Quality patient care, excellent customer service and a focus on efficiency are the attributes of a high-performing hospital staff. And it takes a strong leader to ensure that these standards are embodied by each team member. The best leaders set an example on a daily basis, living the vision and mission. Effective leaders truly “walk the walk and talk the talk.”
The good news is that those who choose a career in health care genuinely care for patients and their outcomes. Strong leaders understand this, but also recognize the importance of five basic leadership principles that promote job satisfaction and effective teamwork.
1. Monitor Your Team Climate.
Depending on the number of employees on your team and the vast amount of ground to cover, it may be impossible to see everyone daily but doing so as often as possible is beneficial. There certainly needs to be time set aside for formal discussion and feedback, but try to check in with team members to simply say hello, ask how they are and see if they need your assistance with anything daily or, at a minimum, weekly.
This must be genuine. When asking questions, truly listen and remember. As you make these rounds, look for eye contact, smiles, positive attitudes or frustrations. Awareness of some non-verbal reactions or expressions may be picked up and monitored more closely or questioned before issues escalate. Look at their work area for neatness and organization or the lack of. This may indicate pride in doing their job well or, again, apathy.
2. Help Team Members Succeed, then Applaud Them.
Challenge team members to set stretch goals and assist them in achieving them. When goals are met or exceeded, be sure to publically recognize both individual and workgroup success. A good leader also knows how individuals prefer to be recognized. Some like a more public recognition while others may prefer a handwritten note of thanks. Paying attention to this is key, because you cannot accomplish your organization’s goals by yourself. Surround yourself with winners, and demonstrate your support.
3. Address Performance Problems Sooner Rather Than Later.
Even the best employees will occasionally exhibit lapses in judgment or make simple mistakes. Often, communication or miscommunication is found to be at the root of these problems. Correction cannot occur unless the behavior or performance issue is addressed. As a leader discussing an issue with an individual, it’s sometimes difficult to find the middle ground between being too subtle – risking the employee not realizing the importance – and being too harsh, which may result in a loss of respect for the leader.
Be forthcoming and genuine with your approach. This helps promote your team member’s willingness to receive constructive criticism, and to learn and grow from it. Be sure to monitor the climate after the discussion to ensure the message was received as intended and change has occurred. If not, re-address the issue and clarify any communication that may have been misinterpreted. While it’s essential for your team member to receive feedback in a positive manner, the leader who is communicating holds more accountability to ensure the employee perceives the intended message.
4. Be Consistent.
Consistency matters. Whether it’s addressing performance issues in a timely manner, setting stretch goals, helping team members achieve success and then recognizing those successes, be consistent with each employee.
Be sure your approach aligns with human-resource policies. This would apply to performance appraisals and benefits such as sick time or vacation time. Regardless of the medium – individual conversations, team meetings or e-mail – consistency in your approach and messaging will help earn your team’s respect.
5. Remember the Basics.
Hospital jobs do not usually come with an exceptional salary. Your team members have chosen this career for the difference they are making in individuals’ lives. And here’s the reality: Everyone seems to be asked to do more with less these days. Remembering the basics of how to treat your team members is imperative if you want to keep those winners on your team.
To be an effective leader in a hospital setting, you truly must have the heart and, most important, an appreciation of those hearts on your team. Be genuine.
Brenda Hogan, RN, BS, is the director of clinical outcomes at Maury Regional Medical Center in Columbia, Tenn.