An Ongoing Journey of Inspiration and Challenge
The blog describes one nursing professional development educator’s journey to professional fulfillment at mid-career stage. It will identify the successes and pitfalls along the way and serve to encourage and motivate other nursing professional development educators to take the first steps toward being leaders (not simply managers) in their work settings, their specialty are of practice, and the nursing profession.
Thursday, August 29, 2013
Obtaining credible, meaningful feedback is a challenge for all leaders, including nursing professional development educators. I have found that the more experienced a leader, the less often he/she receives unsolicited feedback. Therefore, the seasoned leader needs to openly seek feedback. Both seeking feedback and receiving it are skills that can be developed and refined. As leaders, we continue to enhance our skills in requesting and receiving feedback. “The nursing professional development specialist seeks feedback regarding his/her own practice” (National Nursing Staff Development Organization & American Nurses Association, 2010, p. 34). The benefits of thoughtful, practice-based feedback are significant. This information focuses on what worked well and what could be improved in specific situations. By seeking feedback from colleagues who see us in action, we open ourselves to rich learning opportunities.
When we genuinely want to hear feedback, the good as well as the areas for improvement, we are ready to plan the request. First, set the context. Share why you are asking for the feedback. Next, share why you are asking this individual for insights and feedback. Third, ask for feedback in a specific area. This could be related to a specific project or process (e.g., meeting facilitation skills). After a recent meeting, I asked a colleague for feedback: “I have mixed feelings about the progress made at yesterday’s project meeting. There was certainly lots of brainstorming. Yet, there were two quiet members. What are your thoughts on how I facilitated the discussion? What worked well? What could be improved?” We set a time to meet later in the day. This generous colleague gave me candid feedback to all my questions. Her feedback helped me use a more effective process at the next team meeting.
After asking for feedback, listen. Ask clarifying questions. Ask for specific examples. Seek to understand the individual’s perspective. This is not the time to defend or agree. It is the time to listen. Be aware of your verbal and nonverbal responses to the comments. Active listening and neutral nonverbals will encourage the person to continue to share ideas.
Obtaining effective feedback can be challenging if colleagues or learners are not skilled or comfortable in providing it. As I mentioned in the last blog, an alternative to traditional, reactive feedback is forward feedback. This technique is future focused. Forward feedback consists of identifying an area of personal focus, and asking others to provide a suggestion related to that focus. Again, be specific about the skill or focus area where you want feedback. The more specific your request, the more meaningful the feedback. For example, “I am working on strengthening my skills in project management, specifically in communicating project milestones and deadlines to a team that is meeting virtually. What one piece of advice would you give me to enhance my skills in this area?” In my experience, I found that others are often honored to be asked for their advice, and are eager to provide specific behaviors in their suggestions.
As we continue to develop skill in seeking and receiving feedback, we will receive information and perspectives that will enhance our skills and improve our relationships. Often validating but occasionally difficult to hear, I believe feedback is always a gift.
National Nursing Staff Development Organization & American Nurses Association. (2010). Nursing professional development: Scope and standards of practice. Silver Spring, MD: nursesbooks.org
Wednesday, July 10, 2013
“The nursing professional development specialist promotes opportunities for lifelong learning for self and others” (National Nursing Staff Development Organization [NNSDO] & American Nurses Association [ANA], 2010, p. 39). Lifelong learning: as educators we believe in it, and we commit to it. Yet I am often asked, how can we as educators inspire others to commit to lifelong learning? As nursing professional development specialists, we influence others through our words and actions. We also need to share our thoughts and actions in order to be ambassadors of lifelong learning. After reading and analyzing a relevant research study, we also need to share the findings with others, and facilitate integration of that research into practice. We accomplish several effects: enhance our learning, assist others in learning, and role model continuous learning. We learn, synthesize, and share.
How can we focus on lifelong learning in the midst of competing priorities? I believe we have the opportunity to learn from everyone and every situation. We have the opportunity to learn from experts in many fields, those whose knowledge we admire, and those who inspire us. It is essential to read, connect, and learn from others outside of nursing and outside of healthcare. Research from other social sciences can enhance our skills in collaboration. Reading the business literature can enhance our understanding of strategic alignment. Learning from the arts can expand our innovation skills. As we participate in new experiences and continue to stretch our comfort zones, we grow. As we share these new experiences, we role model lifelong learning.
We also have the opportunity to learn from others who are poor role models, and from negative experiences. As we analyze why a presentation was not effective, or what a leader did that disengaged a team, we then can determine how to avoid those negative outcomes. This analysis of cause and effect can provide meaningful insights.
Obtaining feedback provides rich learning opportunities. “The nursing professional development specialist seeks feedback regarding his/her own practice” (NNSDO & ANA, 2010, p. 34). Effective feedback can be challenging to get if colleagues or learners are not skilled or comfortable in providing feedback. An alternative to traditional, reactive feedback is forward feedback. This technique is future focused. Forward feedback consists of identifying an area of personal focus, and asking others to provide a suggestion related to that focus. For example, “I am working on strengthening my skills in providing recognition, what one piece of advice would you give me to enhance my skills in this area?” In my experience, I found that others are often honored to be asked for their advice, and are eager to provide specific behaviors in their suggestions.
As role models of lifelong learning we affect lives that we directly and indirectly touch. As educators we can inspire others to commit to lifelong learning: to learn, synthesize, and share.
National Nursing Staff Development Organization & American Nurses Association. (2010). Nursing professional development: Scope and standards of practice. Silver Spring, MD: Author.
Wednesday, May 15, 2013
During these incredibly challenging times, it is more important than ever to be both professionally and personally connected. I often use the metaphor of a spider web. We need to be connected in many ways. We need more than vertical and horizontal lines. We need the interconnectedness of a web.
Connectedness is identified in multiple sources as one of the characteristics of resilient individuals. Being connected benefits us through enriched relationships and enhanced problem solving. Reflect for a moment about a colleague to whom you can reach out. He or she always has connections, including recommendations for a conference speaker, a best practice idea for orientation, or a creative learning activity. What an excellent “go to” person he or she is. As much as we value the assistance provided, we also value that relationship. What is the implication? It is mutually beneficial to seek and provide information to each other. This implies that we have an opportunity, and perhaps a responsibility, to respond when others reach out to us.
Yet, when we are over extended, connectedness is one of the first areas we put aside. We rationalize that we are too tired to attend a professional association meeting, or respond to a list serv question. Personally, we may not attend a social event or connect with a friend. We tell ourselves something has to go and these are the areas that we drop first. Yet a pattern of pulling back and not staying connected, negatively affects our professional and personal resilience. These are the times I invite you to push yourself to reach out to others. In a recent resilience session I facilitated, a leader enthusiastically said, “I’m going to do it! You are right. I have been missing my professional meetings. I am definitely going to next week’s meeting.”
My suggestion? I invite you to identify one professional and one personal connection you will make in the next two weeks. This could include having lunch with a colleague; attending the next ANPD affiliate meeting, recommending a book to a leader; having tea with a novice educator; or having dinner with that friend you have not seen for months. I also invite you to plan to meet a colleague at the ANPD convention in Dallas. Revitalizing those connections will enhance your resilience and will be fun.
See you in Dallas!
Connors, R. & Smith, T. (2011). Change the culture, Change the game. New York: Penguin Group.
McCaffrey, R.G., Hayes, R., Stuart, W., Cassel, A., Farrell, C., Miller-Reyes, S.,…Donaldson, A. (2011). An educational program to promote positive communication and collaboration between nurses and medical staff. Journal for Nurses in Staff Development, 27(3), 121-127.
McKinney, B.K. (2011). Withstanding the pressure of the profession. Journal for Nurses in Staff Development, 27(2), 69-73.
Friday, March 29, 2013
During these times of incredible change nursing professional development specialists are caught in the middle of what may seem competing priorities. Perhaps it is redundant to comment on the rate of change in health care, yet I am confident accelerated change will continue for the rest of my career in health care. The intensity of change can lead to heightened engagement or disenchantment.
I know that I am responsible for my own professional engagement. I have recently completed a values clarification process as part of my ongoing professional development. I found this process validating. It confirmed my passion for developing others and contributing to our profession. This values clarification process defined what gets me jazzed, and what brings me professional joy. The congruence of personal values and professional contribution is powerful.
There are numerous resources that focus on leadership courage and inspiration. One of the resources I found particularly inspiring is the book The 7 Acts of Courage, by Staub (2002). The author frames professional courage through seven acts including dreaming, seeing current reality, and taking action. Each chapter includes questions to stimulate self reflection. My key take away was the courage to act, with intention, and based on my values. I have also recommended Inspire! What Great Leaders Do by Secretan (2004) and Inspired Nurse by Bluni (2009).
When asked for ideas and suggestions for defining one’s professional passion, I recommend what has been successful for me and others:
1. At least three days a week, as you are leaving work and walking to your car, try this exercise. Identify two ways you have made a difference that day. Two ways you affected others. The world is a better place because of two actions you have taken. This does not mean items you checked off your to do list. Identify the impact you had on others, in large or small ways. Then identify what themes come through over time with the acts you identified. This will help you identify what contributions you especially value.
2. Reflect on and journal regarding your greatest contributions in nursing professional development. What actions, relationships, and effects on others stand out?
3. Identify two individuals who inspire you, and why. How does that resonate for you? What direction does it inspire you to take?
The impact of this self-reflection is powerful. It is easy to focus on tasks and doing. This self-reflection focuses our hearts and minds on being. Being fully present in our professional contributions can inspire us to reignite our professional passion.
Bluni, R. (2009). Inspired nurse. Gulf Breeze, FL: Fire Starter Publishing.
Secretan, L. (2004). Inspired! What great leaders do. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.
Staub, R.E. (2002). The 7 acts of courage. Greensboro, NC: Staub Leadership Publishing.
Monday, February 4, 2013
The current healthcare environment is changing and will continue to change at a rate faster than any time in recent history. Ambiguity is also increasing at an unprecedented rate. How can we plan for the unknown? How do we keep a sense of equilibrium in a state of imbalance? I suggest two essentials: increasingly using a proactive approach in our work, and accelerating our resilience.
It would be understandable to ask, “How can I be proactive when I do not know where to focus?” We can anticipate some of the changes that affect nursing professional development. As we continue to learn, we can focus our learning on trends in health care, strategic goals of the organizations that employ us, and increasing our capacity to lead change. As we increase skills and competencies, we will have more opportunities to add value within or outside the organization. Formal learning and credentials can enhance credibility, as well as help us form new networks. Informal learning through blogs, list servs, and contacts with authors enhances knowledge and broadens our perspectives on critical issues. I have pursued additional certifications that are aligned with the needs of the organization and my professional goals. I recently completed a certification in change management and am currently pursuing a certification in coaching. I have used these certifications to establish credibility when working with new teams; to provide research when assisting teams working on strategic projects; and to promote the value I can bring when volunteering to be on new projects. I share this information to highlight strategies with leaders that fast track progress and goal attainment.
Resilience is a key to success for every leader. The resilience research indicates one of the primary approaches to enhance resilience is connectedness. Actively contributing to professional organizations, staying connected with colleagues across the country, and responding to those who reach out to us are concrete approaches to maintaining and growing our connectedness. However, in times of stress and ever increasing workloads, this is the area that may be first to be neglected. Connectedness is organic. It needs to be nurtured.
I focus on one specific area each week to continue my learning, and one area to strengthen my connections. Although this is a challenge with competing priorities, I continue to strive for achievement in these two areas each week. Small progress is progress. Through networking we can support and encourage each other and increase our capacity to deal with ambiguity.
The next blog will focus on following our professional passion.