5 Tips Nurse Managers Use to Coach Winning Teams


To patients, a care manager might be an unknown character in the story of their overall healthcare experience. The nurse or nurse assistant, in coordination with a physician or other specialist on the integrated healthcare team, is much more likely to be given credit for quality care. And that's a good thing.

Nurse managers have a lot in common with great coaches. With a strong focus on their team, they're able to stand outside of the game and orchestrate a victory by bringing out the best contributions of all the players. By doing so, the nurse manager actually plays a critical role in setting the tone for how the healthcare game is played and, ultimately, making sure that every team member is focused on the goal of securing a patient win.

So, how does the nurse manager set the standard for care and inspire a team to perform under pressure? The secret isn't magic, though the successful nurse manager does offer sage advice. Pay attention to the following five leadership principles and you, too, can build a winning team.

  • Encourage Decision Making: Nursing directors have many decisions to make each day. Fortunately, capable healthcare professionals can step up and take on additional responsibilities, given proper preparation. Nurse managers trust that the registered nurse is best equipped to handle patient problems, and they invest in the leadership potential of nurses as front-line care providers. Taking the time to help team members strengthen critical thinking skills empowers them to make good decisions, increases the competency of individuals, and ultimately benefits everyone.

  • Create a Conflict-Resolution-Friendly Culture: When it comes to conflict, everyone has a different comfort zone and coping strategy. Nurse managers recognize the unique perspectives that come from different communication styles, and they foster an environment that works well for both direct and subtle or reluctant communicators. As a Nursing Director, when conflict arises, you can lead by example by staying focused on the goal of working toward solutions and setting individual differences aside.
  • Foster Trust: Trust is not automatic for any team. It's something that naturally develops over time, through experience and successes gained in accomplishing goals and overcoming setbacks together. That said, there is much a nurse manager can do to strengthen trust among team members. Starting as the example, managers who demonstrate integrity by keeping promises and telling the truth - even when it may be difficult - demonstrate trustworthiness. Additionally, make sure to convey that every team member, from the most senior to the newest recruit, is valued and treated as an important part of the team.
  • Set Clear Goals: A team of nurses will have the greatest stake in accomplishing goals they understand and contribute to setting. When possible, let the team determine the most important. Goals can serve as a unifying force for team members, making it clear that personal agendas should be set aside in favor of striving toward a shared vision.

  • Open Communication Policy: The best communicators start with listening, and this skill says a lot about their genuine interest in others. Any care manager can foster open communication by encouraging nurses to share opinions, asking questions, inviting team members to expand on a point, and setting aside the natural desire to add a personal perspective or difference of opinion. Furthermore, as a healthcare manager, if you encourage care providers to bring concerns to your attention, you will have a much better sense of what your team cares about.

Nurse managers often have to acclimate to a change in leadership when they take on the task of team builder, and stepping away from direct patient care may make it hard to see how daily contributions are improving the lives of patients.

Nurses considering taking a step into a new leadership role and current nurse managers interested in strengthening their leadership capability can turn to the American Organization of Nurse Executives (AONE) for additional resources and relevant training. Furthermore, feel free to ask questions and share your tips for how to create cohesion and community among care providers in our comments section.

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