Nurse leader coaching a staff member

The Business Case for becoming a Nurse Leader Coach

What nurses expect today from their leaders has changed. Gone are the days of command and control leadership when staff was supposed to be grateful because they had a job. The contemporary nursing workforce wants their leaders to be coaches who will help them to learn and grow as professionals (Sherman, 2019). The nurse leader has become the linchpin in staff recruitment and retention (Ulrich, Barden, Cassidy & Varn-Davis, 2019). When nurses don’t receive the coaching and feedback that they desire, they will leave as evidenced by a national RN turnover rate in 2018 of 17.2% (NSI, 2019).

Coaching is a different approach to developing the potential of your staff. When you coach, you provide staff with the opportunity to grow and gain expertise through more consistent feedback, counseling, and mentoring. The relationship moves from being leader dominated to a partnership with staff. You don’t wait until the annual review to discuss areas in need of improvement. The effective manager coach takes the time to understand the motivations of individual staff, enables optimal performance, encourages professional success, and removes barriers to high-level performance. If you perfect your skills as a coach, you can help staff to grow and put them on a path to success and greater ownership of their professional practice. It also makes performance management much easier because your staff will expect regular feedback.

Moving from being a manager to a nurse leader coach requires a different leadership mindset and skill set to add to your leadership toolbox. The key characteristics of a coaching leadership approach include partnership and collaboration versus command and control. It involves less time talking and more time listening. Coaching for performance is an ongoing process that becomes easier over time if you commit to doing it.

There is a strong business case for adopting a leader coach mindset. Leader coaching has the potential to impact organizational outcomes in four areas. These include staff engagement, staff retention, the creation of a healthier work environment, and patient outcomes. Staff who agree that their manager coaches and involves them in goal setting are 4x more engaged than other employees (Wigert & Harter, 2017). RN turnover costs now average $52,100 per nurse. The typical hospital in the US loses between 4.4 million and 6.9 million dollars each year in turnover costs (NSI, 2019). When considering career opportunities, nurses now look at whether leaders are supportive of their professional and career goals. Nurse leader coaching can also help staff feel more psychologically safe in their environments, which is a key component of a healthier work environment. Variances in the quality of work environments have been found to impact performance measures in areas such as safety, quality, and the patient experience (Press Gainey, 2017).

In their new book, It’s the Manager, Gallup recommends that if organizations could prioritize only one leadership action to improve performance, it should be to equip their managers to be coaches (Clifton & Harter, 2019). Adopting a leader coach mindset can lead to higher levels of both individual and team performance through the fostering of independence and interdependence. Coaching is a skill set that can be learned but takes it practice and intentionality.