10 Ways to Be a Better Manager
I’ve been an employee, a manager, a Chispa, and a voracious consumer of literature about how to be a better manager. Chispas pride themselves on being pattern people, so I asked myself what the good patterns of a manager are. As a millennial, naturally, I came up with a list-icle of the top 10 things that we see great health center managers (and other kinds of managers) do.
1. The Quickstart Tool
Ah, the QuickStart tool! Honestly, if we could get every health center manager to use this tool every morning, health care operations would be revolutionized. Getting your clinic started on time in the morning and at the beginning of the afternoon session is one of the most critical, effective things you can do as a manager. So just do it.
2. Be Data-Focused
Keeping data at the forefront of your mind and your employees’ minds when problem-solving will save you time and make your day-to-day more efficient. Any time you come upon a problem, one of the first questions you should ask is, “What does the data say?”
3. Know How to Do Your Employees’ Jobs
If you manage the front desk, know how to check-in a patient. If you manage MAs, know how to room patients. While your employees should be better than you at the tasks they perform all day every day, you MUST understand them in order to have credibility, make decisions, or change workflows.
4. Spend Your Energy in the Right Places
One classic management mistake is to spend most of your time trying to improve the performance of your lowest performers. Instead, spend your time investing in your high performers. Write a thank-you note, send them to additional training, or ask for their expertise. This incentivizes high performance and sets a precedent. Then manage the low performers up or out.
5. Think About How You Distribute Work
On a note related to #4, when you really need something done and done well, it can be tempting to hand it to your high performer. And sure, the high performers will be great at it. Under no circumstances should you move work that your low performers should have executed to your high performers. Instead, manage your low performers to do their own work and do it well. If they don’t, manage them out. Whatever you do, definitely don’t punish your high performers with more work. Otherwise, they will leave and you won’t have any high performers left.
6. Hire Tough
This topic is covered beautifully in Monday Morning Leadership (Cottrell, 2016–a great read for all managers). One of the most important things you do as a manager is to add people to your team. I know unemployment is low, but save yourself and your team a lot of grief by not falling into the trap of filling a position with a warm body. Trust me, a high functioning, albeit understaffed, team will be better equipped to handle their workload than if you saddle them with a dud.
7. Implement Best Practices with Abandon
When you find a process or tactic that works well, implement it and sustain it like it is your life’s work. Be proactive and make sure that the best practices are happening in a high-quality way consistently. The best way I’ve seen to do this is with checklists, but no matter what tool you use, make sure you are disciplined in the implementation. That means do your audits regularly and actually read and follow up on them. You will save yourself so much pain down the road.
8. Keep Your Goals and the Goals of the Organization at the Forefront
Just as on a road trip, it’s important to know your professional team’s destination. Set challenging goals and diligently organize your work around them. This means that everything you do (think meetings, the inevitable “do you have a minute,” reports, etc.) should have to pass this test: Will this help me meet our goals? If not put it on a Stop Doing list or send it straight to the bottom of your priorities. Pro Tip: If you do this consistently, not only will you achieve your goals faster, but you will recover HOURS of time each week. Maybe even remember what your family looks like…
9. Empower Your People to Solve Their Own Problems
Chispa extraordinaire, Amanda, always tells the story of how, when she was first a manager, she took pride in how frequently her staff paged her to ask for her help. But she quickly learned that not only was this routine time consuming, it was also a sign that her staff wasn’t solving their own problems. Instead, when staff asks for your help, teach them how to solve the problem themselves. A great line is, “Sure, I’d be glad to help, but then let’s talk about how you can solve this problem on your own next time.” As cliché as “staff empowerment” may sound, it is the ticket to a successful, high functioning team.
10. Communicate Directly
Instead of falling into the trap of primarily sending emails to staff to communicate, get on the floor and talk about goals, data, and new solutions. This gives staff the opportunity to ask questions and anticipate problems, and allows you to control the narrative. One trick that Coleman has found very helpful is to do a traveling roadshow. This allows you to go to the staff and ensure that you have communicated clearly.
Written by Adrienne Mann
Cottrell, David. Monday Morning Leadership: 8 Mentoring Sessions You Can’t Afford to Miss. CornerStone Leadership Institute, 2016.