Sherry Wurgler has several decades of nursing experience in hospital settings and in psychiatric patient units. These days, she uses insights from her nursing experiences to coach leaders and help people – especially women – feel inspired and empowered to accomplish their goals.
1 What do you believe is a leader’s top responsibility?
A leader’s responsibility is to teach, guide and mentor others. Leaders need to make sure people have the necessary skill sets to do their work or pursue other goals. But then the leader needs to get out of their way and let them do the work. A successful leader lets people be creative in how to be more efficient and achieve the best outcomes.
2 It seems many leaders do not know their role is to guide others; from their behavior it appears that they believe their role is to manage others.
Leaders are not supposed to micromanage people. But many people who have the title of “leader” may not know how to lead. Maybe they are new to leadership. Or maybe they are stuck and need to take the next step in improving leadership skills. A lot of leadership actions involve learning.
For instance, leaders must learn how to talk to people and learn how to get through challenging times. They must learn different ways of coming up with a solution. They must learn to be positive. If they just focus on a problem, they get stuck. Yes, they must learn what the problem is, but then they need to shift to developing a solution.
3 Is brainstorming the best tactic for coming up with a solution?
Everyone in a team or group knows the challenges of what they try to accomplish, and they think about what they can do to make things better. Solutions do not come just from one person; they come from building a team of people who work together collaboratively. They share ideas. Often, someone says, “What if we try this?”
But there are many toxic environments where people do not feel free to share ideas.
A leader has the responsibility of creating a positive, healthy environment where people have confidence that they can share ideas without somebody saying things like “That is never going to work” or “How could you come up with something like that?” People must be able to trust that what they say will not be thought of as stupid or irrelevant.
Sometimes people have emotional reasons that constrain them from sharing ideas. The leader needs to step back and coax ideas out of them – with kindness and respect. Ask them to share ideas that worked in other areas of their personal life or activities in the community or in past jobs.
5 So, for brainstorming to succeed, the leader must create a trusting environment and encourage open communication. Anything else?
Yes, the leader must learn how to be a good listener. The best way to come up with solutions is to listen, no matter what the idea is. Listen for the value in the idea. Try to get something out of the idea.
6 Do you think that most leaders lack the ability to listen to people?
Often, that is the case. On my last nursing job, I worked with a team that was incredibly good at listening. Working in the psychiatric unit required listening so we could help patients through anxiety and depression.
It brings anxiety on other workers when a leader does not listen to people and appears to not see value in others. Everyone in a team, including the leader, needs to listen to the struggles that others have. You know there is a good leader when people in a team can bring up issues and people listen.
A leader does not know everything there is to know about everything. Leaders need to ask questions such as “What do you have to say about that?” “What do you think we should do?” “What can we change?” “What do we need to reform?” And then listen.
7 Is there another important skill that you observed in health care settings that leaders in any setting need to develop besides listening?
We all – even leaders – have personal issues that we go through. But when we come to work, we must bring only the best part of ourselves – the most nurturing, kind, polite, respectful part of us – to get through the day’s challenges. At the hospital, we made it a rule to leave our personal baggage at the door and pick it up on our way out.
We created a positive environment for patients so they could learn the skills that they needed to get out of the hospital and be home with their family. We helped them build self-esteem and self-confidence. We worked as a team and put forth our best efforts and shared ideas. It is the same with leaders in business environments; they must help employees build self-esteem and make it clear that everyone has value.
Besides creating a positive environment, we as health care workers needed to demonstrate a sincere, friendly, caring, approachable, empathetic nature to our patients, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. When we showed those behaviors, the patients began to take on that same nature.
When working in hospitals, I observed that the most successful units had leaders working beside everybody else. They knew what was going on, knew the challenges of the unit and then reported it to the doctors and therapists so that nobody was caught off guard. Leaders need to be on the front line, not behind a desk in an office where they do not know what is going on until something is so bad that somebody finally must tell them. Effective leaders make sure they have a presence in the middle of activities so that they can observe challenges and get everyone involved in problem-solving.
Sherry Wurgler is the founder of Transformational Leadership, coaching people to engage in personal development and grow their leadership style. You can Sherry via her website.