The Cultural Leadership Effect – It Starts With You

by Rodney Reider

The leadership team is responsible for strategy.  It is a major portion of our many meeting agendas.  We have all seen or created the list of items and our strategy focus may vary from how to enhance our service line growth, to retaining and recruiting more nurses, or focusing on the improvement necessary to boost the patient scores and much, much more: however, as leaders we all know what must always be forefront on our strategic agenda, taking care of our employees.   

How many times have you seen where the Administrative Team gets together, decides they are all going to Round together, and their assistants (with repetitive internal mirth) agonizingly make the schedule, coordinating whereby everyone can Round together.  It lasts for a few months, weeks or even never gets completely off the ground despite the many studies showing its benefit.  It is not out of leadership neglect, but the daily re-prioritization battle that necessitates our lives. Nevertheless, the focus on your employees must always take precedence.   

The questions must then be asked:  How is this precedence displayed?  How do you show you care about your employees?    

When you look at your internal strategy, it is truly not that complicated.   

You

Find

The

Time 

Each unit has a culture.  Each unit has the specifics of how it handles issues and communicates among each other on a daily basis.  It is at this point where the leadership effect must happen but it takes your time.  The culture is made up of many individual units.  When you Round and come onto the unit, you must be alert and aware.  Is the tone one of energy and action or do you see a lot of standing around as the beeping of electronics echo in the near distance.  You ask how things are going and you consistently hear, “We are really busy,” but your perceived view of your team doesn’t reflect the same.  There may even appear to be a lot of people milling around at the nurses station or the front desk.  You take it all under advisement for future further review.   

Or upon entering a unit does it appear sharp, efficient and yet still friendly.  Are you able to observe a kind and yet direct approach by your colleagues to sharing information and directing the focus and energy toward the issue at hand?  The unit morale and unit culture causes your perception to be intrigued.  What is the style of the leader who is having this effect?  Can this unit leader’s approach emulated across the organization for greater cultural impact?  If it is consistent and the scores reflect employee engagement of continued success, is the unit leader being watched for future opportunity and growth?  You only learn this by spending the time. 

At the leadership level we strategize a great deal to increase our employee engagement scores; however, ultimately it becomes what does your team want and need to be successful each day they arrive? You discover what your team wants and needs by allocating time to listen.  By hearing them and taking the necessary action, leaders will impact the culture positively.  In fact, leaders regularly talk about the broad view of culture, but so often your colleagues on the unit just desire the minor irritants to be eliminated.  They just want the pharmacy to respond timely.  They just want the food to be delivered accurately and warm.  They just want the orders received accurately and for timely deliveries with no negative impact.  They just want their paycheck calculated correctly and when they have a question, the Human Resources department is available to answer it.   

It is many of the simple items that drive frustration or reward the behavior that achieves the reflective culture.  When your colleague is unable to rely upon one another due to systems, accountability or the necessary clinical item fails, frustration builds, the patient need grows and your conscientious employee becomes increasingly unfulfilled and aggravated.   

The leadership effect enters here.   

You have listened and are now aware an answer or action by the leader is required.  By answering truthfully “yes” where you can and explaining honestly “no” when you cannot gains credibility for your leadership.  In fact, the ideal is not solving the issue for your team, but giving your colleagues the tools, education and support to aid them in resolving the problem on their own.  Issues addressed at the bedside and clinical level impact your overall culture.  It builds pride in team and individual ability.  They gain a sense of accomplishment in improving processes and care for the patient, the family, the community and the organization itself.    

The leadership team can have the necessary positive effect on culture consistently and continually through demonstrating: 

It is your dedication of time.

It is your dedication of listening.

It is your dedication of immediate action and the necessary resources to support their requests as paramount to success. 

Re-prioritize now.