New CEO Ross Chilton talks parenting and reframing obstacles as challenges

Ross, with wife Annette, daughter Emily and son Ryan, shares his story and perspective as he takes on the role of CLBC CEO.

It was the end of day three on the job when Ross Chilton walked to his car and thought, “I’m in the right place.”

As the new CEO of Community Living BC (CLBC), and former CEO of service provider Community Living Society (CLS), Ross says he feels incredibly welcomed and very hopeful for the future.

Ross says his ultimate first priority is to listen. “As soon as I can, I want to get out to all the regions and hear from the people we support and their families. I want to understand from their perspective what is working well and needs to be protected, and what is not working and needs to be tweaked.”

Needless to say, after working with CLBC’s three former CEOs, Ross is very familiar with the organization’s values and vision. “I highly respect the impact our former leaders have made, taking CLBC from a new organization to a more mature one. This is a very fortunate time for me to be joining the organization.”

A very personal connection

Ross’s son Ryan recently announced the starting lineup at a Vancouver Canucks game. Click here to watch a behind-the-scenes video.

“As a parent of someone with diverse abilities, I’ve also been personally involved with CLBC for a very long time, so to be trusted in a role like this is not something I take lightly,” says Ross, whose son, Ryan, 26, receives services funded by CLBC. “I’m heading over to my son’s place tonight to watch hockey. I’m bringing the pizza – he’s buying the beer.”

Ryan works as a Flight Guide at Fly Over Canada, a must-see flight simulation ride in Vancouver, and will begin his new role as an announcer for the Greater Vancouver Canadians hockey team later this fall; Ross’s wife, Annette, works as a school principal, and his daughter, Emily, 20, is a cross country and track athlete at Simon Fraser University (SFU) and currently studies biomedical physiology with the hopes of becoming a doctor.

“It’s so cool to see my own daughter compete in the same sport and at the same school as I did 38 years ago,” says Ross, who represented Canada twice in cross country in Paris, France and Newcastle, England as a student of SFU himself. “Lately, the exercise bike is more my speed, though. Wellness is very important to me. Emily is actually going to be making me healthy lunches to bring to work every day.”

Emily is following in Ross’s footsteps representing SFU in cross country and track.

Happy appreciating the present

With a master’s degree in Counselling Psychology, Ross’s area of study focused on occupational stress and coping.

“My research looked at teachers from two school districts and analyzed what they did to manage stress while dealing with situations that could not be changed. What we found was for those who engaged in problem-focused coping behaviors, which involves doing things to try to alleviate the problem – they didn’t fare as well as those who focused on more emotion-focused coping, which involves attempts to reduce negative emotional responses leading to the experience of stress.”

The conclusion? “If you can do something to change a stressful situation that is the best approach. However, if you are facing something that can’t be changed then perception is everything. How you perceive your life and whether you experience things as challenges, which can be motivating, or threats, which are demoralizing, has a huge impact on your experience of stress.”

This lesson in perception and positivity is something Ross brings to work everyday. “Life is very precious. You don’t know how much time you have. I approach each day as a gift, and I give and take as much as I can each day. People talk about work-life balance. I’m lucky to say I enjoy both my work and leisure parts – and coffee.” (Ross isn’t a Starbucks or Tim Hortons guy – he prefers independent boutique coffee shops over the big franchises.)

“I’m always happiest when I’m appreciating today and what it has to offer and not afraid of things that are hard. When we take on and overcome challenges, we get stronger. For me it has never been about pursuing what is easy.”

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