In any work environment, there are goals to be met. A goal, vision or mission statement explains your team’s dream for the future growth and success of the work environment. We are all faced with challenges at work as well. All people respond to challenges and change differently. Some people react positively to change whereas others respond in a negative way. Negative energy gets in the way of implementing your vision and goals. The important lesson is we have a choice of how we respond. You can help bring out the best in your team, achieve your goals, and have fun getting there!
First, you need to create a vision. In healthcare, it is called a mission statement. By developing a vision statement, your organization clarifies the beliefs and governing principles of the organization.1 There are certain characteristics that most vision/mission statements have in common:
Writing down your vision statement helps you and your team stay focused and on track. It helps keep the goals clear, builds positive expectancy, and then the team begins to see that it is doable. The best way to get your team on board to help meet your goals is to have them participate in making the vision/mission statement.
Using a team approach to setting and reaching common goals is an example of Shared Governance; a model for nursing practice designed to improve nurses’ work environment and to achieve quality care. A Shared Governance system is designed to reflect the professional character of the participants in the nursing organization and to promote certain positive behaviors and practices. The purpose of shared governance is the establishment of a system in which staff participates fully in all activities that have an impact on their work and their ultimate goal of meaningful patient care. Although Shared governance was created to improve nurses’ work environment, it can be utilized in other healthcare professions to achieve a positive workplace.
The vision statement should be simple and short and include all staff (clerical staff, nursing, etc.). Everyone would want to be on the bus going to a positive productive future.
For example, our vision statement is to maintain a maximum number of patients scheduled daily for all procedures rooms while maintaining excellent nursing care and excellent patient outcomes. This vision includes scheduling staff, nurses and techs as well as receptionist and financial representatives. We need the entire team to maximize our procedure schedule daily as well as have excellent care and outcomes!2
When creating your vision statement, here are a few important things to remember:
Positive energy is essential to help you achieve your vision. Energy is contagious whether it is positive or negative. Negativity is not productive in the work environment and does not serve a purpose. Many of you have heard the phrase, what you think about, you bring about. It is so true! What we put our energy into and focus on will show up more in our life. Unfortunately, some people complain and are continuously negative, and therefore it brings about a negative outcome. In Jon Gordon’s book The Energy Bus, on which this course is based, he calls those negative people Energy Vampires. That is a perfect name for the negative people because at times they really suck the life out of you!
We spend so much of our life at work, and with today’s stressors, especially in healthcare, there are more challenges than ever before. The attitude we bring to work plays an important role. Always try to give positive reinforcement, show gratitude, and most importantly, spread happiness!4
After twenty years of working as a nurse, Susan noticed that a twelve-hour shift in the ICU working with several negative staff members was more mentally and physically exhausting than working the shift and taking care of the sickest patient on the unit, short-staffed and going without a break!
Research shows that negative energy can cause medical problems with our immune system, blood pressure, sleep cycle, and energy levels causing a huge obstacle to being positive. It is vitally important to encourage the positive energy. If you encourage the positive, then the negative will not spread. So, as Jon Gordon says, Feed the Positive Dog…2
A man goes to the village to visit the wise man and he says to the wise man, “I feel like there are two dogs inside of me. One dog is this positive, loving, kind and gentle dog and then I have this angry mean-spirited and negative dog and they fight all of the time. I don’t know which one is going to win.” The wise man thinks for a moment and he says, “I know which one is going to win, the one you feed the most, so feed the positive dog” 2
As Jon Gordon proposes, the fuel for your bus is the positive energy….so; here are a few notes on how to fuel up!
To help the nurse leader, whether this is a Nurse Manager, Nursing Supervisor, Charge Nurse, Assistant Director or any one in authority, there are steps to take to make the work environment a positive one. Positive work environments help to create more positive dogs.
This type of positive work environment facilitates a feeling of cooperation, teamwork and joy among healthcare providers at all levels which results in better care to their patients and customers.
These ten factors are beneficial in helping to build a positive work environment, but as leaders, there is more to learn in building cooperation, teamwork, a positive attitude and pride in their accomplishments.2
The factors that leaders need to learn and practice include the following:
Listen to what the employee has to say and help them establish goals. Prior to completing staff’s evaluations ask for their input with examples of what they have done as individuals and as part of the healthcare team. Use this information in their evaluations.
When meeting with the employee ask them to share what they have written, and discuss it with them. Obtain further input on how to prepare for the future by covering.
As a manager and supervisor challenges are met when having to counsel an employee who is not performing up to the established, required, standards. Prior to the evaluation counseling should have occurred and resolutions discussed. Progress or lack of should be noted on the evaluation. This is an opportunity for the supervisor to demonstrate how the employee has improved his performance, behavior, and quality of their work. The employee should feel that their manager has been supportive. The employee may decide to choose to leave or choose to stay on.
An effective manager helps the staff member at the end of the evaluation feel appreciated, in control with personal power over their work life and future. Most of all they need to feel valued. This is accomplished as leaders focus on their staff’s strengths rather than their weaknesses. People need to work in a positive environment where they can excel, feel comfortable and have fun doing their job. Managers often have to be creative in accomplishing their goals to improve the work environment.
A leader and their staff on a constant basis have to deal with change and how this is done is reflected in their job performance, team work, and patient care delivered.
Most people do not like change. Change causes uncertainty and fear. In healthcare, there is constant change. The important lesson in change is not to resist it but grow from it. Think of change as a roadblock and how your vision can still be obtained by taking the detour.
Here are a few points to discuss with staff as you take a detour:
Susan, as a manager, noticed that an employee’s first response to change is to complain. She realized that this is the fear talking. It was important to listen to her employee’s concerns and to reassure them that she is still on the right course to implement the organizations’ vision. If the employee continued to complain, she would talk to them further. What is their complaint? Then she would ask them to be a part of the solution instead of being a complainer. Complaining feeds the negative dog, so as in The Positive Dog by Jon Gordon2, think of the solution and feed the positive dog instead!
Once Susan had an employee, named Daisy, and all she wanted to do was complain. Daisy did not handle change well. As her unit was moving forward, toward their vision, Daisy was only able to dwell on the past, say how things used to be and the negative energy was affecting the entire staff. Susan explained to Daisy that she needed to let the past go and move forward with the team’s vision. Susan explained that they could not change the past, but they could change their future…. for the positive! So, Susan asked Daisy that when she had a complaint to write it down and before bringing the complaint forward, to write down a solution as well. At their next meeting, Daisy brought forward a list of complaints, some with solutions, and the group went through them one by one. Each issue was addressed individually and each complaint was resolved immediately. Daisy, finally realized that if issues arose with change that they would be addressed and that change didn’t have to be negative. Finally, Daisy was able to let go of the past and join the team on our bus.
Negativity is like a virus that spreads causing problems with productivity and morale, and may ultimately prevent a department from achieving success, so you are wise to seek ways to remove it before it increases. Although everyone has moments of negativity about his or her work, when it becomes a habit, it becomes a problem.6 Negativity can be very infectious in the workplace. At first, you begin with one negative team member, and before too long you have several. You have to stop the spread of the negative behavior. Empower the positive people to stand up to the negative ones and say to them, “We do not allow negativity here” …or as Jon Gordon (2007, pg. 47) would say, “We don’t allow any Energy Vampires on our bus!”
Negative people will stop you from obtaining your vision. Negative team members are usually the lower performers. The low performers will have to eventually step up to the plate or get off the bus. You have to identify the negative team members who are affecting your team’s success. Once you identify those vampires, you need to do the following:
When Susan spoke to her employees and rolled out the bus concept, there were many staff members that were a relieved. They felt relief in the fact that the negative behavior was not was going to be a part of their work environment anymore. Many agreed that the negative behavior was more exhausting than the busiest work day. They felt empowered to be able to say to negative teammates that they did not want to hear it, or that was not allowed on our bus. In fact, immediately after their meeting, and several times since, Susan overheard staff members make a comment to a negative one or one complaining. They actually called them out on the negative behavior….and those people immediately stopped!
Another situation Susan encountered was with Amy. Amy was the newest employee in the unit. She just wanted to fit in with the other staff. So, when other staff was being negative around Amy, she would agree and join in with the negative behavior. One day Susan spoke with Amy and pointed out the negative behavior. Amy was devastated. She didn’t realize how she was behaving and the negative impact on other staff members. Amy apologized and stated that she would strive to be positive and not to let the negative behavior spread. Since her discussion, Susan has seen a whole new side of positive Amy, but she has stepped up to the plate and been a great team-player and asset to their team.
To get your team members on board with the vision and positive energy, invite them to join the team and invite them on the bus. Make them feel that they are a valued part of the team and that you would love them to be a part of your vision. There are always going to be a few staff members that don’t want to be a part of the team or get on the bus. Those are usually your Energy Vampires. Do not waste your time on those who say they don’t want to be a part of it. I am not saying to let those negative people continue their destructive behavior, but if they realize that they don’t want to be a part of the team, then maybe they will realize that this is not the job for them.
First, present the team with the vision. Second, explain the rules of your team or bus. These rules are just another way of expressing their Best Behaviors in healthcare. Their Best Behaviors are a list of customer-focused expectations for all employees. Employees are evaluated on these behaviors on their evaluations annually. Third, explain to the staff that you expect them to follow the rules and that if they cannot follow the rules then maybe they need to think about if this is the right place for them. Finally, present each staff member with a ticket to join the team. Have each staff member sign the back of the ticket and place in their employee file to show they agreed to the rules of the team.
Our Best Behaviors:
Once the team agreed on their vision, and they discussed the rules of the bus, Susan offered every employee a bus ticket and invited them on the bus. Everyone, so she thought, had turned in their ticket. Many employees felt revived from the meeting after discussing goals and where they could go with all of the positive energy to fuel their bus. Several staff members came to Susan after the meeting and thanked her; they stated that was the best staff meeting they had ever had. In addition, several staff members that occasionally would exert negative behavior and not be team-players, have really turned around and made a difference. Susan thought that possibly they were ones that didn’t realize their behavior and once pointed out, they changed. Susan called them converted vampires.
At first, Susan had thought everyone turned in their ticket. Susan found out later that she was missing one, Lucy. Evidentially, Lucy went into the bathroom after meeting and threw her ticket in the garbage. Another staff actually saw Lucy throw it away and said, “Why did you throw your ticket away? That is not the behavior we want on our bus.” So, the next day, Susan spoke with Lucy. She asked her why she didn’t turn her ticket in and threw it in the garbage. She stated, “Well, I want to be on the team, but I don’t want to be on the bus!” Susan stated, “It’s really the same thing.” Susan explained that the rules of the bus are basically an extension of their Best Behaviors and those are expectations of all employees already. Lucy had previously had issues with not being a team-player, negative behavior and not adapting to change well. Susan had hoped that this would help convert Lucy as well, but Lucy is currently looking for another job. Down the road, Lucy will find the right bus to get on, but in the meantime, our bus will continue to move forward toward our vision with the other positive passengers.
We want to starve the negative dog as Jon Gordon (2012) expresses in his books. In doing that you have to encourage and reward the positive. It is very easy once the positivity starts, it is contagious! There are many ways to reward the positive; you just have to find ways that help encourage your staff. ?
Here are a few examples:
On Susan’s unit, she asked the staff what they would like to do to recognize the positive people. They came up with several great ideas! First, they made a bulletin board called The Positive Dog. On that board, they have a large section called Top Dogs where the staff can write up recognition for their teammates and nominate them as Top Dog. The staff has been very receptive to this, and when one of their teammates goes over-and-above to help out the team or a patient, they recognize them. They also put any patient/customer appreciation notes on the board as well to recognize the staff. Next, they have a smaller section on the board called Barking up the Wrong Tree. That is a reminder of the negative behaviors that we discourage. For example:
Then at the end of the month, Susan announces the Top Dogs in the staff meeting to help give further encouragement and recognition as well as give them a little reward. The reward may be a $5 gift card or such. Then out of the Top Dogs for the month, we draw a name out of those nominated to see who gets the Employee of the Month parking space…. although Susan has changed the sign to say Positive Dog of the Month! The staff has been so receptive they are fighting (not really) over the parking place!
The staff also created a bus and hung on the wall. All the staff brought in pictures, the ones who signed their tickets, so everyone could see the staff that was on the bus. This also helps reinforce the positive behavior…. the staff is very proud to show others that they are on the bus….and it helps encourage others to get on the bus as well.
Hopefully, this has given you, as a manager in the healthcare profession, additional tools and principles to encourage positive attitude and teamwork in the work place. By making a team bus, rules of the bus and inviting your team along for the ride, you might find that the vampires get on another bus, your bus is more positive than ever and the team is then actually more productive……and the team actually will have fun coming to work! The role of the nursing manager plays a major factor in nurses’ intention to remain or leave their current workplace.5
By following the above rules, and by making the work place a fun environment, managers are more able to retain their nurses.