Training staff so well can lead you out of a job

June 15, 2011

If you do a good enough job training your staff, you may put yourself out of a job!

"I know not what the future holds, but I know it is leaders who hold the future."-Unknown

Recently, I had a manager say to me, "So-who does your job when you are here?" Without even thinking twice, I responded, "If I have trained the staff to do what is right for the patients-the right exam, the right follow-through, and the right way to treat patients-then the only thing they really need me for is the guidance of what to do if they get off track!"

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.

"Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things."-Peter Drucker

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.

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