Oh, Grow Up!
A psychologist friend of mine is fond of telling patients they can always have a second childhood. This seems silly or funny, but is actually based on the fact that many adult patterns derive directly from childhood experiences. Not only are values, morals and perceptions formed, but there is much imprinting of behavior in one's early years. It is very easy to simply go on automatic pilot in the way we behave, based simply on what we learned in childhood.
He has found that changing a destructive habit often starts with recognizing the behavior, investigating how it started and then making a conscious effort as an adult to admit that such behavior no longer serves the patient well; and may in fact be self-defeating. He does role playing in which he, in effect, regresses his patients to childhood where they re-learn new ways of behavior. He has had great success treating everything from addictions to inertia and self-image issues.
One of the most interesting observations is that many people in management -including laboratorians - seem stuck in childhood. Their customary behavior is feared or abhorred by subordinates while they produce frustration the manager. They simply do not seem to work for anyone-no matter how hard the manager tries. What's a manager to do?
Steve Tobak, a former Silicon Valley executive and current management expert often gives a speech in which he advises managers to "Learn to behave like adults." Being a manager should include more than childish behaviors such as seeking attention , demanding respect and acting out when you don't get your own way. His suggestions include:
Be realistic about weaknesses as well as strengths. Most managers tout their strengths but are hesitant to admit as a manager that they have any weaknesses. It adds authenticity to the manager-employee relationship and creates trust to admit weaknesses; even as they are draw on the strengths of their employees.
Be hands on. Although a manager needs not be able to perform the daily duties with the same skill and competence as the employee who does that task daily, a manager should have a global view of the process. In an emergency or times of change, be willing to pitch in and help to the level of your capacity.
Employees will appreciate you and reward you with respect, loyalty and hard work. As the COO of a hospital, I have not only shadowed a housekeeper, but have put on scrubs and helped nursing assistants pass meal trays or turn patients on a hectic day. That always scored huge points.
Become adept at 5 things: finance, selling, presenting, negotiating, and communications.
Finance. It doesn't matter if you manage an entire laboratory, a single department, or a non-healthcare entity you need to learn about finance. All companies, including "not for profits" are grounded on both enhancing revenues and controlling expenses. Yes, sorry to break the news, but healthcare IS a business.
Selling. You must be able to sell your programs internally. You have to justify staffing, flexible scheduling, new hires and new equipment to administration. Externally, services have to be sold to the community, physicians and outpatients. If you don't sell, your "competitors" win.
Presenting. It's hard to imagine your career going anywhere unless you can deliver an effective presentation. This is not a natural talent for all. But it doesn't have to be complicated. Just list your main points, know the justification and be ready to articulate those points. A long speech is often not necessary. In fact with time constraints, I am more turned off by long rambling speeches that try to impress or twist the facts than I am with a short, concise presentation.
Negotiating. You might not call it negotiation, but it is the skill which is used to arrive at any win-win situation or to get your fair share of the pie.It is essential for any give and take interaction with supervisors, peers and subordinates. It is also used in coaching employees and in conflict resolution among employees.
Communicating. Great managers are also great communicators; it's a critical success skill. Again, this is just a way of packaging information and passing it on in a clear understandable way. Keep employees in the loop; don't let them guess about changes. Tell them what their role is in the big picture such as a strategic plan. Check often to ensure the message has been received accurately.
If you don't provide employees with information they need to make daily decisions, they often either shut down and feel alienated; or (worse) they listen to gossip and fill in the gaps with worse-case scenarios not based on fact.
These are all adult proactive skills, not learned in childhood and not based on simply RE-acting or sulking.