By Rose O. Sherman, EdD, RN, NEA-BC, FAAN
The other day, a nurse manger talked with me about her unit’s Gallup Q12 scores. They were disappointing. I asked her to think about her own level of engagement. She said she had withdrawn from her work because she felt so overwhelmed with her new responsibilities. We know that engagement starts with the nurse leader coach. Gallup research data indicates that managers account for 70% of the variance in employee engagement and that US managers are only slightly more engaged in their work than their staff. This is important data for nurse leaders because your engagement profoundly affects the engagement of staff.
You need to walk the talk of engagement. Like my colleague, managers who feel overwhelmed sometimes shut down and disengage from their work. Her responsibilities had doubled and she had not asked for help. She felt herself disengaging from work as a defense mechanism. When this happens, it is time for the leader to set boundaries leaders and ask themselves what they could stop doing. Like the messages we often hear on airplanes, we need to put our own oxygen masks on first.
Engagement in work requires positive energy and optimism. Author Jon Gordon is well known for his work The Energy Bus. Using the metaphor of a bus driver, he provides 10 rules for leaders to fuel their work, their life and their team with positive energy. He makes a strong point that we all have choices in life whether to be a positive thinker or a negative thinker. Positive thinking starts with the leader.
Rule 1 – You are the Driver of Your Bus
Positivity starts with a clear vision for your life, work and relationships. If you want a good life, rewarding work and strong relationships, you need to make to the investment of your energy to ensure that it happens.
Rule 2 – Desire, Vision and Focus Move Your Bus in the Right Direction
Gordon believes that you attract what you focus on. If you are negative and believe that things won’t get better – you will be right.
Rule 3 – Fuel Your Bus with Positive Energy
Staff love positive leaders and become discouraged when leaders are negative. Positive energy is high octane fuel for any team. The more positive you are – the more positive things become.
Rule 4 – Invite People on Your Bus and Share Your Vision for the Future
No leader can work alone. You need your team to help make things work.
Rule 5 – Don’t Waste Your Time on People Who Don’t Get on the Bus
Too often, leaders spend all their time with their most negative staff trying to get them to be more engaged. Engagement is a choice and not one you can make for anyone else.
Rule 6 – No Energy Vampires Allowed on Your Bus
You build a culture around what you tolerate. Gordon suggests that we should not tolerate negativity. For many staff, it has become a destructive habit. Call it out.
Rule 7 – Enthusiasm Attracts More Passengers and Energizes Them During the Ride
Being around happy and positive people makes people feel happy and positive. Patients can sense when there is positivity on a unit – it changes everything.
Rule 8 – Love Your Passengers
Leaders need to genuinely demonstrate that they care deeply about their staff. To love staff, you need to make time for them, listen to them, recognize them, serve them and bring out the very best in them.
Rule 9 – Drive with Purpose
Staff get inspired when they see the purpose in their work and leaders constantly make connections between what the team does and the outcomes that are achieved.
Rule 10 – Have Fun and Enjoy the Ride
Using the metaphor of a bus can inspire your leadership, promote engagement and build your energy level. It is important to remind both yourself and your staff that the goal of every journey is to arrive with a smile on our face and a stronger team that we developed along the way.
Read to Lead
Gallup Corporation. State of the American Workplace 2017. Available at https://news.gallup.com/reports/199961/state-american-workplace-report-2017.aspx
Gordon J. The Energy Bus: Ten Rules to fuel you Life, Work and Team with Positive Energy. New Jersey: Wiley & Sons; 2007.
Hess V. 6 Shortcuts to Employee Engagement: Lead and Succeed in a Do-More-With-Less World. Catalyst Consulting LLC; 2013.
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