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7 Questions on Leadership with Earl Dalton

Name: Earl Dalton

Title: CNO

Organisation: Health Carousel

Earl Dalton MHA, MSL, BSN, NEA-BC, Chief Nursing Officer at Health Carousel, has over 25 years of acute hospital experience in various leadership roles from Adult Health to Emergency and Critical care. In addition, Dalton is an accomplished speaker, author, and innovator in the Healthcare industry. Dalton has worked for several hospital systems, most notably, the Duke University Health System, consistently in the top ten for healthcare delivery in the United States and globally. Dalton is an industry thought leader and has made exceptional work in Work Culture, Quality Improvement, and Customer experience.

Dalton earned a Master in Health Administration (MHA) and a Master in the Science of leadership (MSL) from Pfeiffer University in North Carolina in 2009 and 2011, respectively. Dalton earned his Bachelor in the science of Nursing (BSN) from the University of North Carolina in 2005. He has maintained his certification as a Nurse Executive Advanced – Board Certified (NEA_BC) through the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) for the past ten years, with his latest recertification in 2021.

Earl currently sits on the Board of Directors of the National Association of Travel Healthcare Organizations (NATHO) and acts as NATHO’s clinical Executive Counsel liaison. Earl is also a member of the Joint Commission’s Staffing advisory and technical council. Earl is also a member of the American Staffing Association (ASA) Healthcare Staffing Section and is an ASA mentor and official spokesperson for the association.

Dalton has spoken internationally and internationally at such events as the AMSN, AACN, and NACHR conferences. Dalton recently contributed to “Building a Culture of Safety: A National Nursing Licensure Model,” published in Becker’s June 2021. Dalton was also a contributing author to “Stay Strong for us,” Joe Tye, April 2021. In 2018, Earl keynoted the Philippines Nurse Association’s Annual Conference and events in South Korea and UAE. Finally, Dalton was published in Customer Care News for innovation in customer experience in 2015 and won the Mount St Joseph Distinguished Nurse Administrator award for Cincinnati. Dalton is enthusiastic about nursing and a strong advocate for the advancement of nursing.

Thank you to the 2,000 leaders who’ve generously done the 7 Questions on Leadership!

I hope Earl's answers will encourage you in your leadership journey. Enjoy!


Jonno White

1. What have you found most challenging as a leader?

I think the biggest challenge all leaders face is finding balance in the work. Effective leadership means "getting in it to win it" and this can lead to a place that's all consuming. Learning to balance engagement to the work while also carving out personal time is a real skill. I remind leaders all teh time, no one is coming to save you and help you create balance. You have to ensure you have created enough space for you, or you could get lost in the work and wreak other parts of your life.

2. How did you become a leader? Can you please briefly tell the story?

I connected to nursing as a young man and I was blessed with a wonderful work ethic. I remember vividly the day I became a "leader". I was an educator for teh ICU and we had yet another crisis that demanded that all the managers had to come to a very serious meeting. As this meeting progressed the senior leaders in teh room needed teh frontline managers to come to consensus yet they were unable to find common ground.

I suggested to the senior leaders that they should give the mangers some time to meet and allow them to come up with a recommendation. Which is what we did.

Later that week, I was called to one of teh senior leaders offices where I was told that I was the only person who suggested a collaborative path forward and I was the kind of people they wanted on their leadership team. I was offered a manager job that next week and 20 years later I am still in the game!

3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?

I believe in a score carded approach where I look at dimensions of my work in a measured way. At the beginning of each month I look at which areas of my score card am I excelling in and which areas do I have opportunity. I take the areas of opportunity and create a monthly goal. I then further divide the monthly goal into weekly goals within that month and take the weekly goals into what I have to accomplish each day that week to meet the weekly objectives. This formula has been a hugely successful technique in how I plan my work day to day. It moves me to a proactive approach as opposed to a reactive approach. " Do you run your day, or does your day run you"

4. What's a recent leadership lesson you've learned for the first time or been reminded of?

Oner of the benefits of my current position is that I am watching emerging leaders in various parts of my organization succeed. I am reminded as I watch them grow, just how important the words/scripts that are used matter. Ensuring you use the correct keys words/phrases such as, "I am following up", "For your benefit", etc really matter. Keys words are a great way to ensure your leadership tactics are seen as effective.

5. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?

As a gift to all new employees I give them a copy of "How full is your bucket" by By Tom Rath and Mary Reckmeyer. This book makes a wonderful case for teh power of positivity and treating people the right way. I ask every new employee to read it and I reference this book if I have to counsel people on their attitude or treatment of others. Usually one time a year I will do a book club on this book with my team.

6. If you could only give one piece of advice to a young leader, what would you say to them?

A wise leader told me years ago: " you have to play chess not checkers when you are a leader; in checkers, all the pieces are equal and move to the same set of rules, in chess the pieces are different and move to different sets of rules". Great leaders play chess!

7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a leader, so far?

Years ago, I was leading a team of highly talented leaders who I just couldn't seem to get in sync with. We argued, underperformed, had HR get involved, it was a real hard time for me. A very wise leader who was a mentor to me pulled me in and helped me see I needed to start from a place of ownership of the problems and take back the power. Once I really got focused and decided this was a me problem and not a "they" problem, things got better and that team went on to have tremendous success!

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