executive Director Gary Hibbs, Westley will help manage health services, operations, financials, sales, and human capital management at Riderwood. As his key area of focus, he will work with Resident Life Director Lori Simpson to oversee her department. 

Westley describes his leadership philosophy as “leading by influence.” 

“The strength in leading by influence is in strong relationships built on trust and respect, and understanding how to present ideas in the right way to lead the team in the direction of the vision and mission,” he explains. 

Westley has a master’s degree in health care management from Cambridge College in Massachusetts and a bachelor’s of science in urban affairs from Boston University.  

Before coming to Riderwood, he worked for eight years at Sunrise Senior Living in several operational roles, including regional director of operations in Northern Virginia, executive director in Massachusetts and New Jersey, as well as assisted living manager. He also previously worked for Partners Healthcare, a large provider at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

“My primary objectives focused on the resident experience as well as quality and performance improvement,” he says.

A culture of communication

Westley was familiar with Erickson Living as a result of his involvement in groups for professionals working in the senior living industry. He also had opportunities to speak to Erickson Living employees at industry conferences. 

“I heard great things about Erickson Living communities, especially about the way of life that is put into practice,” he says. “After several interviews and discussions, we decided the best-fit location for me was Riderwood in Silver Spring, Md. And it’s not too far from my home in Fort Washington, Md.”

After his first few months at Riderwood, Westley already knows it’s a unique place to live and work. He’s been most impressed by what he calls “the symbiotic relationship between residents and employees.”

“In most senior living communities, the employees drive the culture, programming, and lifestyle,” Westley says. “At Riderwood, it is an interdependent effort on all fronts.”

Because of the ways community and staff members work together to create the culture at Riderwood, open communication is of the utmost importance. Westley says he takes an informal approach to building relationships, which enables him to connect quickly with residents.

“They have no problem with stopping me in the hall or a restaurant, calling me, or even stopping by to discuss a concern,” Westley says. “It also helps that my office is filled with nostalgic candy.”

Top priorities

As he settles into his role as associate executive director, Westley says his top priorities will be customer relations and timely responses. He intends to continue to enhance the resident experience of Riderwood by “driving process improvement as it relates to resident-facing departments and initiatives.”

While his first few months have offered many rewarding and enriching interactions with colleagues and residents, one experience stands out among the rest. Westley says the Riderwood employee scholarship award ceremony, in which 78 employees received scholarships for higher education, left a big impression on him. 

“This year, more than $228,000 was raised for the students mainly by resident contributions,” he says. “I have not experienced this level of commitment to employees at any company that I’ve worked for.”

When he’s not working hard at Riderwood, you might find Westley relaxing at the beach or exploring breweries and sampling new microbrews with friends and family. He also makes a point to give back to the community.

“I also enjoy mentoring high school and college students and helping them navigate the maze of higher education,” he says. “I am still in touch with several mentees who have successfully completed high school and college and have been able to connect them with colleagues who were able to offer them their first jobs after graduation.”

Westley now happily calls Maryland home. But one thing people might be surprised to learn about him is how many different places he has lived.

“I have lived in six different states and two countries,” he says.