By Rose O. Sherman, EdD, RN, FAAN
How many of you feel like imposters? I asked this question last week at an ANA workshop for new nurse managers. A surprisingly high number of the managers in attendance raised their hands. Most were very young nurses with less than 2 years in a manager role. Their reaction was not surprising and feelings about imposter syndrome are even felt by high profile leaders. Sheryl Sandburg, the COO of Facebook, and author of a New York Times best seller Lean In, discussed this problem in her book. She too has had to work hard overcome this problem. Fortunately, there are strategies that you can use if you experience imposter syndrome.
What is Imposter Syndrome?
The term imposter syndrome was originally coined by two researchers, Dr. Pauline Chance and Dr. Suzanne Imes, at the Georgia State University in 1978. These psychologists observed that there are high achieving individuals who have a secret sense, that they may not be able to live up to the expectations that others have for them. They may even think that their success is based on luck versus their own positive qualities. In small doses, this may not be a bad thing because it reminds us to work on building our competency. But some individuals with imposter syndrome feel a level of self-doubt that can lead to overwork and a paralyzing fear of failure. It can compromise your ability to be successful. Interestingly, the idea of you being an imposter probably never crosses the mind of anyone that you work with.
Six Action Steps
Learning to better manage your feelings about imposter syndrome is important. Cathy Robinson-Walker who coaches nurse leaders provides some good advice to mitigate imposter syndrome. Her action steps include the following:
1. Enlist the help of a trusted mentor to discuss your feelings about imposter syndrome.
2. Pay attention to your own self-talk and consider whether your thoughts are empowering or disabling.
3. Make of list of the strengths you bring to the role and what you contribute. Ask others for their input, and refer to the list when you have feelings of self-doubt.
4. Accept that perfection and the need to “know it all” is both unrealistic and can be personally costly.
5. Recognize that there are times when you will be on a steep learning curve in a role and need to further develop your competencies. Be honest about what you know and what you don’t know and utilize the experts on your unit or in your organization.
6. Be willing to be uncomfortable and move through your fear.
Most beginning nurse leaders will grow out of feeling like imposters as they build their competency and become more comfortable in their roles. Biographers of Eleanor Roosevelt have talked about her initial feelings of inadequacy being first lady. In reflecting on her experience, she noted that “I believe that anyone can conquer fear by doing the things he/she fears to do, provided he/she keeps doing them until he/she gets a record of successful experience.”
Read to Lead
Clance, P.R. & Imes, S. (1978). The Imposter Phenomenon in High Achieving Women: Dynamics and Therapeutic Intervention. Psychological Theory, Research and Practice. 15(3).
Robinson-Walker, C. (2011). The Imposter Syndrome. Nurse Leader. August 2011.
Sherman, R.O. (2013). Imposter Syndrome. American Nurse Today, 8(5), 57-58.
© emergingrnleader.com 2017
By Rose O. Sherman, EdD, RN, FAAN
I am often surprised at how many new nurse leaders don’t get any formal nursing leadership development from their organizations. For these leaders, it is important that they take the responsibility to educate themselves. There is strong evidence that the best leaders are the best learners and they do it continuously. As an outcome of their research with leaders globally, Kouzes and Posner in their book The Truth about Leadership identify ten truths about leadership. One of those truths is that leadership is a pattern of practices, behaviors, skills and abilities that can be learned. Developing expertise in leadership takes practice. There is no fast track to leadership. The challenge to continue to grow and learn as a leader is one that each person must accept for themselves. Personal leadership development is just that—personal. There are many excellent free resources that can help you do this. The following are some of my recommendations of free resources to help you grown as a leader and stay informed about changes in the healthcare environment:
Resources for Nurse Leader Development (almost all are totally free)
Hospitals and Health Networks Hospitals and Health Networks is published by Health Forum and is the official publication of the American Hospital Association. Free digital and magazine subscriptions are available for nurse leaders. The publication covers a wide range of healthcare leadership topics. Podcast interviews with health leaders are also available on the site. http://www.hhnmag.com
SmartBrief on Leadership provides various articles and blog postings related to innovative ideas about leadership and management. Users can subscribe and updates will be sent directly through e-mail. https://www2.smartbrief.com/signupSystem/subscribe.action?pageSequence=1&briefName=leadership&utm_source=brief
Fierce Healthcare is a daily newsletter that is a leading source of healthcare management news. This is an excellent resource for nurse leaders on a wide range of healthcare leadership topics. Subscriptions are free. http://www.fiercehealthcare.com
Kaiser Health News (KHN) is a nonprofit news organization committed to in-depth coverage of health care policy and politics of interest to healthcare leaders. A free email news subscription is available. http://kaiserhealthnews.org/
Health Leaders Media – provides an indepth analysis of critical healthcare leadership issues. Sign up for their free e-newsletter specifying nursing as a special interest. http://www.healthleadersmedia.com/magazines#
Institute for Health Care Improvement Open School – The IHI is internationally recognized for work in quality improvement. They now have an open school on the internet that is used by many universities and health systems. This site contains 19 foundational courses on patient-and family-centered care, quality improvement, patient safety, managing healthcare operations, and leadership for a modest subscription fee. http://www.ihi.org/education/ihiopenschool/Pages/default.aspx
Harvard Business Review Ideacast – The HBR IdeaCast, from the publishers of Harvard Business Review, Harvard Business Press, and hbr.org, features breakthrough ideas and commentary from the leading thinkers in business and management. These are weekly podcasts and you can subscribe to them for free on Itunes. https://itunes.apple.com/podcast/hbr-ideacast/id152022135?mt=2
TedTalks on Leadership TED is a nonprofit devoted to ideas worth spreading. It started out (in 1984) as a conference bringing together people from three worlds: Technology, Entertainment, Design. The Ted talks on leadership are wonderful short videos from some of the most creative thinkers in the world on leadership. http://www.ted.com/search?cat=ss_all&q=leadership
Michael Hyatt Intentional Leadership Blogs and Podcasts – Michael Hyatt is a well-known blogger and podcaster on leadership topics. http://michaelhyatt.com/category/leadership
Coach John Wooden’s Leadership Legacy – The late Coach John Wooden is considered to be the best basketball coach in US history. His family has put together a leadership education site known as the Wooden effect to help grow leaders. https://www.thewoodeneffect.com/john-wooden-leadership-legacy/
By Rose O. Sherman, EdD, RN, FAAN
How many sacred cows do you have? These may be ideas, rituals or processes that you adhere to because you so strongly believe in them. But what happens when the context of a situation changes and your sacred cow is no longer relevant. I was reminded this week of how difficult it can be to challenge our “sacred cows” in nursing. These are ideas or practice that we have held or done for so long that they often go unquestioned. We have seen with evidence-based practice that we have challenged some of our clinical sacred cows such as instilling normal saline into endotracheal tubes before suctioning. But sacred cows go beyond our clinical practice and often extend to our thinking about our own professional careers.
I was talking with a group of seasoned CNOs last week and they all agreed that they had to rethink many of their sacred cows in era of recruitment and retention challenges. A good example we discussed was whether a new graduate should be required to spend one year on the unit where they accepted their initial employment. This has long been a practice in many medical centers. The goal has been to reduce churn on units by making sure that the skill mix includes both experienced and inexperienced nurses.
While there are very practical reasons why such rules are believed to be important, the reality of what these CNOs are seeing in their practice settings is quite different. They are learning (sometimes the hard way) that their millennial nurses want to move ahead in their careers and this may involve moving specialty areas during the first year. With our national RN turnover at 16% a year, we know that most of this turnover are nurses in their first year of practice. What these CNOs have found is that if they do try to hold their millennial nurses to a one year commitment on a unit, they will often seek employment at another facility in their desired professional area. And usually – they are the best nurses on unit.
So these CNOs are rethinking this long held practice. They don’t want to lose their best nurses. They also recognize a reality that young millennial nurses can and will seek other employment if they feel they are not “getting ahead” in their careers. Marshall Goldsmith in his wonderful book What Got You Here May Not Get You There, makes the astute observation that situations change and our internal GPS and beliefs need to shift in response to changes in reality or we will become ineffective leaders. Some policies and practices outlive their usefulness and need to be reconsidered. As leaders, we often need to kill our own sacred cows.
© emergingrnleader.com 2017
By Rose O. Sherman, EdD, RN, NEA-BC, FAAN
Over the past decade, we have seen most hospitals in the US merge into larger systems. I am now hearing from nurse leaders working for hospitals in these systems that their sphere of influence in many operational decisions has declined over time. Innovative practices that used to be initiated at a hospital level now require systems approval. Nurse leaders within these systems are having to redefine their spheres of control and spheres of influence in systems that have moved to standardize their operations. This change points out a reality in leadership. Spheres of influence and control can expand and contract in different situations.
Sphere of Control versus Sphere of Influence
There is an important distinction between a sphere of control and a sphere of influence. A leader’s sphere of control are things he or she directly and personally controls such as their teams, their budget, their projects. In contrast, the sphere of influence can be defined as influencing the behaviors and reactions of a person or an organization/system so that the outcomes mirror the visions of the leader. A sphere of control obviously makes it easier to quickly implement decisions.
Understanding Your Sphere of Influence
A challenge that leaders have in large matrixed organizations is determining what is within their circle of influence or control and perhaps more importantly, what is not. The late Stephen Covey in his book the, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, discussed the concept of Circle of Concern versus Circle of Influence. He advised that there may be things that we feel are in our circle of concern but a leader’s time is limited and should be spent on problems that lie outside one’s circle of influence. He advises that leaders should challenge their judgement on whether or not “concerns” are really worthy of their time and the political capital they invest. This is especially important for new leaders to understand as their sphere of influence may initially be very narrow. There may be situations in large organizations where a leader feels strongly about an issue or initiative but has little influence to impact it. I worked for the Department of Veterans Affairs for 25 years. There were times that we had to implement decisions that we had little or no input into. This ship had left the dock we used to say and there was little point in investing political capital to fight it.
Expanding Your Sphere of Influence
A sphere of influence is built over time. It is not having 500+ contacts on your LinkedIn profile. Rather, it is about establishing high quality relationships built on trust that will allow you to call the right person in a given situation to influence a decision. It is about seeking opportunities to create mutual benefit by building and nurturing relationships that help make others successful. Some key ways to expand your sphere of influence include the following:
- Take a sincere interest in the success of others
- Look for opportunities to help others shine
- Work on your likeability factor
- Help others secure things of value that are scarce
- Choose to lead in situations where others won’t
Wise leaders understand when they have influence in a situation and when they don’t. They also understand that to build influence, you must be generous. The more you have to offer (and willing do it), the more quickly your influence will grow and with it your leadership effectiveness.
Read to Lead
Covey, S. (2004). The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. New York: Free Press
@ emergingrnleader.com 2017
By Rose O. Sherman, EdD, RN, NEA-BC,FAAN
The art of listening is an overlooked leadership tool. Yet, we know that leaders who are good listeners are better at building trust and promoting loyalty. I once worked with a senior nurse leader who wore a rubber band on her wrist. I was curious as to why she did this. She told me that she had to resist her urge to immediately jump into conversations to add value. She said she was not a good listener and this had come up in her 360 degree evaluation. Whenever she felt the urge to jump into a conversation, she pinged herself with the rubber band as a reminder to stay silent and listen.
As a leader, it can be difficult to know what employees are really thinking unless you take the time to sit down and listen to them. Glenn Llopis makes the point that “Those who do listen to their employees are in a much better position to lead the increasingly diverse and multigenerational workforce. The one size fits all way of thinking has become outdated and those who embrace the high art of listening are destined to be the better, more compassionate leaders.” To become a better listener, consider implementing these 5 strategies:
- Be fully present – Leaders need to be fully present when engaged in a conversation to understand what is being said. This means no multitasking. Don’t read email or text message and ignore phone calls unless urgent. It also means not focusing on your response to what is being said.
- Ask open-ended clarifying questions – Michael Bungay Stanier has some great suggestions for open ended questions in conversations with staff.What’s on Your Mind? (then be silent and listen)And What Else? (avoid being an advice monster)What is the real challenge here for you?What do you want?How can I help?
- Avoid being an advice monster – Leaders often see themselves as experts and feel compelled to be the expert and offer a solution to a problem right away. The problem is that we can jump to conclusions and suggest what should be done before the other person has fully explained his or her perspective?
- Embrace silence – Aim to talk no more than 20% of the time in a conversation. Don’t feel obligated to respond to every comment. If there is a lull in the conversation – be OK with it. Sometimes the most profound thoughts will follow.
- Enter every conversation with the assumption that you will learn something – See conversations as a way to gain insight and knowledge that you don’t already have rather than an imposition on your time. If you believe that there is something to be learned, it will be a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Read to Lead
Bungay-Stanier, M. (2016). The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More and Change the Way You Lead Forever. Toronto: Box of Crayons.
Llopis, G. (May 20th, 2013 Forbes Blog). Six ways listening can make you a better leader.
© emergingrnleader.com 2017
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