Irma Toce became CEO of Londonderry on the Tred Avon in 2014 and brought with her a trailblazing spirit to the intimate residential cooperative community for adults ages 62+. Her first priority was to create better relationships among community residents and staff. Irma mentored her leadership team and helped them understand the important role they played in creating a culture that fosters a sense of community and family on campus. Simple things like saying “hello” and knowing everyone’s name were a critical first step in making Londonderry a community that people want to be a part of.
Investing in Londonderry’s community culture has paid dividends. The shared commitment to Londonderry’s success has made it easier for residents and staff to raise their expectations and standards. The result? Londonderry has become the top retirement community on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.
Investing in People
Irma believes that the best way to invest in a positive work culture is to invest in the people who create that culture. Irma leads by example, mentors her staff and openly shares the lessons from her own professional and personal life. She reminds her team that everyone makes mistakes, but emphasizes that you have to own them and learn from them, and not forget to celebrate the small successes along the way.
When asked about the biggest challenge of her career, Irma quickly points to the challenges of being a working mother. Women have to do more at work to be taken “seriously” while still being responsible for managing their household as a mother and a wife.
Irma firmly believes that women can thrive in all of these roles at once and “have it all,” if that’s what they choose. She believes in family and the need of a woman to be successful in her career and creates an atmosphere for women to succeed that encourages and celebrates accomplishments at home and at work.
“Irma has always been a teacher, and I love the faith she has in me,” said Rachel Smith, Londonderry’s Sales and Marking Director. “I am a member of our senior leadership team, and I am also a mother to three boys. Irma believes I can do it all. She supports me in being a mother and being the best at my job. Her confidence in our entire team inspires us to our very best
every day. I often ask myself, ‘What would Irma do?’ By her setting the example and sharing her story, it makes our entire team feel it’s OK to have both a career and a family.”
As a female leader, Irma invests in her team by taking the time to listen. “Learning how to be
comfortable with sitting back and listening to those around me has been one of the most
important leadership lessons of my career,” said Toce. “Sometimes leaders feel that they need to talk to teach. I believe that listening is the best way to lead. You get to learn about your team and what they need. Everyone needs to feel valued and we all feel valued in different ways. By listening, you learn about your team and how they feel valued. This allows you to create an environment in which everyone thrives.
Raising the Bar
Members of Londonderry’s leadership team are always prepared for the question, “what can we do to take this up a notch?”
Even if they think they have a great solution to a problem, exciting new program or innovative upgrade to facilities, Irma always pushes her team to raise the bar and do more. She is a constant sounding board and source of support and is content to let her team shine when leading their own departments.
Expecting more has led to some of the most exciting enhancements to Londonderry’s resident’s lifestyle. The new clubhouse, finished in 2018, has been one of the biggest. In less than five years of being CEO, the Londonderry team and residents were celebrating the completion of the new clubhouse. The clubhouse is a true testament to Irma’s beliefs and dedication.
While the amenities are a big part of the Londonderry Lifestyle, Londonderry is nothing without its people. Irma takes special pride in mentoring the leadership team who has worked so hard to create and maintain the vibrant culture at the community’s core.
Irma always challenges her team to look to the future and to anticipate the needs of the community while they continue to provide an exceptional experience for each resident.
“Our environment is changing, and we need to stay ahead of that change,” said Irma. “COVID- 19 taught us a lot about how to stay ahead in a very fluid environment, and it was the early investment in our community culture that helped us weather the challenges and implement changes quickly, safely and efficiently.”
During COVID – 19 many changes were made to day-to-day operations. accommodate the new guidelines. The team, under Irma’s leadership, was able to deliver meals to every resident every day.
The team conduced daily wellness checks for each resident and continued to encourage them to exercise and walk outside. As the world was changing all around and morale, especially in senior living communities was low, Irma was keeping her team positive. The positivity among the team spilled over to the residents as everyone became a support for one another.
During this challenging time Irma kept pushing forward, looking for new ways to improve the quality of life for Londonderry residents, especially during a time of social distance and being apart. With Irma’s foresight and the team’s support, Londonderry introduced the CATIE (Community and Access to Information Everywhere) platform to support community engagement and connectivity.
“CATIE has been a great way to use technology to enhance the quality of life at Londonderry and help residents make the most of the services, events and programs available to them on campus,” said Toce.
Our world and community are always changing, and we are always adapting and looking for ways to raise the bar both for current and future residents. We must constantly ask ourselves, “What can we do now to attract future residents to the Londonderry community as well as how do we attract the best team and residents that will buy-in and thrive in our campus culture?”
About Londonderry on the Tred Avon
Londonderry on the Tred Avon is a vibrant, independent living cooperative community for adults ages 62+ that promotes wellness of mind and body located on 29 acres along the Tred Avon River in historic Easton on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Since 1992, Londonderry has grown from 15 cottages and 17 residents to a campus of over 97 cottages, 26 apartments and more than 150 residents. Londonderry has also added more amenities and facilities to meet the needs of residents and their families, which include the Magnolia Manor House, Pool, Clubhouse, expanded green space and access to the Tred Avon River, and the new Community Center that was completed in 2018.