How to: developing aged care leaders on a budget

High quality leadership development in aged care can happen on a relatively small budget, says Dr Judith Chapman, who outlines four elements of a winning strategy.

High quality leadership development in aged care can happen on a relatively small budget, says Dr Judith Chapman, who outlines four elements of a winning strategy. 

It’s challenging times for aged care organisations, and CEOs are taking a hard look at the bottom line.

Dr Judith Chapman
Dr Judith Chapman

There’s no fat left to cut. Some things are must haves – if they go the impact would be felt immediately. Other things are also important, but the pain of their loss is a more distant prospect. Reluctantly, eyes turn to the training budget.

The good news is that high quality leadership development can happen on a relatively small budget. What counts is that return on the investment is strong in terms of better decision making and team leadership from clinical leaders who are given the opportunity to participate.

So why not reconsider what you are doing? If your organisation is like most others, the current approach will be fairly traditional with a focus on classroom training sessions and online learning modules that teach leadership knowledge and skills. These have their place, but not as the centerpiece in a contemporary leadership development strategy. You will get better value from development that is tailored to the needs of individual leaders using ideas and processes they can implement straight away.

Here are the four elements of a winning strategy based on these principles:

Step 1:

Start with the end in mind. Let’s assume you want clinical leaders who are confident and credible, good with people and able to solve problems with minimal assistance. It’s all about the things they can do, rather than the skills that leaders are supposed to have. Begin by listing the attitudes and actions you want from people in your facility.

Once you have outlined four or five key actions – such as delegating, managing crises and implementing safety procedures – develop micro methods such as those outlined below to achieve progress in your targeted areas.

You do not need to spend lots of money on long and complicated leadership development courses to make a real difference.

Step 2:

Help leaders become more self-aware about the things they are capable of doing now, and the capabilities they need to develop. Leadership inventories and assessments promote reflection and help people to set goals that are realistic for them. However, most that are offered commercially are very expensive.

Fortunately, many excellent instruments are a fraction of the usual cost and are readily available. For example, you could provide assessments of interpersonal style, decision-making style, workplace values, self-management or responses to stress.

Step 3:

Set up ‘leadership study groups’ using social media and invite clinical leaders to participate. Expertly facilitated, these forums allow problem solving around real issues such as those listed above, or other issues you identify.

These online forums can be cost and time-effective alternatives to one-on-one coaching and leadership development workshops.

Step 4:

Create a climate in your facility where staff support one another in their learning and development. Actively encourage experienced leaders to mentor their younger colleagues. Set up and support a system of peer coaching among your emerging leaders.

Why would your leadership development strategy succeed using the four planks outlined above? It’s quite straightforward. The focus is on directly targeting the actions that are critical to leadership in your facility.

With guided reflection, each person identifies what they are capable of doing and sets goals for their own development. Discussion forums, mentoring and peer support address real problems and help people find workable solutions.

Collectively, a can-do mindset emerges that carries through to future successes.

Dr Judith Chapman is an organisational psychologist and author of You Can Lead: your complete guide to managing people and teams.

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Tags: aged care leadership, budget, judith chapman, leadership, training,

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