1. Fuimano, Julie RN, BSN


Employ curiosity as a way to relinquish control and empower employees.


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Healthcare professionals are so accustomed to problem solving that it becomes habitual. Someone presents us with an issue and right away we jump into fix-it mode. One of the hardest things for a nurse to do is to stop. It's just the way our minds work.


But there's another option we might not have explored. Perhaps the person doesn't want the answer; maybe they just need to be heard. Perhaps they have a habit of deferring to someone else to answer their questions so they can avoid making decisions. Maybe they don't know how to use their own knowledge and inner wisdom to think things through.


Leaders as coaches

If you're quick to answer a staff member's questions, you lose a perfect opportunity for coaching, and you begin to develop a team of people who are dependent upon you. The more you have your hands in the little things, the less time you have to focus on strategizing and the bigger picture.


Instead, you want to develop a team that can consider options and design solutions with minimal assistance. Staff should work together for the common good of the unit, using you as a sounding board for issues and a source of guidance and support. This is the essence of leadership, because sometimes people don't know how to make good decisions. They don't always trust themselves. And with so many people giving instructions or offering advice, it's very easy to get lost in the sea of opinion. People need to know how to process and use the knowledge they have, be creative, and "speak their truth."


As a leader, you don't need to have all the answers. You need to know how to access the answer by being resourceful, surrounding yourself with excellent people, and learning how to tap into their greatness. If you're curious about their opinions, you discover ideas and creative possibilities you might not have considered before. By learning to stop and ask a few questions, you can identify the real reason the person is coming to you. It's often not what he or she presents on the surface.


You get to decide how to use the information you gather from your team members. You summarize and synthesize, applying it to the big picture. Offering people the opportunity to share their views and asking them for their opinion makes them feel like a part of the bigger scheme of things, not just part of the staff.


Empowering staff

Be willing to let go of your need to be needed, to be seen as important, to be right, or to have the answers. You must allow others to come up with their own answers. You can't judge their responses; rather, you must present yourself with a sincere desire to explore what they think about this matter. While you might expect staff members to respond a certain way, it's very possible they'll come up with something you hadn't thought about. You must be willing to allow employees freedom, not only to come up with their own answers, but to apply them. This manner of leadership is extremely empowering.


When you stop thinking you must have all the answers, and tap into the brilliance of those around you, you create a community and an environment of respect where people are able to dialogue and want to learn from one another. In this high-level environment, people are happier, they feel trusted, and they learn to be the professionals they're capable of being.