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Everyone has an opinion, but are clinic managers prepared to listen to what staff has to say? ponders Dianna Graves.
Take-home message: Everyone has an opinion, but are clinic managers prepared to listen to what staff has to say? ponders Dianna Graves.
Putting It In View By Dianna E. Graves, COMT, BS Ed
In the middle of a bad day, nestled in the heart of an extremely poor week, the only solace I had one afternoon from the insanity of the clinic was to keep my dentist appointment.
What more could the dentist do to me that had not already been done to me this week? I had already been drilled by a physician who, in one morning shift, had figured out a major problem in the largest clinic we have. Unfortunately, while the answer was an excellent solution for him, his fellow partners would blow the roof off if the technicians were to follow his idea in their clinic.
I had also had a raw nerve tweaked regarding staffing. One of my longest-tenured technicians-more than 30 years-gave her 2-week notice.
My fellow manager said: “Did you think she was going to work until she was 100?! You knew it was going to happen sooner than later.”
No, I did not think she would work until she was 100. However, I had also been notified the same morning that two technicians are going to need surgery and then be out at least 3 weeks apiece. I would have been thankful to try and barter for another month or so. For the good times!
Yes, I was thankful to be sitting in the dentist chair. Unlike some people, I honestly like my dentist. She has always been kind and patient. When I told her no way was I letting her get me ready for an upcoming crown on a grumpy tooth, she simply smiled at me and advised she couldn’t wait to use gas on me to help me relax.
After my uneventful check-up and cleaning, we were talking about our offices and staffing.
“When we have our all-staff meetings, I want to hear what the staff says because they are key to my practice,” she commented. “Without them, I can’t do any of this. It seems that with some practices, management and doctors always ask their staff what they think but they don’t want to listen to what they have to say!”
The light flashed in front of my eyes and the sound of the ocean filled my head. This was exactly it in a nutshell.
As managers, we are continually given advice, directives, mandates, and opinions. I have learned so many lessons through the years about opinions and the giving and receiving of those opinions.
In most cases, I have been able to weed out the good and the bad opinions when they are freely offered. I listen to each one, though I have to admit I have had to bite my tongue while doing so.
Here are some of the valuable lessons I have learned:
1. “Remember when I asked you your opinion? Yeah, neither do I.” (Author unknown; T-shirt at the beach)
People usually feel free to voice their opinion. Since it is theirs, they often feel that they can offer their opinion without repercussions. They are often meant with the best of intentions, but often come out of the blue. If you try to refute it, the response usually is: “It was just my opinion, doesn’t mean it was right or wrong.”
2. “Change your opinions, keep to your principles; change your leaves, keep intact your roots.” (Victor Hugo)
On the other hand, opinions can be the key to a locked door. Keeping an open mind to other’s opinions can be enlightening when you cannot find a solution to an issue. Even with adversaries, you often can find their experiences have some value as to what may occur in your own world.
Often, while attending ophthalmic meetings, some of the most valuable lessons for me as a manager are the one-on-one sessions that occur between classes. These curbside discussions could be about what is occurring in clinics with Meaningful Use or with ICD-10, for example.
While you may agree or disagree with the other person speaking and their managerial style, they might have experience in the area that you are trying to navigate. If you are willing to keep to your beliefs, “keep intact your roots” that define you and your world, but also be willing to “change the leaves” and bend a little to shed some of the old thought processes, you may find the answers you are seeking.
3. “There are two kinds of fools: those who can't change their opinions and those who won't.” (Josh Billings)
Stick to your beliefs, but know when it is time to throw in the towel and head in a different direction. Living by the sword and being willing to march into hell for those opinions can turn you into a martyr for a cause no one will remember in 6 months.
It does no one any good if you are so ridged that you cannot flex with new changes or new ideas. It only causes you to be labeled as an obstructionist, and eventually, a person who must go.
4. “Judging a person does not define who they are. It defines who you are.” (Author unknown)
Opinions can open doors to growth and development in other people. Be aware that your opinion is no more valuable than anyone else’s, and can even be harmful in the wrong venue or delivery approach.
As a manager, your opinion can help open employees’ eyes, instill faith in the job they are doing, or it can devastate them with a misplaced sentence on what you believe.
As I sit here, way past the time when everyone has left the building, my quiet revelry is disturbed by the cleaning service readying the office for the next business day. I pause one last time to realize that this dreaded trip to the dentist, in the middle of a horrible day, has allowed me to reflect on all these thoughts, and to realize that while everyone has an opinion, it doesn’t mean that I need to heed them, or even take them to heart.
No matter the volume of the words, this tree still stands, and tomorrow will be another day. Bring it on!
Dianna E. Graves, COMT, BS Ed
Graves is clinical services manager at St. Paul Eye Clinic PA, in Woodbury, MN. Graves is a graduate of the School of Ophthalmic Medical Technology, St. Paul, MN, and has been a member of its teaching faculty since 1983.
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