Members ask: How can we teach our nurse managers to be better leaders?

Tips for assessing how you're doing and what you should do to improve

We want to know about best practices related to leadership development, particularly for nurse managers. How can we assess how we're doing and what should we do to improve?

One of the most important aspects of any hospital's strategy is how it trains its leaders. Developing strong leaders can help boost employee engagement and create a more productive workforce.

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Our experts at the HR Advancement Center (HRAC) have put together some useful tools that hospitals can use to improve their leadership performance.

Knowledge is power: Find out how your leaders are doing

"To improve leader performance, you need to know which leaders have the greatest need for improvement and the specific skills they need to improve," says HRAC consultant Kate Vonderhaar.

To that end, HRAC has developed the Leadership Competency  Diagnostic, a comprehensive tool to assess your managers' leadership strengths and weaknesses. The tool can provide users with performance data by cohorts of managers, as well as information on individual manager competencies and development opportunities.

If you're unsure how to start difficult conversations about skills development with mangers, check out the Daily Briefing's archive of stories on how to productively address staff issues:

How to offer more support to nurse managers

Meanwhile, our experts at the Nursing Executive Center (NEC) have some targeted insight on how to strengthen the leadership skills of nurse managers.

First, they stress that hospitals must keep their manager development programs abreast of the rapid changes within health care landscape. In this on-demand webconference, NEC senior director Joan Meadows explains how hospitals can learn to:

  • Identify leadership competencies most critical in a value-based environment;
  • Maximize nurse manager participation in leadership development; and
  • Ensure skill transference from the classroom to daily responsibilities.

The NEC also offers three best practices on how to develop frontline nurse leaders:

  • Strengthen nurse managers' problem-solving skills by developing effective training programs, both formal and informal, and devising ways to provide them with timely, accurate data and guidance in developing unit problem resolution plan.
  • Provide more clerical and management support to managers so they are more highly leveraged and able to spend time on their units with staff in coaching and mentoring capacities and with patients. In addition, hospitals should focus on developing better communication and relations between nurse managers and other hospital departments. When frontline nurses are not bogged down with staffing and scheduling they can more easily practice at top-of-license.
  • Identify managerial candidates with talents known to be associated with great managers, as opposed to simply promoting skilled clinicians from within.

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In addition to training existing leaders, succession plans should be in place. NEC experts say hospitals should create a robust pipeline of managerial candidates who are both ready and willing to become nursing's next generation of leaders by:

Succeeding at succession management
Creating the next gen of nurse managers
  • Marketing the nurse manager role by mitigating negative perceptions about the role and pushing nurses to stop publicly discussing its negative aspects;
  • Investing in rising stars within an organization through internships and management stretch roles; and
  • Mitigating job-specific demands, such as wage compression and 24/7 accountability.

Learn more about grooming next-generation nursing leaders from our Cultivating Leadership Ambition study.

2014-2015 NEC Leadership Team Summits

Leadership Team Summits provide nurse executives the opportunity to examine research findings "live" with senior members of their leadership teams. Summits include an expanded agenda with additional time for you and your team to discuss how to implement our research at your institution.


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