“Collaboration is key.”
It’s a well-worn phrase in just about any workplace, including long-term care facilities. And it’s a grand principle in theory. But when it comes to putting it into practice, it may feel a lofty aspiration—especially in light of tight deadlines, busy staffers, and an RAI process that requires others to complete their work before you can complete your own.
It is often easy to become frustrated when your coworkers aren’t keeping up with the deadlines by which you need to abide. And it may also feel like there’s nothing you can do about it.
But that’s not the case.
While you may not be in a direct position of leadership within your facility, you do have the power to influence the situation and promote an environment of collaboration within your facility. Positive change starts with you.
“I think that’s often a role of the NAC—getting to know people, getting to understand people, their challenges, their expertise, their knowledge, and their skill-base, and then lifting them up,” says Linda Shell, DNP, MA, RN and consulting partner at LindaShell.com. “They need to be able to motivate people towards getting things done, responding to questions, carrying out the work.”
You may be asking yourself why it’s your responsibility to make sure everyone else gets their work done. Isn’t that the duty of the leadership team?
It’s simple, says Shell.
The goal of any facility, of the RAI process in general, is to provide quality care to your residents, and you can only accomplish that as a team.
“Sometimes I find that in aging services, we struggle, push back against other people, when really our ultimate goal is to provide good quality care for our residents,” says Shell. “When we all do well toward achieving that goal, it makes us an even better team. Whenever someone’s struggling, it pulls us down, so as a team, all of us need to be involved in helping that person grow and develop and lift them up.”
And when your colleagues feel supported, they’re more likely to be receptive to your influence, and to reciprocate the support in kind.
“I think that you’ll get your maximum contribution from that team whenever everybody feels like their work is valuable, that their perspective is valuable, their expertise,” says Shell. “The role of the NAC is helping people to feel we’re all here on the same playing field, we’re all in this together; how can we lift each other up and respect and value each one and the value that they bring to the team?”
So what can you do to adopt the role of an influencer? Shell says these are the actions a good influencer will take to condone a positive, collaborative environment:
- Share skills and knowledge.
It may meet with the interdisciplinary team regularly to share information. It ensures everyone is up-to-date on any important regulatory changes, changes with resident care, or any other imperative information. And when the IDT understands your role and how it intersects with their own, it allows them to better support you in your duties.
“A lot of times, the NAC may have insight about what might be a more efficient way of collecting data or doing an interview with a resident or completing their inspection or whatever that responsibility is. Different people have different levels of responsibility when it comes to the coordination of that entire RAI process. A lot times, NACs have a lot of experience, a lot of training, and other people are not privileged to that level of training. Many times, they have insights and knowledge that can be beneficial to others and they get to share that,” says Shell.
Opening this line of communication creates transparency and ensures everyone is on the same page. It also gives you the opportunity to build relationships and get to know the people you work with.
“What’s important to them? What are some of their challenges? What are some of their successes? How can you help them with your expertise to be even more successful?” says Shell.
- Provide recognition.
When working on a particular assessment, look to other people who have expertise in certain areas, such as therapists or dieticians. Doing so creates an atmosphere of respect and valye for one’s contributions to the team.
Ask, “This is your expertise. What can I learn from you?”
“There’s no way that one person can do all that, so respect the expertise and the contributions of others,” says Shell.
- 3. Trust your coworkers.
When you are relying on assessments from various team members, it’s easy to fall into the habit of trying to micro-manage them, which could breed frustration and resentment among your coworkers. Still, there’s a fine balance in making sure you’re allowing others to do their job, and yet you can still do your own.
Shell refers to a management style called “tight-loose-tight.”
- Tight: make sure people know what they’re supposed to do and what their deadlines are
- Loose: allow them to complete their responsibilities in the way that works best for them
- Tight: Ensuring people get their work done on time and meet the requirements of the assessment process, so that you are able to reach the necessary outcomes
- Have empathy.
Most everyone contributing to the RAI process is extremely busy in their duties, and trying to balance their lives outside of work. Listen to others’ concerns and problems. Be a collaborative partner in helping others get their work done when necessary.
“They’ve got a lot of things going on. Be empathetic to that,” says Shell. “Say, ‘I understand how busy you are. Is there anything I can do to help you in the process?’”
- Provide positive reinforcement.
Sometimes it can be easy to be critical of others’ work. It may start out as constructive criticism, but without positive reinforcement, it might begin to sound demoralizing. That’s why it’s important to provide oral praise for work well done. When people are trying, reinforce those positive attempts.
When people aren’t recognized, they may begin to feel like their work isn’t important, and ask themselves why they should bother making a strong effort. Recognition is important to morale and inspires people to continue trying to attain the best possible results.
“Anytime we can give people positive feedback, it brings more positivity into the work place. We live in such changing times in the field of aging services that we need to be able to induce positivity and have a sense of gratitude to people for their contributions and for the work that they bring. Many times, we beat ourselves up at the end of the day for all the things that we didn’t get done instead of looking at the list of things that we did get done,” says Shell. “You don’t have to point out the people that didn’t meet their deadlines or are struggling, but recognize the people that were able to get everything done on time or that got their assessments done or that were able to finish whatever it was. It starts to put this sense of, ‘Hey, whenever I do things well, there’s recognition around here. People are paying attention to what I’m doing.’”
Remember, while you may not specifically be in a position of leadership, you always have the power to provide recognition, to listen, and to influence your facility’s environment of collaboration.
Shell references a book titled “Ubuntu!: An Inspiring Story About an African Tradition of Teamwork and Collaboration” by Bob Nelson and Stephen Lundin.
“There’s this quote in the book and it says, ‘As long as there are employees thinking of themselves as little people, the work of ‘Ubuntu’ is not finished.’”
It’s time to view yourself as bigger than just an employee; view yourself as a leader with the power to make positive change. And view each of your team members as equal. Remember, the primary goal of any facility staff is to improve quality of care for the resident. And team member provides value to achieve that overall goal.
For more articles and resources visit the AANAC website at http://www.aanac.org.
I am currently involved in Dr. Linda Shell’s leadership classes through Volunteers of America and I can attest to the fact that what this article says is exactly what she teaches in her classes. The Ubuntu book is core for our learning process and her statements are specifically what she has been guiding all of us into practicing as leaders.