What Nurses Can Teach Business Leaders about Emotional Intelligence, Customer Satisfaction & Employee Engagement
In industries that have narrow margins and lofty goals, executives have to make certain every dollar invested yields greater returns, and that the end result is client satisfaction.
Nowhere is this more evident than in healthcare, where “value-based purchasing” is changing the way providers serve patients. The government withholds dollars from hospitals if the hospital doesn’t meet patient outcome targets; one of those targets is patient satisfaction.
What behaviors create a satisfied patient? Shelly Major, Ph.D., the Chief Nursing Officer with The Methodist Hospitals, wanted to know, so she designed an experiment as part of her Ph.D. program research with Benedictine University. She identified the nursing unit with the highest patient satisfaction scores, and then studied them using a standard measure of emotional intelligence and interviews.
Major discovered that the team with the highest patient satisfaction scores were also exceptionally emotionally intelligent. At the heart of this intelligence is an activity Major called “rounding,” that any leader can use to build a strong team, regardless of industry.
What is Rounding?
Rounding is a short, monthly, one-on-one meeting between a manager and her staff members, that covers a prescribed agenda. In this meeting, the manager asks a deliberate series of questions:
- How is your family?
- What’s going well here at work?
- Do you have the tools you need to do your job?
- Who may I recognize on your behalf?
In addition to these questions, the manager uses these brief conversations to transparently share team scores and expectations.
Rounding is a process of supporting principles many values-driven leaders already share: care for their employee in their wholeness of their lives, not merely as a member of the workforce; focus on equipping and empowering team members to do their work well; a belief in celebrating and rewarding those who are doing great work; and alignment around organizational priorities and expectations.
These conversations, when had repeatedly over time, create a strong bond between the nurse manager and the staff, says Major. “The staff feels like the manager really gets to know them, and because they have built a really strong tie, there’s a lot of trust. With the trust and the relationship comes a strong bond. An emotional connection.”
For the unit Major studied, that emotional connection had an important result: record-setting patient satisfaction scores. But that’s not all, the unit also had high rates of employee retention and employee morale. In other words, rounding helped produce happy employees and happy customers.
How to Make Rounding Work in Your Company
“Anyone can do rounding with their team,” says Major, who is now training other leaders within The Methodist Hospitals to employ the practice. She believes the concept is transferable outside of healthcare as well.
In the unit Major studied, four factors increased the effectiveness of rounding by building trust and clarity around priorities. These factors are below, along with questions you can ask to apply the factors to your own team:
- Team effectiveness – Major found that the unit that excelled at satisfying patients was clear on that metric as a goal. “Everyone knew what was expected, and they were focused on the goal and the outcomes,” says Major.
- Does my team know what metrics make us most successful? Do they know our strategy for reaching the goal?
- Engaged, shared leadership – On her superstar team, staff members felt like the manager was one of them. “She was out there helping during difficult times,” Major explains. “She asked for the opinions of her staff.” This created a sense of engaged and shared leadership that built trust among the team.
- Do my team members know they can count on me to pitch-in, and help carry the load? Do I ask for input and advice?
- Synergistic team identity – It wasn’t just the manager on the high-scoring team that pitched in: team members did everything they could to help one another. “They all answered call lights,” says Major.
- Do leaders on my team help each other out?
- Trust – Finally, these characteristics over time built an incredible amount of trust in each other, formed through social bonds and the ongoing knowledge that they could rely on one another.
- Do we trust our teammates? Are we trustworthy ourselves? If not, why?
“When you have those four areas, along with rounding, it leads to patient satisfaction. The rounding is the glue that holds it all together,” Major found. “They have what is considered in the literature ‘group’ or ‘team’ emotional intelligence.”
Dr. Shelly Major is the Chief Nursing Officer for The Methodist Hospitals and a graduate of the Ph.D./D.B.A. Program in Values-Driven Leadership.
Find more employee engagement and customer satisfaction tips in our eBook, Making Values Meaningful.