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Reconsidering the Speed of Business

How Jonathan Wen, VP of Real Estate Finance at Chartwell Retirement Residences learned to get ahead by slowing down.


Managing a $1.77 billion debt portfolio could be a daunting task. For Jonathan Wen, Vice President, Real Estate Finance at Chartwell Retirement Residences, overseeing such a sizable portfolio, for the largest owner and operator of retirement residences in Canada, involves realizing one thing: slower is better.

That key lesson came to Jonathan after his manager encouraged him to take the Queen’s Leadership Program with Queen’s Executive Education at Smith School of Business at Queen’s University. Once in the course, he found the program’s structure and processes to be both practical and helpful in teaching him how to better approach business challenges.

“I now make better decisions,” says Jonathan. “I find that I take my time and reflect more when making decisions and seek feedback from others. I’ll make decisions slower but they’re more (carefully) thought out and therefore, better decisions."

Of all the tools he added to his professional kit, Jonathan was especially drawn to the idea that good managers don’t solve someone else’s problems. Instead, they help these individuals find the solutions themselves. The hands-on sessions, where participants partner with a fellow Leadership attendant, were particularly beneficial in teaching him how to listen more actively to coach others into finding their own solutions.

“I thought that was very powerful as it was an excellent practical approach to things we were learning in class, and it’s something I’ve used quite frequently since I’ve been back.”

Since returning to his job, Jonathan has found that using the techniques he learned has had a ripple effect with his colleagues. In managing Chartwell’s debt portfolio, for instance, he started challenging managers under him to come up with and recommend solutions on crucial issues – from choosing which banks they should borrow from to coming up with a loan structure that would avert overexposure in any kind of economic environment. Instead of simply giving marching orders on what they should do, Jonathan now finds himself coaching his colleagues on how to think more critically about what the next steps could be. He now asks probing questions to help them realize how their choices can affect their relationships with the banks and what potential risks to their portfolio could lie ahead in the next five to ten years.

“I’m inadvertently teaching or passing along some of the tools that I picked up from this course, and I’m finding that the results among my managers are similar to mine,” Jonathan says. “They’re making better decisions. Not faster decisions, but better decisions.”

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Vice President, Real Estate Finance, Chartwell Retirement Residences

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