Nurse leaders are always planning for the future of their organization. Although it can be easy to overlook, or delay, planning for future nurse leaders. Even if you’re years from considering retirement, it’s never too soon to start preparing your future nurse leaders, especially if you have internal talent you want to retain. Succession planning is essential to the continued growth of your organization. Investing in your nurses for potential leadership roles can convey a commitment to your employees, and your organization.
Promote From Within
Nurse leaders have a variety of demands that require their attention today, so often it can be challenging to devote time for succession planning for tomorrow. This may be the last thing on your mind since you’re nowhere near retiring, but often this is the best time to begin. Especially when you may not have to look very far if you’re considering internal talent for future leadership positions.
Choosing candidates from within can help nurture employee morale by displaying that your organization provides opportunities for career advancement. Plus these are nurses that already believe in your mission, and they’re invested in the organization. They know your history. Promoting from within can provide continuity, a smoother transition, and a sense of stability with leadership departure.
The time you’ve had working with these nurses can enable you to evaluate if they’re the best fit for a leadership position. Early steps for leadership development provides time for education and development to ensure that a leadership role works well. Unlike considering new candidates, when you only have an interview and what’s listed on the resume to determine how they will fit with your organization’s culture, you already have an idea of what kind of employee they are. The key is to determine what kind of leader they might be.
Identify Your Future Leaders
At first glance some nurses might seem like the obvious choice for a leadership role, but that doesn’t mean they’re the best, or only, choice. Don’t overlook the quiet ones with hidden potential that may not always be the obvious choice. Some key candidates may be reluctant to come forward, or are not as easy to identify. Different generations may present differently than you’re accustomed to, and may have views on leadership that aren’t the same as yours. That doesn’t mean you should rule them out.
If they have the heart and soul of a leader, look for other signs of leadership qualities that may not be as obvious. These are areas that might be developed so they can gain confidence for a leadership role such as:
- Do they follow-up, or email ideas, after the meeting because they’re not always comfortable in a group setting?
- Do they have great ideas but they don’t always take credit for them?
- Are they passionate and committed but unsure how to prioritize tasks to excel in their role?
- Is the environment not conducive for them to speak up?
- Are they silent because their culture, or upbringing, discourages questioning authority?
- Do they display leadership qualities that extend beyond their own performance such as committing to developing others?
- Do they embrace implementing new technology to help the organization grow?
Clarify the Leadership Role
If you’re consumed with your own work, you may be unaware of the impression you’re conveying to your employees, and it could create gaps in communication. Focusing on building more cohesive relationships can help you with the selection process while increasing the awareness of what’s involved with a leadership role. This may also help in developing a deeper respect from your employees who may only know a fraction of what’s involved in a leadership position.
Many nurses may have a limited understanding of the range, demands, performance goals, and actual role of a nurse leader. With no awareness of the expectations, some nurses may not be able to determine if they’re suitable for a nurse leadership role, or they may have idealistic expectations. This may result in them deciding against a leadership position without a clear understanding of the role.
Offer Opportunities to Grow
Becoming more transparent about your duties may help inspire and motivate future nurse leaders to focus on their development for the role, and eliminate those that determine a leadership role isn’t suitable. It’s ideal to determine several potential candidates, if possible, since even the most motivated nurse may end up not working out, or there may be different future roles available.
A few ways to provide opportunities to develop leadership qualities include:
- Provide formal role modeling, coaching, and/or mentoring
- Avoid micromanaging and allow the ability to learn from mistakes and own successes
- Encourage taking on more responsibility with increasingly larger projects
- Offer ongoing development and leadership training
- Observe their ability to lead where they’re at with small groups or in their department
Invest in the Future
You’re looking for the nurses that can inspire and motivate others. These are the nurses who will continue with the organization’s vision. Take steps today to invest in your future nurse leadership, otherwise you might risk having your ideas retire with you.