A Leadership Launchpad for New Duke Supervisors

Fifteen supervisors at Duke University Hospital take six-month Supervisory Excellence Program together

A class listens to the instructor.

Nelson has worked at Duke for five years and was elevated to his supervisory role a little over a year ago. While he knew plenty about the department, which moves patients quickly and safely around Duke’s sprawling medical campus, there was plenty about leadership that was new to him.

Ebony Utley, left, and Dashon Nelson, right, work together during one of the class sessions for the Supervisory Certificate of Excellence program. Photo by Stephen Schramm.

For Nelson and 14 other new supervisors from different teams in Duke University Hospital, the past few months have provided an opportunity to learn what it takes to excel in their role and help those around them thrive. Unfolding over the first half of 2024, the pilot program organized by Page and others in Duke University Hospital invests in the growth of new supervisors with a customized learning path designed in partnership with Duke Learning & Organization Development (L&OD), a unit within Duke Human Resources.

“What you find in health care is that most people who are selected for leadership roles are selected on the basis of their technical competence, meaning they’re an expert and demonstrate excellence in the way they deliver care,” said Duke University Hospital Chief Human Resources and Retention Officer Deborah Page, who helped initiate the program. “People assume that because somebody is excellent at that part of it, they would also be an excellent leader. That’s not always true. For us, the goal is to build the depth of skill for that person as a leader so they can marry it with their technical abilities.”

The program gives supervisors a chance to complete the Supervisory Certificate of Excellence program, which consists of six courses on coaching, situational leadership, delivering feedback and more, and training on Microsoft Office tools such as Word, Excel and PowerPoint.

“The beauty of this is that it puts everybody on the same page,” said Duke Human Resources Associate Director for Organization & Workforce Development Gina Rogers, who helped design the program.  “For those that participated, it drives their skill development and the subsequent utility of those skills in an ongoing way.”

The idea was initiated in the fall of 2023 when Sean Gibson, Administrative Director of Duke University Hospital Emergency Services, saw a need for leadership development among some of the new supervisors on his teams.

"We've got a fantastic leadership team; we just need to provide them with the resources and tools to excel as supervisors and managers,” Gibson said.

With a high-intensity workflow and a wave of recently promoted supervisors on the nearly 200-person team, Patient Transport Services was identified as a group where leadership training could be especially valuable.

Patient Transport Manager Ebony Utley said she's been able to sharpen her leadership skills through the Supervisory Certificate of Excellence program. Photo by Stephen Schramm.

“When you become a manager, there’s never really a time when you can sit down and think about how you’re supposed to go from Point A to Point Z,” said Brandy Cox, Administrative Manager for Patient Transport Services. “This is health care. For us, every day does not look the same.”

After consulting with Page and Duke University Hospital Assistant Human Resources Director Nicole Spell, the decision was made to partner with L&OD, which can craft training programs for the needs of Duke teams.

Starting in January, the 15 new Duke University Hospital Managers – drawn from Patient Transport, Sterile Processing, Patient & Visitor Relations and other departments – began their customized training journey.

Two Wednesdays per month, the participants gathered at the L&OD classroom on Central Campus and for courses such as Keys to Supervisory Success and Situational Leadership II. They also got specialized guidance on employment policies and procedures from Duke Human Resources and training on Microsoft Office tools.

Patient Transport Manager Ebony Utley, who has worked at Duke for 16 years but has only been a manager for three, said she has already begun weaving some of the lessons from the coursework into how she relates to her employees.

“You need to show your employees that they are part of a family,” Utley said. “Being a manager is more than just telling them what to do. It’s about having conversations with them and seeing how they’re doing as a person, aside from an employee.”

Learn about consulting and custom training options from Duke’s Learning & Organization Development (L&OD).

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