3. Maintaining your personal and professional networks

I would like to invite you to think about how to maintain your personal and professional networks. Having supportive networks helps you to perform well at work.

Many nurses that I work with often struggle when it comes to finding the right professional support. Talking to someone that you can trust, who will listen without passing judgement and more importantly is a confidential conversation makes a huge difference when you are feeling under stress or don’t know how to deal with something.

How does maintaining your networks link to resilience?

Nursing is an emotionally draining occupation and it is important to have someone that you can go to when you feel emotionally drained after a difficult situation at work. This is especially important for nurse/midwife managers, as leaders of the nursing/midwifery team they can become very isolated as it is not always possible to debrief with more junior members of the team.

For networks to be effective they need to be reciprocal for example your informal networks that might include friends and family who you can call on to help with childcare or sick children. It is a kind of they help you and you help them relationship. 

How does maintaining your networks link to resilience?

A mentor is usually someone who is in a more senior position than yourself, perhaps in a position that you aspire to be in one day. They can be a professional mentor or an informal non-professional mentor. Sometimes people have both. They are a go-to person that you can trust and have a confidential conversation. A mentor usually gives help and advice over a period of time. Finding a mentor is not always easy and the research would suggest that mentorship works best when the mentee chooses their mentor.

How do I find a formal mentor?

Finding a mentor can be simply asking someone who is in a more senior position than yourself and someone who you aspire to be like or who has leadership qualities that you think you could learn from. You can email them and ask them if they would be open to being your mentor. Some organisations have a mentorship scheme. In Western Australia, there is a mentoring network for nurses that you can apply to become a mentor or to be mentored

Benefits of having a formal mentor

Simply put a mentor can help you grow professionally. It is usually a reciprocal relationship that has benefits for both the mentee and the mentor. It can be helpful for a nurse or midwife who is new to a leadership position to have someone that they can meet on a regular basis to discuss issues and problems in a safe and confidential space. Having a mentor helps you to grow as a leader and a good mentor will stretch you and take you out of your comfort zone in a good way.

What is a coach?

A coach is different from a mentor in that a coach is trained to listen deeply and to ask probing questions to help you find answers to your goals. A coach does not tell you how to do things or give advice but gives you a safe, confidential space to talk through the things that you need help with and helps you to find the answers. 

Benefits of engaging a coach

The types of things that I have coached nurses on are dealing with an injury and needing to find alternative work. Not feeling confident at work and how this stops them applying for more senior roles. Interview confidence, work-life balance, finding time for themselves are just a few examples. Nurses in management roles have not traditionally had access to coaching, something that I am working hard to change because coaching does change lives so long as you are willing to put the work in. My client testimonials speak for themselves. Coaching for yourself is the best investment that you will make for your own personal development.

Seeking and receiving feedback

Seeing and receiving feedback is also a good way to grow into your leadership role. Feedback is only as good as the actions that follow feedback. This is important to remember in seeking feedback in that it provides you with an opportunity to grow and learn. Seeking feedback also helps to dispel the assumptions that we make in our head that we are not skilled enough or we are not doing a good job. When I work with nurse clients I call this false evidence appearing real!  This is when we assume things that may not be correct and this increases our stress levels and decreases our coping mechanisms.

Acting on Feedback

The feedback that is not acted on is wasted feedback. Remember that there is no such thing as failure, only feedback. I often use this quote when debriefing with nurses who have applied for a promotional position and were not successful. Putting yourself forward and applying for a senior position is a great learning opportunity. If this is the first time that you have put yourself forward then think of it as a learning experience. This is your opportunity to showcase your skills and what you can bring to the role. It is always good to remember that attending for an interview is as much about you deciding if the position is right for you as well as the organisation deciding if you are right for the role. I will be writing more about interview techniques later on in my leadership series.

Destructive feedback

Sometimes in highly competitive work environments or in situations where there is conflict within teams, feedback can be destructive and work against your personal resilience by causing you to second guess yourself. If you find yourself in this kind of situation it is important to seek validation and feedback from someone from outside your organisation who can help to give you honest and constructive feedback. You may need to seek advice about how best to handle a situation such as this and sometimes you may also want to consider if it is time for you to find a role in an environment that supports you rather than working against you. If you solder on without seeking support and someone to talk through the issues through this can affect your personal resilience

Asking for support

As a new nurse or midwife leader, it can be challenging to ask for support for fear of our peers thinking that we are not up to the job, or a knowing look that says it is because you are new in post. We internalise these subtle messages and begin to believe that little nagging voice that maybe we are not good enough or skilled enough. It is important to understand that when you realise that you need help and being able to ask for help is not a bad thing but helps you to be resilient at work. It is important to remember that asking for help is not a weakness but a strength because you realise that in not asking for help is not going to help you become the leader that you are destined to be.

Compliments

As nurses, we are not always comfortable with accepting compliments. Well meant compliments help us to grow as a leader and we should not feel embarrassed about accepting a compliment. Leaders also need to give compliments to their staff, acknowledging when someone has done a good job or gone out of their way for a patient, family member or a colleague. Compliments are the glue that makes a team feel valued and recognised for their efforts and often in busy or stressful periods let the staff know that you have noticed their efforts. If a team hears their leader making compliments then they are more likely to give compliments and this is a win-win situation for the whole team.

What is your self talk? Is what you are telling yourself helping or hindering your development as a leader? 

As a coach, I work with nurses on reframing the negative self-talk to develop a positive and balanced mindset. Find out more by booking a free 30-minute discovery call here


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