By Rose O. Sherman, EdD, RN, FAAN
“Good leaders make people feel that they are at the very heart of things, not the periphery. Everyone wants to feel that he or she makes a difference to the success of the team. When that happens, people feel centered and that their work has meaning” – Walter Bennis
Why would anyone want to be led by you? That is a question that nurse leaders rarely ask themselves. If leaders are brutally honest in reflecting on their own strengths and weaknesses, they can probably find many reasons why nurses might not want to be led by them. Developing yourself as a leader is a process. You can and will make lots of mistakes. Reflective questions like this one are important to help you frame your leadership journey so you become the kind of nurse leader that no one wants to leave.
What do Followers want in a Leader?
Successful leaders are unable to achieve goals without inspired and motivated followers. We have all probably observed nurses who have been placed into leadership positions and had the formal title of leader but are not successful in capturing the heart and soul of those they lead. John Maxwell in his book 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership makes the important point that leadership is above all the ability to influence others. We know from research is that key qualities that nurses look for the in their leaders include:
- A commitment to excellence
- Passion about their work
- A clear vision and strategic focus
- Empathetic and caring
- A commitment to developing others
Seeking Feedback from Followers
Former New York city mayor Ed Koch was famous for walking into crowds throughout the city and asking “So how am I doing?” This is a pretty brave question to put out their to your followers when you are not sure what the response will be. The only way that you will learn and grow as a leader is to ask your followers to give you feedback about what you could do differently. Here are four good questions to ask your followers for feedback about your leadership style, communication and performance:
What should I keep doing as a leader?
What should I do more of as a leader?
What should I do less of as leader?
What should I stop doing as a leader?
If you receive enough feedback, you will see the trends in what you currently do well and where you need to improve. The key here is to take the feedback and try to use it in a constructive way instead of trying to justify why you do what you do. Leadership does not happen in a vacuum. Goffee and Jones from the Harvard Business School who study followership offer good advice. They point out that successful leaders are those that are able to modify their behavior to respond their followers and the circumstances while simultaneously remaining true to who they are.
Read to Lead
Goffee, R. & Jones, G. (2006). Why would anyone what to be led by you? What it takes to be an Authentic Leader. Harvard Business Review Press.
Maxwell, J. (2007). The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership. Thomas Nelson Publishers.
© emergingrnleader.com 2017
By Rose O. Sherman, EdD, RN, NEA-BC, FAAN
I was recently talking with a new manager. I asked her about the most important lessons she was learning about being a leader. She smiled and said – I am learning when to talk and when to just listen. She explained that when she started in her role, staff would come into her office with a problem. She would immediately jumped into action to either solve the problem or give advice. But what she soon found out was that in many situations, staff just wanted to vent about a situation and did not want her to act or even give them advice. They really wanted to solve many of their own problems. So she has shifted what she does in these conversations. I am taming the advice monster in me, she said and now simply ask is this a problem that you would like my help with or do you just want to tell me about it and vent.
This nurse manager is rapidly gaining wisdom and moving from “manager in charge of all issues” to a leader coach. Lets face it, we all love to give others advice. It is a way that we see ourselves adding value. Leaders often get promoted because they have such good judgement. It is also easier at times to just tell others what to do rather than letting them figure it out for themselves. But being an advice monster in a leadership role can lead to staff overdependence on us and we can easily get overwhelmed when we take on the issues of others.
Michael Bungay Stanier, an expert leadership coach, recommends that to tame the advice monster in you – ask better questions and make them open ended even when every fiber in your body is dying to solve the problem. This involves a change in behavior especially when you have the advice monster habit. Think about this – most people probably won’t listen or act on your advice even when excellent. Leaders often get frustrated when staff don’t follow through on the advice that they are given but often don’t stop to think about whether the advice was even wanted.
The following are five great open-ended coaching questions that you may want to tape to your computer:
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?
Bungay-Stanier also recommends that we should be aware of how advice monster likes to hide by asking questions that seem open ended but are not – the fake question as he calls. This is when you take a piece of advice and attach a question mark at the end.
The fake question actually giving advice might sound like this:
“Have you considered…?”
“Did you try…?”
“Have you thought of…?”
“What about the…?”
That. Don’t do that.
There are times in leadership when you will be asked for advice and it is OK to give it. But don’t rush into the advice giving mode. New leaders must work to avoid this because you may want to be seen as having all the answers otherwise staff may not think you are competent. Just telling staff what to do does not promote their growth and can lead to learned helplessness. The most effective leaders instead work to develop others and curb their advice monster.
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.
© emergingrnleader.com 2017
By Rose O. Sherman, EdD, RN, NEA-BC,FAAN
You will have many opportunities to lead during your own lifetime. As you will learn, the path to great leadership starts with a deep understanding of the strengths you bring to the table.” Tom Rath and Barry Conchie
I am currently working with a leadership team looking at both the individual strengths of the leaders and the that of team. As a Gallup certified strengths coach, I am impressed with how Gallup has grounded their work on strengths in research and carefully studied outcomes. The Gallup organization coordinated a research project in 2008 that surveyed more than one million work teams, conducted more than 20,000 in-depth interviews with leaders, and spoke with more than 10,000 “followers” around the world asking people why they followed the important leaders in their life. Results of their research launched a new perspective on the question, “What makes for good leadership?” What they found was somewhat surprising – that good leaders focus on their strengths and use them to their advantage. The most effective leaders invest both in their own strengths and those of their staff. They find the best people to work with and then maximize the ability of team members. They realize that they don’t need to be “well rounded in their strengths” but their teams do and this is what they should seek.
Why Knowing Your Strengths Can Help You to Be a Better Nurse Leader
In analyzing how leaders can use these findings, Beth Weinstock suggests that recognizing the importance of strengths can quiet the inner critic of leaders who often feel that they need to be good at everything. While it is important to work on your areas of weakness, knowledge about strengths can help leaders to build a team with individuals who have complementary gifts and talents. It can also help explain why some work contexts feel satisfying and others don’t. Fit, in the work place, is important. Leaders feel well-placed and gratified when the demands of the job fit with their best talents.
How to Identify Your Strengths
You may already have a good sense of what your leadership strengths are based on feedback that you have received. In their national bestseller book on Strengths-Based Leadership, Rath and Conchie provide the reader with a unique access code to take the StrengthsFinder 2.0 assessment. If you don’t want to purchase the book, you can take the assessment on the Gallup Site. The 188 question instrument takes 30-45 minutes to complete and assesses 34 different theme areas but most people only choose to have their top five assessed. You will receive a report on your top five talent theme areas. You will receive an individualized insight report to help you learn more about how to take these talents and turn them into leadership strengths. Based on your individualized results, you will have also an opportunity to assess how strong you are in the 4 identified leadership domain areas (executing, influencing, relationship building and strategic thinking). You may want to take things a step further and hire a coach to help you do this more effectively.
Strengths-Based leadership can be very empowering. It is consistent with the values in both transformational leadership and authentic nursing leadership. It is about unleashing your personal best and valuing what everyone brings to the work environment. Self-knowledge is the key to great leadership and a building block of a healthy work environment.
Read to Lead
Gottleib, L, Gottleib, B. & Shamian, J. (2012). Principles of Strengths-Based Nursing Leadership for Strengths-Based Nursing Care: A New Paradigm for Nursing and Healthcare for the 21st Century. Nursing Leadership. Vol. 25 No. 2
Rath, T. & Conchie, B. (2009). Strengths Based Leadership. New York: Gallup Publishing.
© emergingrnleader.com 2017
By Lauren Davidson – Guest Blogger and Freelance Writer Specializing in Personal Finance
Research done with new graduating nurses indicates that almost 70% graduate with some student loan debt. Their average loan debt is $30,000, similar to other university graduates.
Unfortunately, many students enter college and are presented with student loan options and all they see is “free money”. They do not understand the ramifications that a student loan can have on their financial future. They spend the loan money without realizing they will owe the amount they borrowed plus more. Over time, these loans can easily spiral out of control.
In fact, some students end up owing double or triple the amount the initially borrowed by the time they pay it off. This debt can lead to a delay in being able to start a family or buy a home. It can also lead to nurses working an unsafe amount of overtime and the stress can cause burnout. That is why nurse leaders should take an interest in this growing problem.
Steps to Ensure Future Financial Success
Step 1 – Plan a strict budget and timeline to pay off your loans
Nurses are fortunate in that they are in high demand and earn a good income relative to other undergraduates. They also have the ability to work additional hours of overtime. Paying off student loans should be a top priority after graduation. This means that living expenses should be reduced as much as possible and items like new expensive cars should be avoided. Many younger graduate may decide to live with their parents until they pay off their debt. Graphic reminders of progress in paying debt can be very inspiring.
Step 2 – Look at organizations that offer loan repayment assistance
Student loan repayment assistance is a wonderful benefit offered by some health systems and other healthcare organizations. What happens with this program is that you work for a company for a certain agreed amount of years and then you are reimbursed with money to apply to your loan. A great example is the Department of Veterans Affairs Educational Debt Reduction Program (EDRP) designed to help staff the nation’s VA hospitals. The program which is offered at many VA medical centers nationwide will provide Registered Nurses $120,000 towards a qualified loan over a 5 year period of time or $24,000 per year.
Before you agree to take part in a loan repayment program, you will want to check the terms of the agreement so the payoff makes sense financially and you can meet the commitment timeframe (often 5 years). The health system may also offer add-on features where once you work the five years, if you work an additional two to five years, you earn more money to pay off your student loans. It is important to weigh your options before you choose an employer who offers this program. It may make more sense to do the five-year option with add-on-benefits instead of one requiring 10 years because you never know what will happen in the future.
Step 3 – Consider refinancing loans for a lower interest rate
Refinancing student loans can help to save you a lot of money in the long run. The average individual who refinances student debt can save an astounding $53,000 or more. The main point of refinancing is to lower the interest rate and keep the loan from spiraling out of control. To refinance your student loan for a lower interest rate, you will need to be current in payments on your student loans. Federal student loans are the most flexible in their terms so avoid refinancing these into private loans.
Final Thoughts on Getting Out of Student Debt
You want to try to minimize how much student loan debt you have early in your career, so that you don’t have to live with this debt looming over your head for years to come. Fortunately, there are options to help you pay down your debt and many are achievable. You should look for organizations that offer benefits that allow you to pay off the debt quickly or ones that will help you do so.
© emergingrnleader.com 2017
It is again spring and many nurse leaders are already interviewing candidates for their nurse residency programs. It may not surprise you to learn that the highest turnover in most nursing organizations occurs with new graduates in their first year of nursing practice. The RN Work Project funded by the Robert Wood Johnson foundation and conducted by nurse researchers at New York University is a longitudinal study that tracks a national sample of new nurses focusing on their career changes and work attitudes. Currently (2016), 17.6% of new graduates leave their first job within the first year and more than 60% had left their employers within eight years. This is a significant issue when you consider that a growing percentage of the current nursing workforce in acute care settings are new graduates. While some of this turnover may be inevitable, many of these losses could definitely be prevented if nurse leaders better understood the needs of new graduates and supported them more effectively during their transition into the profession. We know from research conducted by Gallup that the relationship that a nurse has with her leader is pivotal to retention.
What New Graduates Tell Researchers about their Transition Experience
In research I conducted wwith one of my colleagues, Dr. Susan Dyess, new graduates reported beginning practice feeling a combination of fear and confidence. They understood their strengths and limitations and hope that organizations will provide them the support they need to be successful. New graduates talked about the less than ideal communication in health care agencies between nurses, physicians and other members of the team. The lack of professional confidence they feel is often heightened when another professional uses a gruff tone or expresses disgust with their lack of knowledge. New graduates also expressed concern about their ability to supervise and delegate care to assistive personnel especially when their requests were ignored. New graduates in this study also reported frequent experiences with horizontal violence or bullying from other colleagues in the work setting. They expressed dismay that some of these behaviors were tolerated on units with no intervention from the nurse leader. New graduates also spoke about feelings of professional isolation when they feel overwhelmed and everyone is too busy to help them. In today’s environment, they are working with complex patients often in specialty areas whose care requires high critical thinking. Decisions need to be made quickly and opportunities for reflection on practice are rare. New graduates sometimes feel unprepared or unable to meet the challenges they confront. New nurses have many questions when they enter practice and seek the advice of their colleagues. They reported in this research that they often receive contradictory advice from colleagues which was very confusing to them. The organizational policies and procedures they rely on for guidance were not always quickly accessible. Many of the new graduates in the study worked night shifts and had limited interaction with their nurse managers after orientation. Preceptor selection is critical and this relationship is extremely important in the successful transition of new graduates. This study supported work done by Duchscher (2008) that suggested that new graduates move through three stages (doing, knowing and being) during their first 12 months and need support during each phase.
How Nursing Leaders can make a Difference
Most but not all healthcare settings now offer some type of special transition program for new graduates. While these programs have been demonstrated to result in a higher retention of new graduates, these efforts are not enough. Nurse leaders at all levels from charge to manager can be proactive today in their own settings by taking some or all of the following steps:
- Select preceptors who are supportive and enjoy working with new graduates.
- Observe for signs of bullying of new graduates by other staff and establishing a zero tolerance culture.
- Check in frequently with new graduates throughout their first year of practice.
- Monitor patient care assignments given to new graduates and follow-up to see if they are appropriate and the new graduate is confident about their abilities to manage their patients.
- Help new graduates with their communications with physicians and other departments by observing for signs of disrespect or the new graduate’s lack of confidence.
- Maintain an open door policy and encouraging the new graduate to check in with any problems or concerns.
- Ensure that the new graduate attends all the orientation and other support classes offered by the agency.
Read to Lead
Dyess, S M, & Sherman R.O. (2011). Developing the leadership skills of new graduates to influence practice environments: A novice nurse leadership program. Nursing Administration Quarterly,35(4), 312-322.
Dyess, S. & Sherman, R.O (2009). The first year of practice: New graduate learning needs and transition experiences. Journal of Continuing Education in Nursing. 40(9), 403-409.
Duchscher, J. B. (2008). A process of becoming: The stages of new nursing graduate professional role transition. The Journal of Continuing Education in Nursing, 39(10), 441– 450.
Gallup Corporation (2016). First Break all the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers do Differently. New York: Gallup Press.
© emergingrnleader.com 2017
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