Words Matter, More and More

Feeling that moment when my message (written or verbal) hits the target. 

This ain’t me – in so many ways –  but I wish it was more often.

Writing this blog, a book, tag-lines and publicly speaking is an exercise in reflection, humility and surprise.

Finding the right words all the time

As leaders, I think we know that our words matter, but it’s unrealistic to think that we can be conscious and strategic all the time. 

That’s why knowing who we are and what we believe is so critical as a leader.  The more work we do in aligning our inside with our outside, the more likely the words that come out of our mouths will be aligned with our beliefs.  And we don’t have to think about being strategic all the time. 

“It was my personal journey into wellness consciousness that saved me—fueled by self-care. I learned that how I live and work, what I focus on, and what I talk about impacts me and those around me.” McClendon, p xvi    I’m still learning—it’s about lifelong learning, right?.

As a nurse leader, words matter,  more and more 

I just read about a 2018 study, Leading The ‘Most Anxious Generation’.   It reported the percentage of employees feeling anxious at work and the reasons:

  • feeling anxious at work distribution
    • 54% for Gen Z
    • 27% for Baby Boomers
    • it didn’t isolate millennials
  • reasons:
    • the comparisons elicited in social media
    • growing up in a highly polarized geopolitical environment
    • intensive parenting (Uh-oh)
    • replacement of leisure time with structured competitive activities

Holy Moly, where to begin?   This article pulls from their brain science sources and suggests:

  • Avoid artificial and exaggerated deadlines and crisis. Avoid the ‘burning platform” school of thought.  This does not inspire urgency and motivation.  It squashes creativity … And we need all the nursing creativity we can get!
    • Instead leaders should speak relentlessly about opportunities on the other side of the crisis. This triggers other parts of the brain and still gets the urgent work done.
    • One story in Kouzes and Posner illustrates this point.  One worker described a leader who always inspired him by keeping focus on the bright side, “Even when the project was unsuccessful, she would tell them that future projects would turn out better as long as they kept working hard as well as working smart.” p 135
  • Be deliberate with communication and messaging.  One example was a leader who stopped sending emails to leadership staff on weekends. She started using the “send later” feature. (I wish I had done that).
  • Re-evaluate performance management systems.  The articles goes into the perils and limitations of the annual review system.  Best to make these conversations steady through the year.
  • Highlight opportunities for personal growth.  The message: focus on growth, less on goals.
  • Last point in being positive is not babying people.  Make the positive challenging, not sappy (my word).

One last word on nurse leader messaging

  • Speak from the heart.  Take time to integrate the organization’s words and messages into your own.  Create context with your message – this gives meaning and purpose that nurses thrive on.
  • Be truthful and factual.  “I won’t believe you if you don’t give me evidence. I won’t remember if you don’t tell me a story.”  Nurses respond to evidence, but it’s the story that anchors meaning and memory. I love this advice, and I find it hard to live up to – another lifelong learning thing.
  • How do you know you’re doing well?   The mirror in nurses’ faces.  (from somewhere in Quantum Leadership, Porter-O’Grady and Malloch)

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