OK, I’m in! Now what?

December 1, 2021

Deborah Kumar

OK, I’m in! Now What?

Each contract challenges interim healthcare leaders as they move into a new organization and must rapidly build relationships and win the trust of the leadership team and their new team.  As an experienced nurse leader, it is assumed that you know the expectations and are fully capable of self-directing.    Do not wait for someone there to tell you what to do.  You know what you were hired to do: the goals have been set.  Dive in and take charge!

How does your department fit in the whole?  Learn the placement of the department in the organization and meet with colleague leaders.  Seek to learn the organizational perspective of your department and how it fits with other departments: what issues may exist and how they work together.  This is your opportunity to build supportive relationships among your peers in the organization.  Be sure to do this within the first weeks.  These colleagues will be your support and resources throughout your assignment.

While the leadership may tell you what they feel are the issues, and you may be charged to achieve specific goals, you are powerless until you learn the team’s perspective.  This is where Appreciative Inquiry (AI) is your tool.  AI is a process that enables you to engage and inspire your new team toward achieving the goals.  [1]

The first step in AI is Discovery.  As you complete this action, you will find you have a dynamic team.  Take it one team member at a time and figure out what works well for each of them. [2]  This is an excellent opportunity to have a one-on-one conversation.  Who should you plan on interviewing?  Everybody!   You cannot understand the department until you have examined it from all sides and perspectives.  To achieve this clarity, you must talk to every team member.

Plan the interviews.  Have questions determined in advance.  Ask personal questions about each and then ask them about their work.  What is working now?  What is going well?  What would you like to see improved?  What opportunities are there?   Finally, allow them to ask you questions and ask them what they expect of you.    Take notes; it affirms your intent to honor their ideas.

This “appreciative interview” must be your priority in your first month.   It is a crucial step that engages the team and builds trust.  Done well, team members will reclaim their ability to admire, be surprised, be inspired, and be appreciated and appreciate.[3]

The second phase in AI is the Dream Phase and can be started during the Discovery Phase.  During the interview process, you are asking about opportunities.  What is their vision, what would they like to see happen?   What could be the future in the best possible world?    By allowing them to dream and voice their ideas, you are setting them up to realize the future and the goals of the team and the organization.

Be sure that you are also spending time on the unit as you complete the interviews and meetings – with visibility on all shifts.  This triumvirate of action will assure that you are successful in the following steps leading the team to success!

In January, we will advance to the next step.  What do you do next? How can you develop the big picture and appreciate, recognize, and celebrate what is working?


January Blog: Develop the big picture: What is working?

February Blog: Presentation to the executive/leadership team

March Blog: Presentation to the department team.

April Blog: Using I2E2:  involving the team and creating a vision

May Blog: Creating change that continues after the assignment ends.




[1] Cooperrider D, Whitney D: Appreciative Inquiry: a Positive Revolution in Change, Berkett-Koehler Publishing, Inc. 2005. page vii

[2] Tulgan, B. It’s OK to Be the Boss.  Collins. 2007 page 56

[3] Cooperrider D, Whitney D: Appreciative Inquiry: a Positive Revolution in Change, Berkett-Koehler Publishing, Inc. 2005. page 25