While I weave examples and stories into most of my blog posts, today’s focus is a story of results. I want to share an example of a team that demonstrates that what I talk about here works. This happened last week.
First, some history: I currently work with an amazing team of charge nurses. Their cumulative experience of bedside hours equals nearly a half million!! The team ranges in nursing experience from just a couple of years to nearly 40 years of experience.
Just imagine what this brings to the table in opinion, experience, and ability! Our first few meetings were formative. Having had reasonable success in their work and leadership already, many questioned the need for one more meeting per month with a theoretical outcome.
They were given two assignments in mid-fall. One was to develop a personal growth plan that would be a guide for them in their leadership work. The second was to read the book, Leadership and Self-deception, by the Arbinger Institute.
The next meeting was fairly intense because of some misunderstandings, it had bumped the trust factor significantly. They didn’t back down and they talked it through. They discussed the pyramid of dysfunction described in the book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Leccione, which establishes that the ability to deal with conflict comes right after trust is established. They also shared their personal plans. There was lots of talk and support, much of it centered on the insights the Arbinger book brought them. These are experienced leaders, some of whom are receiving formal leadership training for the first time and the common thread of concern was how to manage conflict effectively as a leader.
One of the team members described how difficult it was for her to be the ‘bad guy’ when confronting persons who then became angry and even more difficult to work with. She spoke to how she depends on her other charge nurses moral support through those times. That set a standard of expectation that would render great results later, as I will discuss.
The seeds planted earlier in the fall started to bear fruit at the meeting this week. The beauty of these meetings is that the teaching occurs within the group. They discussed difficult situations about confrontations with persons on their respective shifts. They supported, suggested, and problem-solved.
One hurdle most all of these teams have initially is developing trust and getting an understanding of how vitally important it is to be bulletproof in their support of the other team members. Gossip and badmouthing is habitual with people in general. Most participate without thinking. It starts early in life, habits are formed, and we participate without thinking…and the results to a team are deadly. These are hard habits to break, yet essential to do so. The new habit, which has to be strictly held to, is that team members do not tolerate any negative discussion of someone on the team who is not present.
The nurse I described above, who had discussed her struggles with difficult persons, shared a key experience. As she told it, you could literally feel the intensity in the room change. She had been in a meeting and the conversation had turned against one of the nurse managers. Information was being shared that was incorrect and personally slanderous. She had the courage,(and let me assure you that it takes courage) to say, in front of the whole group, who were joining the chorus of negativity, “what you are saying is not correct. This person is doing what she needs to do“. Now that might sound like a small item, but it opened the door for others, who were a bit more timid, to join her in the defense of their team member. The appreciation from the person who had been defended was palpable.
As we debriefed the meeting, it was obvious that the team had turned the corner. We still have a few more months of work in front of us. However, the new crucial habits have started to form.
This is transformational work. This is what makes leadership so rewarding. I look forward to hearing from you on the successes you have in your leadership transformation.