The Journal of Continuing Education in Nursing

Leadership and Development 

Tips and Trends to Start the New Year

Michael R. Bleich, PhD, RN, FAAN


With the New Year comes the opportunity to set goals and advance training and development opportunities for leaders. This article presents five tips and five trends that serve as prognosticators for the coming year, including tips to influence time management and leadership impact and trends, such as sexual harassment training and “soft” skills development, which are now core skills for team success. A shift from hierarchical structures to network- and relationship-centered webs for advanced problem solving is also projected.

J Contin Educ Nurs. 2018;49(1):7–9.


With the New Year comes the opportunity to set goals and advance training and development opportunities for leaders. This article presents five tips and five trends that serve as prognosticators for the coming year, including tips to influence time management and leadership impact and trends, such as sexual harassment training and “soft” skills development, which are now core skills for team success. A shift from hierarchical structures to network- and relationship-centered webs for advanced problem solving is also projected.

J Contin Educ Nurs. 2018;49(1):7–9.

Each New Year presents the opportunity for self-review, fresh thinking, and goal setting. As holidays come and go, the normative rhythm of personal and work life shifts creating space for creative thinking. If your thoughts and goals for 2018 are undeveloped or you want to refresh your list, the tips and trends presented in this article are worth considering.


Pick a Word to Guide Your Year

A family friend selects a thematic word each year with her family, and weekly they discuss how the word has become a guiding light in their lives. This year, the family word is discovery. Another year it was compassion. As professional development educators, what word would you thread through your initiatives and plans for the coming year? Is there a way to celebrate and reflect on your thematic word each week and create a journal entry to capture how this word has shaped your professional endeavors? My thematic word for 2018 is innovation. My journal entries will spell out how I have fostered breakthrough and creative ideas in my work. A leader who can express a vision in a single word has focus.

Eliminate Time-Draining Meetings That Do Not Favor Energy and Outcome Achievement

There are two strategies to address this, and both are worth considering. The first is to eliminate unnecessary meetings. In some organizations, leaders like to have meetings “on the books,” with the idea that they can be cancelled if needed. Think about this, is it worth putting placeholder meetings on a calendar thereby blocking you from productive work? This leads to the second strategy, to plan and shape meetings that are meaningful. Professional development educators own the opportunity to model high-impact meetings. But, educators also can add to their training and development programs the subject of effective meeting management. If chosen, then ensure that the subject content should encourage that each meeting has a stated purpose and a list of outcomes to achieve, noted with the agenda. Agendas should reflect high-priority items first with time allocated for each priority item. Routine reports are best submitted in writing and approved by consensus at the meeting's onset. Acting on this tip has just given you and your colleagues the gift of time, improved meeting outcomes, and saved salary dollars. Great leaders communicate effectively; meetings are the most common platform for high-impact communication.

Read for Substance

In pursuing high-quality writing, I find myself often disappointed, particularly in the leadership-related literature. Two categories of writing prevail. The first I reference as “cookbook” leadership. These writers give readers absurdly simplistic prescriptive steps guaranteed to expand their leadership effectiveness, solve problems, and manage change, all with an eye toward self-improvement. The second is “buzzword” writing, which takes subject matter such as transformational leadership or patient-centered care and reduces the subject to elementary ideas without true concept analysis or deep understanding of intent, or without the use of evidence.

Some authors of leadership literature know their audience is seeking quick and easy solutions for the complex role dynamics that play out in organizational settings. I have fallen prey to a flashy title, an attractive book cover, and the promise of salvation from the challenges of the workplace. Professional development educators can aid leaders to read for substance, which may require deep study that yields greater satisfaction. Select authors who use substantive references to support their work select subject matter that pushes the boundaries of leadership. Preview a book with an eye toward reading it through to the end, meaning that the author scaffolds new information throughout the book and has a writing style worth pursuing. Reading volumes of content with which one has familiarity may seem trend setting; reading less, but with selectivity, expands knowledge and perspective, and generates a value-rich proposition. Leaders become informed and more interesting conversationalists through reading.

Push Into Using Technology

Whether it is technology for office and time management, for teaching, or for clinical practice, technology requires educators to prepare and embrace for new and effective applications. Start with optimizing current programs and applications. Then, explore emerging technology. Use criteria to determine whether technology enhances your work and career. What, if anything, is the cost? What is the ease of use? Does the product enhance the profession or add to or add to professional–looking work? What is the likely shelf life of the technology to make it worth time and effort? Is it scalable for others to also benefit from its use? If technology avoidance or suboptimization has been a choice, this is the year to change that perspective.

Sleep More and Create Space for Mindful Reflection

Neuroscience has surely expanded in the past decade with the advent of new mind-mapping technologies, genomic developments, and a fuller appreciation by the scientific community of the mind–body connection. Oakley (2014) described brain functioning as oriented to focused thinking (intense problem solving) and diffuse thinking (creativity and innovation). Most leaders are in-the-moment problem solvers, with extraordinary energy spent in the here and now. Professional development educators require sufficient reflection time (built into each day's routine) for a reinfusion of energy and a shift to diffuse thinking. After a 1-hour focused meeting (see the previous meeting tip), build in an intentional 10-minute break to walk, dim the lights and reflect, or listen to music to create mental space for ideas to seep in. Like a tea bag in hot water, the quieting activity will autonomically generate solutions and ideas. This, balanced with sufficient sleep, is a recipe for mind health (Walker, 2017).

Recall in your science training the diagram of a solvent-filled jar with one side laden with salt molecules, a filter to divide the jar, and other side filled with water? After time, the jar is equal with salt molecules in balance on both sides of the jar. That diagram of osmosis as a filter is analogous to going to bed with a brain filled with idea remnants, interactional recalls, and other salty noise from the day; sleep is the filter. By morning, the mind purifies the noise and un-useful data, leaving only important ideas, some of which reflect solutions to the more perplexing ideas. Sleep is a leadership intervention, created by an unconscious assimilation of what matters! I find that a long and soothing shower, a leisurely walk, or a relaxed car ride can also induce the same osmotic impact, opening mental space to serendipitous clarifying ideas. Do not underestimate the leadership need for sleep, always, but particularly in stressful situations.


Sexual Harassment and Workplace Improprieties Training

The national and international #MeToo movement to address sexual harassment in the workplace will be a training and development priority. Efforts will require policy and procedure reviews, clarifying what constitutes harassment, and how organizational leaders will respond to behavioral breeches that cross a boundary. Training content must include the identification of individuals who are abusers, the processes for reporting and assuring compliance, protections for the accused and the accusers during due process, and assurance that retribution is not part of the culture. Bullying with complement training agendas.

Soft Skills Are Critical Skills

The multigenerational and technology-using workforce creates training needs that emphasize written and verbal communication in the workplace, how to work in teams that model collaboration rather than hierarchy, and navigating the political structures in the workplace (Hayes, 2017). While organization charts remain one-dimensional and hierarchical, professional development educators must provide the foundation for networks and relational webs as the more likely alternative to change management. The duality of hierarchical structures and relational webs must coexist into the next decade, making communication clarity and focus even more high stakes in terms of quality and safety. Soft skills are teachable and critical in competitive and chaotic environments where working under pressure, and high-stakes decision making are the norm.

Leadership Training Remains Exigent

The idea continues to grow that leadership and an ability to manage is excessively broader than those who hold a formal leadership title. In health care, the intensifying dynamics of caring for the critically ill, treating patients with conditions linked to polychronicity, advances in genomics and personalized medicine, and expanding technologies all create conditions that necessitate the pursuit of complex problem–solving and high-stakes decision making within stratagems aligned with the problem at hand, outside of traditional teams. Leadership training must move beyond self-awareness and trait development and into more substantive approaches to computer-aided, epidemiologic, and ecosensitive decision making to augment and challenge intuition-based practices. Organizations are identifying talented individuals who get things done without management authority and investing in their development.

Big Data and Population Health

As population health continues to gain traction in the coming year—and it is—it becomes important to realize that the term itself has multiple meanings to various health professionals and other stakeholders. For some, the population is an insured (or uninsured) group of individuals. For others, it is bound in geographic or in age categories. Yet other definitions particularly common in nursing focus on disease-based groupings, such as those individuals with congestive heart failure or an oncology diagnosis such as breast cancer. Another grouping includes individuals experiencing restrictions in functional status, palliative care, or end-of-life care. The trend is to push decision making surrounding population-based interventions and outcomes management down in the organization; this is a training opportunity. Solving problems for populations begins with operational awareness of the population and the nature of the problem to be solved—is the issue based in economics? Is it a clinical issue? Or is it based in the care delivery model linked to efficiency or effectiveness? Using and stratifying data from large databases is best achieved when knowledge of the population, the nature of the problem, and full recognition of the data or information that can be retrieved and analyzed is known. Professional development educators and organizational leaders should not be shy about asking for their own development in this critical area.

Medical Technology Advancements

Any attempt to comprehensively predict new technology advancements for the coming year would be difficult at best, as technologies are emerging in companies large and small, with local and regional applications. Here is what we know: Virtual technology and augmented reality will continue to influence training and development and make its way to patient education. Wearable devices and microlevel analysis of human specimens will advance as adjuncts to telehealth applications. Bioprinting will influence transplantation and artificial limb creations, all suggested by Bertalan (2016). Pay special attention to nurse innovators who are creating new applications and products for the marketplace. For example, three nurses have created a Caesarian section drape for use in the operating room that provides mother and baby skin-to-skin contact (Jarrelle, 2017). Patient-centered and provider-friendly technologies will need to be advanced by organizational leaders.

The year 2018 promises to be a challenging one as health reform continues to reconfigure itself within the United States. Leadership and education are an antidote for change. Let us toast to what is to come.


  • Bertalan, M. (2016). Top 10 new medical technologies of 2016. Retrieved from
  • Hayes, K. (2017). The soft skills that matter the most for millennials in the work-place. Retrieved from
  • Jarrelle, K. (2017, December). Nursing compassion and innovation: Improving outcomes for mothers and babies after a cesarean section. In Feierstein, J (Chair), Feierstein Presentation. Symposium conducted at the meeting of Institute for Healthcare Improvement—RVA Chapter. , Richmond, VA. .
  • Oakley, B. (2014). A mind for numbers: How to excel at math and science (even if you flunked algebra). New York, NY: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Penguin.
  • Walker, M. (2017). Why we sleep: Unlocking the power of sleep and dreams. New York, NY: Simon and Schuster.

Dr. Bleich is President and Chief Executive Officer, NursDynamics, Chesterfield, Missouri.

The author has disclosed no potential conflicts of interest, financial or otherwise.

Address correspondence to Michael R. Bleich, PhD, RN, FAAN, President and Chief Executive Officer, NursDynamics, 2702 Wynncrest Manor Drive, Chesterfield, MO 63005; e-mail:


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