Using the One Thing to Improve Your Nursing Leadership

Using the One Thing to Improve Your Nursing Leadership

By Rose O. Sherman, EdD, RN, FAAN

The things that are most important don’t always scream the loudest.”  Bob Hawke

The One Thing

This week, I will be doing a closing session at a conference where the focus is on building healthy work environments.  In talking with the the planners, they wanted to be sure that participants left this educational event with a plan to do at least one thing differently in their environment to make it healthier.  Ironically, I am reading a book,  The One Thing: The Surprising Simple Truth behind Extraordinary Results,  recently written by the successful real estate entrepreneur Gary Keller.   Keller suggests that based on goals in any area of your life, ask yourself, “What’s the ONE Thing I could do, such that by doing it everything else would be easier or unnecessary?” Then time block to make it happen.   It doesn’t have to be any more complicated than that.

Too often in our nursing leadership work, we have long task lists of goals that we want to accomplish.  When we create these task lists, we can make the mistake of thinking that everything matters equally but the truth is that it doesn’t. Success is sequential, not simultaneous. It’s one step at a time. ONE Thing at a time, Keller suggests.  It’s not your one and only thing. It’s the ONE Thing right now.

Keller is a strong believer in the Pareto principle or the 80/20 law of the vital few.  This principle has research support.  Using your efforts at work as an example, the law proposes that a minority (20%) of actions, inputs and efforts leads to a majority of results, outputs or rewards.  In other words, a small amount of effort in the right areas can lead to the greatest rewards.  You need to look for an action that will lead to the domino effect.  Trying to multitask and make many things happen at once is overrated in terms of effectiveness.

I have recently talked with nurse leaders about their ONE thing that if they spent more time on would have the greatest payback for them.  The following are some of the answers that they have given me:

  • Spend more time coaching my staff
  • Develop my staff’s leadership skills
  • Become more approachable
  • Talk less and listen more
  • Learn budgeting
  • Return for my Master’s degree
  • Become more proficient with technology
  • Leave the unit by 5PM

Keller suggests and I would agree with him that the amazing thing is when people ask themselves the question, they are almost always accurate. People instinctively know what matters most.  It is taking the next step that becomes important and that means going small for the fewer things that will have the most effect.

Keller, G. with Papasan, J. (2013).  The One Thing: the Surprising Simple Truth behind Extraordinary Results. Austin, TX.: Bard Press.

© 2013