The private message through a social media site stated the following:
“Hi, Martie. We met when you presented at a conference last fall. You spoke on how to cultivate the brilliance amongst your teams, to elevate employee engagement. I remember so clearly your words on the need to communicate clearly, concisely on challenges that you need their insight and help.
“I pulled out your slides from the presentation and reviewed them. You had on the slides: ‘A leader must communicate in a transparent manner. You must ensure employees know what the challenges are and what you and they are facing, together — one team. You do not need to have all of the answers, but you need to know how to cultivate the talent and insight of your employees.”
“Cultivation is a much harder skill to develop within yourself. You are changing the framework within your mind of being a leader to a leader who is a coach. Being a leader who is a coach takes listening. Learning to take deep breaths and demonstrating actions that fosters stronger cultures of trust. It means letting things not go the way you would have done them. Creating experiential learning with you coaching them along the way builds individuals and teams.
“Employees willing to give you discretionary energy = employee engagement
“It is easier to act individually; it is easier to have all of the answers because you are controlling the situation. It is a fundamental leadership failure to not cultivate your employees.”
I pulled out my slide deck and there were the words she had written. I have sometimes wondered if slide decks are looked at again when the presentation is over.
She continued in her story by writing: “I shared that our personal protective equipment (PPE) shipment was being held up somewhere. We have over 100 residents to protect and care for in this time of COVID-19. I shared to my team that I did not know when the supplies would arrive. I did not know what to do to provide protective equipment and I need help until we can get our supplies. I was on the verge of tears as I did not want anyone on my team to not have protective supplies.
“I hung my head in defeat. I felt that I had failed them. The most quiet of the aides in the building raised her hand and said, “I know the manager at the dollar store. Maybe we can be creative …”
“Frankly, Martie, I was out of solutions and defeated. I said, sure let’s call him. She called him and offered to go with me to see what we could find to use until our supplies arrived. We told the manager at the dollar store the situation, he went to the back to see what he could find. We searched high and low for supplies that we could make work. Our search resulted in us looking like a cross between a mad cook and alien fighters who were going to rob a bank.
“We found long dishwashing gloves, stormtrooper face shields, barbecue aprons, jackets used for painting and wraparound sunglasses for eye protection. The manager found a box of bandanas that we could use as an extra layer over our very limited mask supply. The manager even gave us a discount as a thank you for all that we do.
“As we drove back to the facility, I thanked her for thinking outside of the box. She smiled and said she always is thinking, but is too shy to speak up in a group. As we drove, I listened to her and thought, brilliance amongst us.
“When we returned to the facility, she called everyone together and explained how to use the dollar store finds until the ordered PPE arrived. I smiled as she answered questions and assured her team members that with extra caution these items would work. I never knew the natural leadership that was within her until that moment. I just wanted to let you know that I was listening when you spoke and there really is brilliance amongst us.”
I read her message through blurry vision. I cannot envision her sense of fear and feeling of defeat. To be clear, I am not advocating for PPE to come from a dollar store.
What I am advocating is allowing others to offer up solutions that might be unconventional but worthy of consideration. You are in one of the most challenging times of leadership, but you are not alone. Look for the brilliance amongst your people. It is waiting to be cultivated.
Martie L. Moore, MAOM, RN, CPHQ, has been an executive healthcare leader for more than 20 years. She has served on advisory boards for the National Pressure Ulcer Advisory Panel and the American Nurses Association, and she currently serves on the Dean’s Advisory Board at the University of Central Florida College of Nursing. She recently was honored by Saint’s Martin’s University with an honorary doctorate degree for her service and accomplishments in advancing healthcare.