Long-Term Care

Coming up for Air

Capitalizing on Change

Ah, September. A perfect time for new beginnings. As a Continuing Care leader, you’re often called on to spearhead new initiatives and facilitate changes. Which is seldom an easy job. Reorganizations, staff reassignments and such often demand tough conversations with co-workers, residents and their families.

No elephants allowed

Change theory experts like Margaret Wheatley support what we know from experience— effective communication is essential in helping teams adjust to change quickly, while ineffective communication costs time, energy and opportunities.

If you and your team are like most of us, just getting around to those tough conversations can be a challenge. Yet the inability to lead difficult discussions respectfully and successfully can lead to low morale and productivity. Unaddressed issues can turn into “the elephant in the room,” keeping groups from making necessary course corrections.

Smart talk

Here’s a checklist we use to help teams and individuals break this cycle and communicate effectively.

  1. First, get clear about the outcome you’re after.
    What message do you want to convey? Why is it important? Connecting as a team to a shared intent makes it possible to bring order out of confusion. If you’re tackling a gnarly discussion on your own, be proactive. Invest a few minutes beforehand writing out what you want to say. You might just avoid cleaning up misunderstandings later.
  2. Recognize your own feelings about the situation.
    Working through what’s at stake for you personally as well as the organization can put you in control of your emotions so they won’t run amok in the group setting.
  3. Remember your attitude is key. 
    Most communication occurs nonverbally—55 percent through facial expressions and body language; 38 percent through tone of voice; and only 7 percent, words. Be sure you convey a genuine openness to what others have to say. Be willing to negotiate, even to hear the word “no.” (Of course, when “no” is not an option, say so.)
  4. Rehearse the conversation! 
    Planning and practice mean you’re taking leadership, not leaving the outcome to chance, but instead helping to ensure your desired outcome.

Bonus points

Maximize your communication success with these three additional tips:

  1. Take responsibility. 
    Focusing on “I” statements—”I regret” or “I believe” rather than “you never”—establishes ownership of your emotions, creates clarity and models clean communication for others.
  2. Really listen. 
    We’re all equipped with two ears and one mouth, best used accordingly. So be curious about what others have to say. Ask questions, then stifle the urge to judge and seriously consider the answers.
  3. Take breaks as needed. 
    We can only absorb information for about 90 minutes at a time. So when eyes begin to glaze over, stop for a while before picking up the conversation.

Want to learn more about finessing change?

Join Mary Ellen and Juhree at the BCNPHA conference on Nov. 16th at 2pm for a special workshop, “The Only Constant is Change – How to Navigate the Shifting Seas.”

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