Leadership development: Teambuilding tips for nurse managers

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All nurse managers want harmony on their unit, but how to achieve it is the challenge. Staff members of different ages, work experiences, and personalities often clash under the pressures and demands of nursing. But that doesn't mean there aren't ways to form a collaborative, effective team with your diverse staff members.

Collaborative work relationships happen when the foundation and expectations are set for them. With your guidance, you can unite your differing staff members into a strong team, and the following teambuilding tips can help get you started:

Relationships take cultivation. High-stressed, fast-paced healthcare settings make it hard for relationships to bloom, so nurse managers need to know how to nurture them. Consider giving a couple of staff members an extended lunch period to let them go to lunch together and get to know each other. Send different people each month and try not to send nurses who are already buddies. An extra 30 minutes away from the unit is valuable time nurses can use communicating and gaining an understanding of each other. These relationships will reflect in staff collaboration back on the unit.

What they don't know, they can't do. Staff members are incapable of doing what they don't understand and what they don't know is expected of them. Make sure you communicate your expectations to each staff member clearly so they are aware of what they are accountable for each shift. Define their responsibilities-both individually and as they relate to the rest of the staff and facility-to avoid any confusion. Doing so will also curb conflict that may have resulted from staff members trying to define their roles on their own.

Giving to the team builds the team. Informal or formal group rewards, such as luncheons and award ceremonies, are great ways to boost team spirit and strengthen work relationships. Make it known to staff that you recognize and appreciate their hard work. This will surely be reflected in their pride and in their willingness to work together.

Pictures foster trust. Trust is a critical part of teambuilding. Try decorating a bulletin board and encouraging staff to post photos of themselves and their families. The pictures will spark conversations, allowing nurses to get to know each other faster and on a more personal level than they would passing each other in the hallways. Because many nurses enjoy talking about their family, this method can also improve morale.

Broken agreements are okay. No one is perfect and the needs of your individual nurses and the needs of your team can cause agreements to shift. Remind staff members to communicate to you and the rest of the team if they can't follow through with a task after agreeing to do so. No matter the outcome, upholding honest, open communication is important. It allows the opportunity for relationships to be mended and gives the team the chance to find solutions.

Don't just work with them, know them. Form relationships with each staff member and let them know you are there for their support. Meeting with them regularly keeps the lines of communication open and allows you the opportunity to confront any team-building issues that exist. At each meeting, talk about your staffs' needs so you can do your best to fill them. Also, use this time to assess their personal development and devise future goals.

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