One of the highlights of teaching at various conferences is having the ability to talk with other administrators, managers, or technicians between classes. I find it valuable because that is the time where I get to learn what is occurring in other parts of the country, what is occurring in other people's practices, and where my practice is in relationship to their current concerns.
I felt very positive and good about my response until I started to think about it later on that evening. Basically, what I had just told that manager was that IF I did a good enough job training my staff, I probably was putting myself out of a job!
Our practice currently has 42 technicians. Twenty years ago, when I first started managing, I had a crew of four! As the years have passed, the crews have grown exponentially along with my managerial wisdom and fortitude. Still, there are times that I have to admit that having the help of eight strong leaders (one for each of our locations) helps me survive most days.
So I started to wonder, is the sign of being a good manager making sure that your staff is able to stand on their own two feet and continue doing the right thing even if you are not around?
Remembering that most memorable leaders, such as George S. Patton, used to study past wars and battles to prepare for future skirmishes, I decided to find out what other leaders thought of their role, and then tried to apply that to how we must, and should, lead our staff if we also want to be thought of as good leaders of people.
As I get older, my staff becomes younger. I don't quite understand when I became a middle-of-the-roader, but it appears to have happened all the same!
I spend a great deal of time with our staff and students teaching them to do the right thing. Each new school year at the School of Ophthalmic Medical Technology begins with the following advice: "I can teach you to be a great technician. But I can't teach you to be empathetic, caring, have a good listening ear, and a kind heart with information that you might not always want to hear. You either have that, or you don't, and that is all up to you—how you will treat your patients."
To a large degree, I think that still is true. But I do think that we can set the expectations high in the clinics that this job is about the patient—it is not about you.
It almost seems ludicrous to have to remind people to treat the patient in the chair with kindness, but, sad to say, it does occur that patients complain that the person who saw them didn't really appear to care or went way too fast, even after being asked to slow down.
The right thing in our jobs is to ensure that we are practicing what we preach. Do the right things for your staff, and demand that they turn it around and do the right thing for the patient.