Through the years one of the biggest struggles for new clinical healthcare leaders is figuring out how best to lead, evaluate, mentor, and retain their staff.  This article is part one of three articles outlining the essential components that I have seen to quality leadership. One point we must consider as we walk through these articles is that as healthcare systems we must set up the structure to allow quality leadership to happen.  I have first and second-hand experience with being given 80 direct reports, 4 very different practices, or for frontline leaders’ expectations of working full time or almost full time on the floor, and then their leaders become upset when the leader duties are not completed or the turnover rate is high.    We must reflect on how we create the structure, what duties we expect of them, and is that structure conducive to encouraging someone to do their very best job and hiring, training, developing, and supporting their staff along with supporting the practice, procedural area, or infusion center they are running.  It also is essential that we let them be a part of shared governance so that they understand the roles, organizational expectations, scope of practice expectations and limitations, and have the ability to create a peer support group. 

In part one of this series we are going to talk about shadowing or direct observation of employees.  As a healthcare leader, this was the best tool I had to find areas that needed more education or growth, find workflows or processes that were not efficient or effective, develop an open and supportive relationship with my staff and truly understand at a much deeper level the work they do.  It also gives me fabulous information for discussions about performance, career growth,  and learning what opportunities they are interested in to keep the role interesting and a challenge so they remain fully engaged. 

Below we go into more detail on some of the primary advantages of shadowing and observing.  When I find leaders resistant to doing this work, it is usually that the structure does not support it, there are communication issues with the leader, or a lack of knowledge and understanding of the work that is being done and a fear of seeming ignorant. 

Observation and shadowing of employees offer several key benefits that can enhance both individual and organizational performance.

 Primary advantages:

1. **Improved Understanding of Roles and Processes**: By observing and shadowing employees, managers gain a deeper understanding of the daily tasks and responsibilities associated with different roles. This insight helps in better appreciating the complexity and nuances of various jobs within the organization.

2. **Identifying Training Needs**: Direct observation allows managers to identify skill gaps and areas where employees may need additional training or support. This targeted approach ensures that training resources are allocated effectively and efficiently.

3. **Enhancing Communication and Collaboration**: Observation and shadowing can break down silos by fostering a greater understanding and appreciation among team members for each other’s work. This improved understanding can lead to better communication and collaboration across departments.

4. **Performance Improvement**: By seeing how employees perform their tasks, managers can provide specific, actionable feedback to help improve performance. This real-time feedback is often more impactful than feedback given in more formal settings.

5. **Identifying Best Practices and Areas for Improvement**: Observing employees allows managers to identify both best practices that can be shared across the organization and areas where processes can be streamlined or improved.

6. **Employee Development**: Shadowing also can provide employees with the opportunity to learn from more experienced colleagues, gaining insights and practical knowledge that can aid in their professional development. It can also prepare employees for future roles by exposing them to different functions and responsibilities.

7. **Building Trust and Rapport**: Spending time observing and shadowing employees can help build stronger relationships. Employees often appreciate the interest and attention from their managers, which can increase trust and rapport.

8. **Informed Decision-Making**: Managers who have first-hand knowledge of the day-to-day operations and challenges faced by their employees are better equipped to make informed decisions that positively impact the team and organization.

9. **Encouraging Reflective Practice**: Employees being observed often reflect more critically on their own work processes and practices. This self-reflection can lead to personal insights and improvements.

10. **Enhanced Employee Engagement**: When employees feel that their work is being recognized and understood by their managers, it can lead to higher levels of engagement and motivation.

In summary, observation and shadowing of employees provide valuable insights that can lead to better understanding, enhanced communication, targeted training, and improved performance. This hands-on approach fosters a culture of continuous learning and development, benefiting both the employees and the organization as a whole.  Let’s take a look at our structure to ensure we are supporting this work so that our staff are performing their best, our processes are top quality and efficient, and both our leaders and the staff feel valued and engaged. 

Reach out to us to evaluate your current leadership structure, hold focus groups to find areas that are a struggle for leaders and staff, or engage in a quality improvement project for you to incorporate these advantages into your clinics, infusion centers, hospital outpatient, and procedural areas.