1. Cunning, Shawnna M. RN, MSN, CCRN

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Research examining various management techniques can be summarized into five common management mistakes. Nurse leaders can analyze these mistakes and develop innovative corrective strategies to improve recruitment and retention.


Highlight employees' strengths

The first management behavior deserving the label "mistake" is to focus on an employee's weaknesses rather than her strengths. Every individual comes to a job influenced by culture, family, experience, and biases. Frequently, nurse leaders try to change employees' habits to create a uniform workforce, but this type of assimilation is nearly impossible to achieve.


A better solution is to get to know employees and creatively focus on the positive. For example, if a new nurse isn't capable with numbers and drug calculations, focus on the fact that she's personable rather than repeatedly reprimanding her. Simply ask her to double-check drug calculations with a co-worker and assign her to a lonely patient who needs an attentive listener and good communicator.


Experts define talent as "any recurring patterns of behavior that can be productively applied."1 By finding and utilizing your staff members' talents, you create a diverse and happy workforce with improved patient satisfaction.


Focus on strength

Focusing negative attention on weak employees is another management faux pas. Nurse leaders frequently identify deficits in patient care skills, then assign a top performer to further orient struggling employees. This alienates the weaker person and imposes more work on the stronger one. A better method is to observe the characteristics of the best performing and most productive employees. Then, creatively transfer these characteristics to others.


Effectively communicate

Communication lies at the core of management curriculum but, ironically, it's not always fully defined in terms of behavior. Through communication of expectations, rules, and regulations within your internal culture, staff members will be less frustrated and less likely to fail. Personal communication relates to employee personalities and your facility's internal culture.


Talking to employees one-on-one is one of the best problem-solving methods top managers use. Edwina Woodbury, former CFO of Avon Products, Inc., says she enjoys informal communication. Between 80% and 90% of her company's issues are resolved in the hallways through personal conversations with employees. 2 Particularly related to performance, nurses need to know where they stand with their manager. Employees are upset when they're evaluated by a manager who's never spoken to them prior to the appraisal.


Shower praise

"The key to developing people is to catch them doing something right," said one expert. 3 At times, nurse leaders focus on fixing an employee's flaws and don't provide enough positive verbal feedback for a job well done. A nurse has to provide safe care and be able to perform basic nursing tasks, but everyday kindnesses that improve patient satisfaction are worth noting and praising.


Manage at a distance

Once a nurse leader creates a staff that's happy, empowered, and working well together, it shouldn't require constant managing. She fully outlines outcomes and expectations, yet encourages employees to be creative in the steps and processes of reaching goals. Knowing what motivates people can also be vital to getting a job done well.




1. Buckingham, M., and Coffman, C.:First, Break All The Rules. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1999. [Context Link]


2. Brooks, D., and Brooks, L.:Seven Secrets of Successful Women. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1999 [Context Link]


3. Blanchard, K.:Heart of a Leader. Tulsa: Honor Books, 1999. [Context Link]