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Candid Communication in Nursing Leadership and Education: Pause, Reflect, and Plan

Updated: Mar 2, 2021

As you may have read in the Spring 2019 edition of The Ignite Letter (subscribers), we are focused on bringing in content on expanding our nursing ways of knowing to support success this season. In reviewing how we have grown and what we have learned more about from both internal and external sources inclusive of all four ways of knowing (empirical, personal, ethical, and aesthetic), one of the focuses that we keep coming back to is communication, and more specifically for the purpose of sharing with you for this blog, communication within nursing leadership. We believe communication is fundamental to everything that we do as nurses, as educators, as leaders in our everyday healthcare worlds. In order to fully embrace it’s potential, we must understand how our engagements impact others and ourselves and how to best drive these engagements for positive outcomes.

Typically we share our Pause, Reflect, and Plan content at the end of our blog posts; however, today we are looking to encourage you to really think about your communication and leadership styles early on. Let’s dive into some scenarios here that may sound familiar to you, perhaps from your own engagements or from those that you have witnessed.

  • Person A (nursing leader) is completing an employee review of Person B (nurse) and finds that Person B is doing a great job. When Person A meets with Person B, they give them lots of praise and tell them to keep up the good work.

  • Person A (nursing leader) and Person B (nursing leader) walk out of a meeting together. On their way to lunch they pass by Person C (nursing leader who led the meeting) in the hallway and tell him his points were wrong, then keep walking.

  • Person A (nurse) keeps making mistakes at work and seems very stressed out. Person B (nursing leader) notices and lends words of encouragement, such as “Don’t worry, you are doing great” and “It’s ok, no one really minds.”

Now, think about these examples. You may notice some obvious similarities right away and perhaps some more subtle connections as you ponder. Think about the ways in which your interactions could benefit from being completely candid. Do you find yourself feeling too vulnerable to be candid? Do you fear that what you may have to present to someone will in some way come back to bite you because you feel ill equipped to deliver your message effectively? When we present ourselves as anything short of candid, we are committing a large disservice to everyone involved. If our interactions are not useful, then they are not substantial. Our impact relies on our ability to establish meaningful connections with significant feedback. Developing this strength will not only prove worthwhile when leading nurses, faculty, and interdisciplinary teams, but also when leading learners. Candid connections are contagious! Think: My communication style with the staff nurse five minutes ago may have just encouraged her candid communication with that doctor. The benefits are plentiful.

For this topic we are bringing in the wise words of Kim Scott, author of Radical Candor: Be A Kickass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity! She does a wonderful job at supporting growth of candid interpersonal relationships and she shares some of her ways of knowing in this video:

Regularly integrating candid communication into your everyday interactions may seem challenging at first, and it may even take some time to become fluid and comfortable, but in the end that effort is worth it, as it will promote positive outcomes for the multitude of stakeholders unknowingly begging for it.

RocketSpace. (2016). Kim Scott radical candor: How to be a better boss RocketSpace speaker series. [Video file]. Retrieved from


Connect with Kim Scott via Twitter @kimballscott



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