Leadership rounding is increasingly important in today’s healthcare settings. Huron Consulting, a global professional services firm, defines rounding as, “the consistent practice of asking questions of key stakeholders—leaders, employees, physicians, and patients—to obtain actionable information”.1 A gold standard for engaging others, rounding for outcomes is correlated with bottom-line metrics, such as improved patient outcomes, higher employee retention, fewer clinical errors/omissions, and enhanced collaboration amongst clinical staff. While the importance of effectively leading others through times of great uncertainty has long been important, the last three years of the COVID era have brought unique and multiple challenges to leaders in health care—not “merely” for care delivery but also for how they lead their subordinates.2 Leaders can deliver these questions via a coach approach to enhance the experience, invigorate the relationship between leaders and their subordinates/colleagues, and improve care for patients served by rounding recipients. This article will discuss common rounding questions, how to adapt and tailor rounding, and two specific coaching skills that can be infused in rounding.
The following four most common rounding questions can be tailored and including follow-up questions:
1. What’s working well?
Starting with “What’s working well?” is preferred as it leverages appreciative inquiry to tap into positive affect, pride, and open rounding on an upbeat note.
2. Do you have the resources to do your job?
If a leader finds out that a subordinate does not have the resources needed to do her/his job, it’s vital to act on that information in as timely a manner as possible.
3. Is there anything that I can do better to help you perform well?
Be curious and sincere and ask what you, the leader, can do to help your people perform better. Rounding can help leaders hone communication and talent development skills while giving employees opportunities to ask questions, discuss goals, share challenges and interests.
4. Is there anyone who has been especially helpful to you?3
Just as the opening rounding question can elicit the positive, this final question also leverages an appreciative inquiry lens. By simply asking, leaders can know whom they should recognize for doing great work.
Rounding for outcomes is more intentional and deliberately prescriptive to glean valuable information in a short period of time as compared to the practice of management by walking around. The term was coined in the early 1980s, describing better managers/leaders as better communicators by engaging in informal (i.e., outside of the meeting room) conversations with their employees.4 In other words, rounding isn’t just being “friendly” at work; it helps drive organizational success, foster connection, and uncover information to act upon. Rounding can offer a competitive advantage in retaining and engaging employees who desire this type of connection and 1-on-1 time with leadership.
For companies who have moved to hybrid work models following pandemic-influenced remote work, ensuring that rounding can occur when employees are present does require planning.5 Rounding can also be adapted and done in a virtual fashion. Some considerations and recommendations to make virtual rounding impactful are: have those conversations occur on “less busy” days (e.g., administrative days); ensure you schedule more time than you may actually use; and, have no more than three weeks between virtual rounding conversations.
Rounding serves to develop leader skills in the person who rounds as well as can serve as development for those rounded on. Two specific coaching skills that integrate well within rounding conversations are: first, appropriate self-disclosure (on the part of the leader) and second, maximizing open-ended questions when rounding. Rounding provides a customizable framework to yield high value information in 10 minutes or less. In conclusion, rounding makes good business sense and can be mutually beneficial and enjoyable for both the leader and rounding recipient. It also can significantly enhance patient care and patient outcomes.