By Rose O. Sherman, EdD, RN, NEA-BC
I was listening to a coaching podcast the other day. The coaching expert interviewed (not a nurse) talked with the moderator (also not a nurse) about a nurse leader client who was totally overwhelmed in her role. The coaching expert noted that she was shocked at how much the staff relied on this manager to solve their problems. I was not surprised to hear this. Nurse leaders are often selected for their positions because they are both great problem solvers and very responsible for making sure that things get done. These are wonderful strengths to have but it is easy to become quickly overwhelmed if you try to continue being all things to all people when you are in a leadership role. Jonathan Raymond, a leadership expert, describes this as the Superman approach to leading. You swoop in and fix problems – usually receiving great feedback from staff about how responsive you are. Your door is always open and you spend most of your day putting out fires as others bring them to your attention. You begin to find it hard to get your administrative work done because you are so available. Over time, this can lead to leadership burnout. You become indispensable and your staff does not grow in their own leadership.
Raymond suggests a better approach is to be more Yoda in your leadership. The Yoda is there to coach and support staff but will not solve all their problems. The Yoda is okay with things not being done their way and recognizes that mistakes will be part of the learning. When confronted with problems brought to them by staff, the Yoda asks questions that point staff in the right direction but does not give them the solution. The Yoda leader can take a day off and not receive 50 texts from staff about what is happening on the unit. The Yoda recognizes that they should not be indispensable or believe that no one on the unit could take their place if they left.
If you are finding that you are overwhelmed with work, you may be a Superman leader who needs to become more Yoda. Some key steps to take during 2018 for you would include the following:
- Set boundaries around your work and home life.
- Discuss with staff what critical problems you need to be informed about at home and what types of issues and problems they should try to solve without your input.
- Don’t be afraid to close your office door to complete your work and hang a sign that indicates that you are available for “emergency issues” and then be clear about what those issues are.
- Avoid solving the problem even if you can do it quickly – instead, give guidance and ask questions such as what should your next step be in this situation?
- Accept that staff may make decisions that are different from how you would have managed the situation – offer thoughtful and supportive feedback if you feel they have made a mistake such as how could you have managed this situation differently?
Ultimately, it is the Yoda leader that will be most effective in recruiting and retaining staff because nurses today want a leader-coach, not a Superman.
Rose Sherman’s book The Nurse Leader Coach: Become the Boss No One Wants to Leave will be published and available on Amazon later this month.
Read to Lead
Raymond, J. (Huffington Post April 27th, 2017 blog). Dear Boss: Be More like Yoda, Less Like Superman.
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