As a relatively new nurse manager, I'm considering the ways in which I can powerfully inspire my team of nurses to be as functional, dynamic and cohesive as possible. It's clear that 21st-century nurses love strong leadership, but they also like to feel trusted and empowered. It's up to a nurse manager to walk a line that provides both.

I serve as the director of nursing and chief nursing officer of a small home health agency, and since we've just passed our Joint Commission survey, we're poised to grow at a rapid rate in the next 12 to 18 months. Thus, creating a culture that we can maintain and nurture even as we grow is important to us.

A cohesive team culture

We have an extremely cohesive team, and the level of openness that we've created is part of our secret. Our company's culture is built upon trust, respect, open communication and the honoring of each individual's distinct presence.

The agendas for our meetings are created in a shared electronic folder, and every member of the team has open access to those files. Clinicians and administrative staff are invited to add to every agenda in order to make sure that all individual concerns are addressed.

During meetings, each team member follows the agenda on his/her tablet or laptop, eliminating the need for inefficient note-taking on loose paper that will likely be lost or recycled. This way, everyone's notes are documented in real time for all to see, and we create a digital record of our meetings to which we can refer as needed.

Our meetings are fueled by healthy snacks and laughter, as well as space for all members to air their frustrations, share how they’re feeling, and communicate their successes. Many team members hug when meeting up at the office, and smiles are a ubiquitous commodity. Therefore, no one dreads our meetings, and many of us clearly look forward to the opportunity to connect with the group.

Hierarchy doesn't mean inflexibility

In terms of hierarchy, we have a clear chain of command. In fact, nurses like such structure, because it provides safety, clarity of purpose and a sense that there's a solid administrative and clinical foundation beneath their feet.

When we're faced with decisions that will impact the nurses' work, we involve the team in as many aspects of those decisions as possible. While we can't run a business on consensus, we utilize the collective genius of the group to assess our ideas, solicit feedback and make informed decisions.

Can we please every clinician? No, but they at least know that their opinions are highly respected and thoughtfully considered.

Hierarchy is helpful and important, but it doesn't have to translate into top-down inflexibility that dishonors and ignores the crucial human parts that make up the collective whole.

Pivoting and being nimble

In this volatile and rapidly changing healthcare environment, agencies like ours must be ready to pivot when the winds shift and creative thinking is needed. The very ground beneath us can shift at any moment, and nimbleness of mind is a root of the crucial flexibility that 21st-century healthcare demands of those who wish to thrive.

We're indeed nimble and ready for change, and we do our best to lead the team in a manner that fosters individual and collective flexibility. From day to day, we're ready for what manifests, and solid nurse leadership is a central aspect of how we stake our claim in the home health landscape.

Leading well isn't rocket science, but it's an art that deserves our respect and attention. We're dedicated to leading with our hearts and our minds, and that symbiosis is a secret to our success.