Editor-in-Chief, Associate Executive Director, Patient Care Services/Nurse Executive, Lenox Hill Hospital/North Shore-LIJ Health System, New York, N.Y.
The joy in our work as leaders comes from making a difference and shaping the culture of excellence.
If you think after reading this month's title that I've pushed the envelope too far, maybe you're right...but maybe not. Despite being sometimes overwhelmed with 24/7 responsibilities in an ever-changing world, the joy in our work as leaders comes from making a difference and shaping the culture of excellence. We can't do it without the confidence to master change. That may mean saying “yes” despite challenges, and sometimes it means saying “maybe” until you have what you need to answer affirmatively. It may mean saying “no,” especially when your core values are being compromised. Let's focus on the yes.
One of the important things about yes is that it exudes confidence and inspires action. When you say “yes,” you must commit to the determination and persistence needed to get to success, otherwise what's the point? Garner your support and go for it. When deep down you aren't sure if you can do it, that support will give you the momentum to keep going. Put on your thinking cap and bring all of your leadership strategies to the table: defining the problem, engaging the stakeholders, making realistic and sustainable plans for change, and measuring for success before and after. And the hard part: adjusting for curveballs and failures.
Saying “yes” signifies decisiveness and, hopefully, enthusiasm. These are important leadership qualities. The decision to embark on an initiative or any undertaking isn't always easy—it takes thoughtfulness and some degree of risk-benefit analysis. Just don't get caught up in the negative and everything that can go wrong. There's benefit to failed plans, too: lessons learned, team building, and the enjoyment of new action ... even if it didn't get you to where you wanted to go. Obstacles are opportunities when the glass is half full.
Saying “yes” to projects within your circle of control is less risky, usually easier, and helps you be seen as a problem solver, not the dreaded naysayer. It's a good way to start. Nursing can sometimes have a bad rap for saying “no” at every level of the care cycle, from point of care to the executive offices. We can succumb to paralysis by analysis if we focus on no. Of course, the basic building blocks for success have to be there; if they aren't, it's time to build them or move on. Let's face challenges with determination and true interest rather than hiding behind fear of change. Suggest what can work instead of focusing on what can't.
Innovation and creativity are fostered by a can-do attitude. As leaders, we inspire our teams with compelling reasons for change and let them come up with the creative solutions. This is an avenue to get to yes and have fun along the way. Granted, these creative solutions may require unavailable resources or have seemingly insurmountable barriers, and then you still doggedly pursue what really matters until you find a way. We have to when it's important. There are so many examples of successful nurse-led initiatives in the quality, safety, patient experience, clinical, and program growth arenas. There are plenty of role models out there.
Find a way to yes whether it's a big, audacious change; a simple request; or a new opportunity. You'll learn, grow, receive gratitude, be seen, achieve outcomes, feel the joy of success, and maybe the discoveries from failure—it's all good. Remember, it feels better to have confidence and make a difference than to avoid what you really could've done. Yes, you can!?