The emotional coach must also be able to assist learners in ownership of the beliefs they portray through their actions. This lays the groundwork for a shared vision and actions that wholesomely support team effectiveness, not just rote behaviors carried out because they should be. When team members are acting out of expectation or obligation but they lack the enthusiasm to back it up, there may be something wrong with their core belief. Just as there are times when the behavior does not exemplify the belief—for example, when a nurse believes that patients are her priority but dawdles and does not give them her complete attention because she feels unappreciated and undervalued—there are also situations where seemingly appropriate behavior belies a lack of ownership of the belief. In other words, a team member may go along with the team just because he is supposed to, when in fact he is resentful of the team's mission because it encroaches on some personal desire of his own. It takes emotional skill on the part of the leader to identify the true emotional makeup of the individual's belief and to help him understand it. He can then be encouraged to examine his feelings in the light of how his personal concerns now may affect his willing participation later, and encouraged to talk through his concerns with the group or seek ways to manage the feelings that are causing him difficulty.
TEACH THE TEAM TO BACK INTO GOALS AND BELIEFS. Back planning involves starting with a goal and planning actions around reaching that goal. It is difficult to get started with something or even to know where or when to start, if one is unsure of the steps involved. Savage (2003) recommends approaching complex tasks or changes as one would approach dinner preparation: determine the end result (for example, serve dinner at 6 p.m.) and then work backward to formulate desired steps (for example, carve the turkey at 5:45 p.m., roast the turkey at 2 p.m.). Similarly, nurses can be taught to back into beliefs that support behaviors by acknowledging the desired behavior or goal, then planning the changes needed to bring it about, including acknowledgment of any beliefs or feelings surrounding the change.
USE RESPECT, INTEGRITY, AND COMPASSION. Along with emotion management, professional empowerment, and empowerment by values, Staring (1999) identifies respect, integrity, and compassion as mutual core values that affect a team's success. Aligning belief with behavior certainly must involve having core values that are synchronized with those of other team members if the team is to work together for the good of the unit or department. As the leader guides individuals to align their beliefs with their behaviors and establish common goals, she should ask whether appropriate respect and compassion is demonstrated for each team member and whether integrity underlies her interactions with the team.
UNDERSTAND EMOTIONS' RELATIONSHIP WITH CULTURE AND MORALITY. Emotions are very personal parts of our being, partly because emotions have much to do with culture and morality. Hoffmaster (2003)
points out how some emotions may compel people to harm others (for example, hatred may result in murder), while others, such as gratitude, might spur benevolent actions. While not all actions can be generalized as related to one specific emotion, the leader should be aware and make others aware of the relationship between an action and an emotion or even between potential actions and emotions. When individuals can understand emotions, they are more able to relate emotions to thought patterns and specific transitions that might lead to an action (Mayer, Salovey, and Caruso, 2000, 2002).
A more specific application of this principle is that understanding emotions' relationships with culture allows the nurse leader to have a more nuanced understanding of cultural patterns that may affect a person's reactions. Consider the phrase "How are you?" In the United States and perhaps in other cultures, when "How are you?" is said to a nonac-quaintance, it is often interpreted and responded to as a greeting. For most of us, being asked "How are you?" by the teller at the bank or the cashier at the supermarket would not result in an outpouring of our feelings about the day's events. However, visitors from Europe and Asia have anec-dotally reported being taken aback by the brusque "How are you?" offered on their initial contacts with U.S. citizens. Many of the visitors interpreted it as a genuine inquiry, not merely a greeting. In their countries, a question such as "How are you?" would be interpreted as genuine interest, so they felt frustration and hurt at the clipping of the greeting in the United States. This is only one example of the many ways in which culture affects our social expectations, including those that may influence our emotions. Therefore, when beliefs and behavior seem misaligned, the astute nurse leader should also consider any cultural or background experiences that may be affecting the constituent's beliefs or actions. These might include social background, religious or moral principles, or ethnic and regional influences. It is important, if the leader does sense a problem that she has difficulty understanding, that she approach the constituent with genuine willingness to understand, and to help the constituent better understand, the root causes of the issue.
PROMOTE SELF-DIRECTED LEARNING. Merely teaching emotional competencies is insufficient to translate beliefs into behavior. Behavioral changes are best ingrained through self-directed learning in which the learner practices different behaviors and receives feedback from a coach or mentor (Dearborn, 2002). Traditional nursing training does not provide the opportunity for this kind of learning, partly because it focuses on providing vast amounts of critical knowledge in a short amount of time. Nonetheless, experimentation and follow-up are key to developing emotional memory and competence; we learn to be more effective emotionally only through learning which emotional behaviors are most and least supportive of effective practice. As we learn, we integrate our learning into our belief system.
Self-directed learning also contains an element of self-assessment, the same fundamental tool espoused by Mayer, Salovey, and Caruso (1999, 2000, 2002) and Goleman (1998a). Dearborn (2002) recommends tools for self-assessment that allow learners to understand where they are with emotional skills, how they are perceived by others, and what changes in belief or behavior are needed to reach a desired goal.
FACILITATE SYSTEM CHANGE. Often, an entire system needs to be changed in order to optimize practice or to accommodate new organizational realities. Unit and organizational structures, which may affect a nurse's beliefs about practice, are usually established by leaders above the nurse level. The shared leadership model does allow nurses to have input into change processes and can be powerful in the unit setting. Feinstein (2003) promotes care dictated by patient need, not medical supply. We might apply the same to nursing systems and cultures. When the unit or team culture is dictated by the needs of the patients or of the staff itself, beliefs become more naturally aligned with the behaviors of the group. Feinstein's recommendations for health care as a whole include investment in an infrastructure capable of supporting system improvement, relaxation of counterproductive policies, and measures that would introduce the appropriate sequences or processes. The nurse leader should apply similar approaches in areas where system change appears to be needed.
PRACTICE AND PROMOTE ETHICAL BEHAVIOR. Of course, we cannot overlook ethical behavior and beliefs in coaching emotional fitness. In situations involving ethical issues, it is most important that belief and behavior be aligned. As leaders and health care professionals face ethical challenges, whether due to technology, business decisions, or staffing issues, they should continually strive to advance the ethical development of both themselves and their team (Clancy, 2003). The ethical fitness of the team and its members will play a large role in their decision making, and certainly as leaders, we want their decisions to be ethical ones! Continuing education courses in ethics or review of the profession's code of ethics may also help learners understand their own ethical positions and undertake any reconsideration of their positions that they deem appropriate.
ALLOW REPRESENTATION TO OTHER ORGANIZATIONAL GROUPS. When a group is self-contained, it is much easier for individual members to act out of line with beliefs by going along with the crowd, especially if there is peer pressure to conform. Promoting a belief to another group, the organization, or a department head, however, is more challenging if beliefs are not aligned with behavior. For example, if a team member did not truly endorse a group decision, it would be more difficult for him or her to approach the CEO with the rationale for the decision than it would be to silently not approve in the group setting. For this reason among many, team members should be aware that they are potential liaisons to other organizational constituencies and that their work will be recognized at higher levels of leadership (Druskat, 2001). The nursing staff at a disease management organization, who were rewriting and updating each disease-specific assessment tool, were constantly aware that their work would be presented to senior management and incorporated into their daily practice. Knowing this, their belief in their work product was enhanced and emboldened, and they were able to produce a product that they firmly believed in.
Was this article helpful?