Last weekend I was running errands with my husband. He was driving. Now, before I go any further let me explain a couple of things. My husband is retired. Time has a different meaning for him than it does for me. 

And, he has a type B personality. People with a type B personality tend to be easygoing and more laid-back in nature. I have a type A personality. (Bet you all NEVER guessed that!) But believe it or not, we work really well together, balancing each other out. Usually.

However, here we are driving, listening to Bob Marley radio on Sirius XM when my “Zen’ed” out type B husband misses an exit. (This is not an isolated incident!) And he’s all, “No biggie, I’ll just turn at the next exit.” I, even though it is a Saturday, start freaking out internally. Oh no! This is going to add another 20 minutes on the “schedule.” That throws my “schedule” off. And, no, Bob Marley, I can’t be happy and not worry and everything is NOT going to be all right. 

I am now freaking out because we are 20 minutes off “schedule” because my husband did not plan ahead and get in the right lane until it was too late, and we missed the exit! Arrrgh!! (See … Type A at play). 

The truth is, 20 minutes off schedule is not going to end the world. We cannot all be type A’s. (Thank the Lord!) It is not fair as leaders if we put the same expectations on others as we do ourselves. As type A’s, we are very unforgiving of ourselves when we don’t get tasks completed in the time we expected. Unfortunately, we tend to hold others to that same expectation despite their abilities, strengths and weaknesses. 

When I was a new manager (a baby DON) I didn’t understand why everyone couldn’t work at my pace or problem solve the way I did. I kept getting frustrated. I remember complaining to my dad, who was always my mentor, and he gave me some great advice.

“Everyone isn’t you. Not everyone has your strengths, so why would you expect them to work in the same way you do? Never expect the same out of others that you do of yourself.” 

See, my dad helped me understand that I was unfairly putting great expectations on people when they didn’t have those strengths to carry out what I wanted them to. 

Of course, as a type A, I was really upset with myself at first. Then, the other aspect of type A kicked in, and I studied everything I could about strengths. I learned you can study someone to discover their strengths. I learned you can help someone discover their strengths and foster a sense of pride in themselves. I learned that you can get a lot more from your team by building one on each other’s strengths instead of creating a team of mediocracy. 

For example, take an office setting. Maybe it’s getting near annual conference time, and reports need to be completed and put in Excel file format. Maybe each team needs to create a PowerPoint presentation (PPP). But let’s say that some people struggle with Excel, and some are great at it, and some people struggle with PowerPoint, and others shine at it. Why not share duties like, “Hey, I’ll give you my report to put in a spreadsheet, and you give me what you want in a PPP, and I’ll do that for you.” Production improves, and you wipe out mediocracy.

Now apply that in healthcare. We watch our nursing staff, right? Who is really good at wound care or infection control? We foster them, mentor them, offer them courses to get certified. Then we have them become responsible for those duties instead of making everybody be in charge of those duties. (Yes, everyone still has a part of it, but they don’t have to be an expert.)

What about nursing assistant staff? If you ever have the opportunity to pair two nursing assistants up utilizing each’s strengths, it’s amazing how efficient care can be.

So, let’s make our expectations realistic by expecting from people only what they are capable of. And then let’s make that better by helping them discover their strengths and utilizing them. Then our great expectations truly will be just that — great. 

Just keeping it real,

Nurse Jackie

The Real Nurse Jackie is written by Jacqueline Vance, RNC, CDONA/LTC, Senior Director of Clinical Innovation and Education for Mission Health Communities, LLC and an APEX Award of Excellence winner for Blog Writing. Vance is a real-life long-term care nurse. A nationally respected nurse educator and past national LTC Nurse Administrator of the Year, she also is an accomplished stand-up comedienne. The opinions supplied here are her own and do not necessarily reflect those of her employer or her professional affiliates.

The opinions expressed in McKnight’s Long-Term Care News guest submissions are the author’s and are not necessarily those of McKnight’s Long-Term Care News or its editors.

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