Previous to my current employment, I held a job as a Medical Laboratory Director. Prior to becoming a Medical Laboratory Director, I did not have any experience directing a team of healthcare professionals. I applied for the director position knowing that I had many years of experience. None of it, however, was on the leadership level.
I felt fortunate to be offered the position. And, I accepted the position without any managerial experience. In response, I did what many people do and started honing my skills for the impending responsibilities. I read many books relating to leadership and management. When looking, one will be amazed at the number of literary resources dedicated to good leadership qualities. I quickly learned previous experience as a laborer was not going to be enough to prepare me for taking on such a huge responsibility. There are many critical qualities every good leader should demonstrate. Listed below are qualities I believe every good leader should implement.
Everyone is aware attitudes are contagious. Nowhere is this more demonstrated than in healthcare. So much so, attitudes not only affect co-workers, they also affect the patients in their care. It starts with the leader. If you are going to talk the talk, you had better walk the walk. Being a good role model for your department is one of your many responsibilities. What you permit, you promote. A positive atmosphere, at all times, is critical toward continued success. Morale is linked to productivity. Consistent encouragement and praise will go a long ways toward building a successful team and achieving desired goals. If your team is happy and content, they will go the extra mile. The reflection of their positive production will shine upon you as their leader. Be certain to give them the credit they are due. Every good deed, no matter large or small, deserves recognition.
Honest and ethical behavior must be demonstrated throughout an organization. Anything less should not be tolerated. The best way to earn trust is by being truthful and honest. This starts with transparency. The employees in your charge should know what is going on in your organization. Hardly anything spoils a good attitude more than being repeatedly blind-sided by organizational decisions which affect employment. The goals and methods to obtain them should be made evident. The progress of organizational goals should be updated regularly and communicated to employees throughout. Success should be widely celebrated. Failure should be addressed openly so everyone in the organization learns what needs to be done for process improvement. Alignment and stressing the same messages throughout the workforce is important to hardwiring an organization for success.
It is important for employees to feel like they are owners in a process. By doing so they are more willing to work harder and contribute to their fullest. This will go a long way toward an organization exceeding their goals. You must be willing to delegate responsibilities. This will prove to employees that they are trusted and important to the organization. The praise for their contributions should be honest, consistent, and rewarding. While it is your ultimate responsibility to supervise their work, you should be open to their suggestions-especially as they pertain to process improvement. As their supervisor, you should always trust your team, but consistently verify they are getting the job done. As a mentor, you will have multiple occasions to give your input and recommendations. I suggest you use them sparingly and in the most effective way. The key is finding the right people to take ownership of key positions. Putting the right people in the right spots will be your responsibility as a leader. Allow the employees to take ownership in your department without micromanaging their every move. Their personal investment in your department will benefit the whole organization.
Although communication is a two-way process, I’ve always found listening is more important than speaking. Meet (or round) on employees on a regular basis. Make it a formal process. Document your findings so you can go back later and review them. During this meeting, you should be honest about what you are witnessing as a supervisor. Encourage feedback. Demonstrate with examples how the employee is meeting or not meeting expectations and goals. More importantly, ask questions. Employees are generally more willing to openly communicate in a private 1:1 setting. Keep what was said during this meeting confidential. Use discretion to resolve problems based on what was learned. More times than not, you will find miscommunication is the basis for most of the problems you will encounter. On a daily basis try using an open-door policy. By making yourself accessible, your team will learn to trust and depend on you.
As a leader you should expect there will be times when things are not going to go as well as expected. The best thing you can do is take responsibility and not panic. You must demonstrate reasonable control. Assure others that setbacks are a part of the working atmosphere. They happen. By staying calm and confident, you will help keep the members of your team feeling the same way. They will take cues from you, so if you exude a level of calm control, your team will pick up on that feeling. The key objective is to keep everyone working and moving ahead while learning along the way. Confidence can be displayed without arrogance.
If you expect the employees you supervise to work hard and exceed expectations, you need to lead by example. There is no greater motivation for employees than seeing their supervisor “throwing down” and working alongside them. This will prove to them you are willing to work hard and understand the work they do on a day-to-day basis. Amongst many other qualities, this is one of the best ways to earn the respect of your team. It’s important to show your commitment not only to the work at hand, but also to the expectations for which you hold others accountable. You want to create a reputation for working hard, showing understanding, and being relatable. What better way to earn the respect of the whole team? By observing your willingness to contribute, they will more than likely pick up their level of production.
Even if you start with no experience as a leader, do what I did. LEARN. Let your experiences, both good and bad, be your instructor. Continual improvement is not only rewarding, it is expected. Your experiences, along with your intuition, will become more useful over time. Build on your success. Learn and improve on your shortcomings. The skills you hone as a leader are often learned in the most difficult ways. Try to glean the positives out of every situation. Draw on your experience to make decisions. The more decisions you make, the more proficient you will be at making them. Share your experiences with others when called upon. The advice you are willing to give may help others resolve their own circumstances. Never stop learning from your experiences and the experiences of others. Use your experience to navigate the issues (camp fires) encountered in your work life. Keep your mind open to suggestions. Flourish.