Walking in their Shoes

Nurses walking through hospital hallway

As I noted in a recent post, I spent several hours each month working on the front lines with team members across the hospital. Over the course of the last year, I have helped transport patients, worked with surgeons, residents and fellows, logged in 20,000 steps in one night delivering meals, accompanied nurses in the Cardio Thoracic ICU and Neuro ICUs on rounds and vitals, changed beds sheets with patient care techs, drawn blood with phlebotomists, and worked on medical surgical floors with nurses and therapists. In many ways, this is one of my favorite parts of the job�so much so, that I have been doing it for years. 

My intention in shadowing team members is not to spy on them, micromanage operations or garner unnecessary attention. I do this to be a more effective leader and team captain. Through this direct experience with my team members, I am able to understand my team better, grasp the challenges they face and see first-hand the amazing work they do. Additionally, it provides me the opportunity to garner vital feedback and gain invaluable insight into our operations.  

Working side by side my team members, I�m able to build a stronger connection with them. I gain an insight into who they are as people which improves communication. Witnessing their work up close, I can provide better feedback as I have a greater understanding for the complexities of their work, the challenges they face, and the sheer amount they have to accomplish. 

This time I spend with my team members also strengthens our ability to collaborate. Working together in this capacity, we develop a deeper understanding that we�re all in this together and have a greater appreciation for the unique talents we all bring to the table. 

While we might not all have the opportunity to work on the front lines with team members each month, they�re ways in which we as managers can gain a deeper insight into who our team members are as people and glean their perspectives on their work and the organization:

  • Ask questions! Ask questions that enable you to understand their process-why they work the way they do. Spend time talking with them to learn what they value most about their work and what they would change if they could.
  • Get to know them as people. Always spend the first five minutes talking with them on a subject outside of work. Relay a personal anecdote of your own to encourage them to share something about themselves. This will allow you to build a connection and a sense of trust.


The most effective leaders are ones that listen, act on what they learn and teach along the way. They are also ones who have empathy and an understanding of who their team members are outside of work. Spending time walking in your team members� shoes will help you develop these skills.

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