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Three minutes inside a manager’s head


Be careful of what you ask; it may soon come true, relates columnist

Take home

Not all is bluebirds and rainbows in a manager’s world. That’s why managers are the way we are: Type AAA, hard-driving, tough-sounding, no-nonsense folks you don’t want to sit and visit with, relates Dianna Graves.


Putting It In View By Dianna E. Graves, COMT, BS Ed

The other day I was having a “catch-up” visit with one of our physicians. He had stopped in after a whirlwind day in the operating room to see how things were going.

I’ve known him for more than 20 years-from residency, fellowship, and now partnership. I know that when he stops in to see how things are going, he doesn’t really want to know all the gory details regarding the staff. He wants the “bluebirds-and-rainbows” version!

And, I try my best to steer the discussions that way and “sanitize” the staff issues to some degree, lest I am perceived as a downer every time he visits. It sometimes becomes the case of “I want to know-I just didn’t want you to tell me.”


On a need-to-know basis

I once worked with an administrator who only wanted to know what she needed to know, and then she gave you 3 minutes to put it in a nutshell.

I went into her room one day and said, “I need to tell you this, but you probably don’t want to hear it.”

She said, “Okay, . . . wait a minute.”

She shut the door, then sat down, placed her hands over her ears, and said, “Begin.”

I condensed the story into the obligatory 3 minutes. She sat with her hands over her ears, humming for the entire 3 minutes. When I was done with the story, she took her hands away from her ears and said, “Okay, . . . you told me. Anything else?!”

In a weird way, I felt good because I had semantically told her. So, therefore, I was covered and so was she.

Welcome to managers’ world

That’s why managers are the way we are: Type AAA, hard-driving, tough-sounding, no-nonsense folks you don’t want to sit and visit with. Even the physicians avoid us because our worlds involve staff Richter-scale dustups, organizational code blues, and mind-numbing cases of listening day after day to personal agenda tsunamis from most of the people who stop in to talk.

I’m not looking for someone to hand me the Nobel Peace Prize or the Mother Teresa Kindness Award. I just want someone to have a conversation with me that doesn’t start with: “Why can’t . . . ”, “Why won’t . . . ”, “Why do they . . . ”, and “What’s wrong with them?!”

It’s easy to become cynical and jaded when every conversation can be loaded with true/false statements, or find a word and the hidden message behind “door number 3.”

Although I have ruefully stated that there is no manual for managers, there sure are many non-managers out there who believe they could do the job better. And they are not quiet about their opinions.

And then I have heard the axiom, “Those that can do. Those that can’t-teach.”

Teaching by example

To teach effectively, you need a knowledge base others do not have. I once had one of my college professors lament that the B.S. degree was beginning to take the B.S. too literally.

But “teaching”-whether it is a classroom of students or your staff in clinic-is more than teaching skills and instruments. It’s the life lessons: teamwork, cooperation, professionalism, and pride. Those are the skills we teach our staff every day. We do this by how we manage our groups as well as our own individual integrity.

While listening to the visiting doctor reminisce about one of the many residents who had drifted through the university program years ago, I began to drift back to when I was graduating from ophthalmic technology school.

I had a physician call to tell me that he was going to hire me because I was just what he was looking for to run his fast-paced cornea staff. When I asked him what he thought I had to offer, he said, “You are the ‘she-witch’ we need to keep the staff on their game and the practice moving forward!”

I would have been happy simply with the title of manager. She-witch? Not so much.

If I were to take the job he was offering, I envisioned myself being in a cowboy Western. I would be the old gunslinger, and the technicians would be the eager new gunslingers gunning for me. There would always be someone trying to beat me to the draw. Not a fun way to live your days.

I have to keep reminding others, as well as myself, that being a manager is a position some of us were groomed for and some of us inherited by default. But, I don’t ever forget that from the time I became a COMT, being the manager of a clinic was something I coveted and strove hard for. I wanted it, and now that I have it sometimes I wonder, now what?

So now, after 20 minutes of light-hearted banter regarding humorous staff tales and past memories of training that I could share with the visiting physician, he said he was glad he didn’t have my job. He didn’t want it!

I told him some days I didn’t want it either and maybe I would apply at our local flower/nursery establishment and apply to be a “Petunia Dead-Petal Picker.”

He smiled and said, “I’ll go with you.”

A little too quickly, and with minimal smile, I said: “No . . . you have to stay here!”

He looked shocked for a second, and then smiled and said, “Oh, I get it. You want peace, sunshine, and rainbows. Sure would be quiet.”

Then it dawned on me-maybe he was listening after all.

Dianna E. Graves, COMT, BS Ed, 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. She can be reached at dgraves@stpauleye.com.



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