Let's face it. We're all human. Every leader has made mistakes - even the most engaging and inspiring ones. For good leaders who want to be great, the important thing is to never stop learning and improving. In the words of Maya Angelou: "Do the best you can until you know better. Then, when you know better, do better."
Over the past two decades of coaching leaders in healthcare, I'm often asked: How do I make course corrections in my leadership style or recover from the mistakes I made as a novice leader without losing credibility with my team? My best advice is to communicate clearly using key words. There are four main principles leaders should use when communicating with their staff:
Share your learning. Explain to your team the new information/skills you gained and where it came from (a book, a workshop, a conference, etc.).
- Team, I recently read a great book on leadership and I learned that I am human! What a relief! Because now I know I have room to enhance my skills so that I can be more effective for our team as a leader. In the book, there was evidence that showed the impact of low performers on department success and gave tips for effectively dealing with these individuals.
Communicate the "why". Why is it important for you to make this change?
- This is so important because I want our unit to provide the best possible care to our patients, and as your leader, I must do everything I can to help you make that happen. I will ask for your patience as we work through some things we will do differently to make our team stronger.
Make a specific commitment to your team about what you want to improve.
- My commitment to you is to work diligently to improve the way that I deal with low performers on our team.
Outline next steps. What can your team expect in the coming days/weeks/months?
- Over the coming days, you can expect me to reach out to you to schedule individual performance conversations. I look forward to meeting with you all soon.
The words you choose should feel authentic to you. The examples simply provide a framework that can be adapted to your own style. Remember to be honest and sincere, and your team will respect you for your commitment to becoming the best leader you can be. Because when you know better, you have to do better!
Linda Sanders, RN, BSN, MBA has over three decades of leadership and clinical nursing experience in a variety of healthcare specialties and settings. Linda is a coach and account leader at Studer Group working with healthcare executives and staff to create highly-reliable organizations where employees want to work, physicians want to practice and patients want to receive care.