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Lead with Levity: An Interview with Dr. Bob Dent, DNP, MBA, RN, NEA-BC, CENP, FACHE

Dr. Bob Dent is the Dean of Health Services for Midland College, as well as the VP of Patient Care and Chief Nursing Officer for Midland Memorial Hospital, which is located in Midland, Texas. He’s one of those impressive individuals who has more characters in the abbreviations of his professional accomplishments than most of us have in our actual name!

But his accomplishments aren’t just a result of his education, or his certifications. Dr. Dent’s caring, compassion, and charisma exude through his easy-going style and sense of humor. I’ve had the privilege of watching Dr. Dent during a visit to Midland Memorial and seen first-hand his mastery of leading with levity: setting the tone for fun while at the same time setting high expectations of his staff.

The result? They’ve achieved ANCC's Pathway to Excellence—twice! They are enthusiastic about their path on the ANCC Magnet Journey. Patient satisfaction scores are high and continue to climb, and employee satisfaction scores reflect how much they enjoy their work: a lot!

For an example of Dr. Dent’s leadership style, and how much it impacts the engagement of Midland Hospital employees, check out this video his team created to celebrate Nurse’s Week. When was the last time you saw a top executive lip-sync Pharrell Williams?

As you might imagine, Dr. Dent has some great insights for those of us who want to lead with levity. You’ll find highlights of our conversation below, or watch the whole thing for yourself on Google Hangouts.

Humor has a positive impact on all the indicators we track.

“When we look at engagement levels, patient satisfaction scores, and NDNQI numbers, we see that the use of humor has a positive impact. Humor breaks the monotony of what we do, and it’s incredibly important during the onboarding process, when we bring a new staff member on. We are always striving for balance: there’s a time to be serious and a time to have fun with each other. The result in an environment where there’s both fun and productivity.”

Look for opportunities to celebrate!

“Keep your eyes open for those moments that could be fun, where humor could be introduced. Our leadership team participated in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge – and we made sure we did it out in the courtyard, where everyone could see us through the windows. This gave them a chance to be part of the fun, as we got soaked and then challenged our colleagues in a neighboring town.

“You want to celebrate the small things, and the big things as well. When our nurses are honored with a DAISY award, we show up with the cinnamon rolls and balloons and have a good time with that. And we’re really proud of the fact that we’ve just been awarded a Pathway to Excellence award for the 2nd time– something we’re definitely going to celebrate!”

Be the example.

“If I want my team to use humor, I can’t be stressed all the time. To stay calm and collected, use humor to break through the day to day stuff that happens. It’s important to be visible. Be punctual and spend time with your staff. You can get caught up in things and just disappear into your office, but we can control that. Schedule time to be visible. Schedule time to have fun.”

Be Yourself – Unless You’re a Jerk!

“The best advice I can give someone who wants to add more humor to their leadership style is to just try it—as long as you know it won’t hurt or kill somebody. If your humor is inappropriate, someone will let you know.”

Lead with Levity Summary

Two things really jump out at me after my conversation with Dr. Dent. First: the use of humor has a proven positive impact on every aspect of Midland Memorial’s operations. Laughter improves the lives of patients, nurses, physicians, staff, and administration alike! Second: Adding humor to your organizational culture is an ongoing, deliberate practice—Dr. Dent looks for reasons to celebrate. How could you do this in your workplace? Humor is power. Find mentors and masters like Dr. Dent to help you on your journey to lead with levity!

Karyn Buxman is a neurohumorist and thought leader in applied humor. For free tips on how to make levity work for YOU, sign up here.


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