Violin and cello strings vibrated as music reverberated throughout the hall at Lincoln Center, as NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital nursing leaders sat recently among professional musicians ready to learn about leadership from conductor Roger Nierenberg during The Music Paradigm.
”Much like an orchestra, a nursing unit is a dynamic process, and that’s what he was showing us, with different styles,” said Cathy Crandall, MSN, RN, patient care director on the postpartum unit at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center. “It was great.”
After the nursing leadership’s book club read Nierenberg’s “Maestro: A Surprising Story About Leading By Listening,” Debra OHehir, MSN, MBA, RN, vice president of specialty services at NYP/Weill Cornell, recommended to CNO Willie Manzano, MA, RN, NEA-BC, that they take nurse leaders to one of the sessions.NewYork-Presbyterian’s nursing leaders applaud performers during The Music Paradigm leadership program presentation.
”It was a creative way of helping our nurses be more transformational,” said OHehir, who reports positive changes in her management teams leadership skills since the event.
Nierenberg met with the nursing leaders to understand their concerns and the organization’s goals in participating in the program. He then devised appropriate interactive exercises to bring the most important issues to light during an unscripted two-hour session in the concert hall.
”The difference in the way he demonstrated what we all know made it come alive,” said Jasmine Pond, MSN, RN, director of nursing at NYP/Lower Manhattan, adding that it reinforced leadership competencies.
Nierenberg used the interactive session to explain different leadership styles, messages sent by nonverbal communication, the value in adapting and changing, and the importance of leaders holding a clear vision about where they want the organization to go and staying a few steps in front of the people they are leading.Musicians play for NewYork-Presbyterian nurse leaders during an educational event.
“It wasn’t about the music but the lessons demonstrated through it,” said Jennifer Johnson, MSN, RNC, NE-BC, patient care director of medicine at NYP-The Allen Hospital. “Like anyone else, I was skeptical at first, but the lessons were profound. It made me think of myself as a transformational leader.”
The musicians had only come together less than an hour before the session, yet they all played well together, said the nurses in attendance.
“The lesson from that was that they were all professionals who knew music and only needed someone to guide them,” Johnson said. “It’s the same with nursing.”
Pond said the session confirmed the role of the leader in bringing out the best in team members.
Crandall indicated she learned people need ongoing, nonthreatening feedback rather than waiting for evaluations; to pay attention to people in other departments; and to step back and let others direct projects while not completely distancing herself.
“He develops a sense of community with the musicians, and that’s just as important on a nursing unit,” Crandall said. ”You care if someone is lagging behind, and you help.”Conductor Roger Nierenberg shares a laugh with nurse leaders during The Music Paradigm event.
At one point, Nierenberg backed away and let the orchestra play without his guidance. Johnson noticed immediately that those playing began making eye contact with certain musicians, much as nurses will seek out help from others when a leadership void exists.
“If you had a good eye, you could pick out the informal leaders,” Johnson said.
Then Nierenberg let the musicians play without making eye contact with each other, and the music sounded chaotic. The conductor followed by tightly directing how each musician played, and they expressed displeasure with his micromanaging. The music did not flow well.
”That’s the lesson I brought back,” Johnson said.
At the next staff meeting, she told her team members to do what they felt was best to make the patient experience great. Within two months, patient satisfaction scores increased from the 91st to the 99th percentile.
“We had never gotten there before, and I know it has to do with my giving them more autonomy,” Johnson said. “I have seen the results.”
Debra Anscombe Wood, RN, is a freelance writer.