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No matter how hard you work or how fast you clear things off your desk, you just can’t catch up. For every five things you accomplish, 10 more need to be done and the piles of papers to be read and filed just keep growing. Sound familiar? Americans in supervisory and management jobs indicate that their No. 1 stressor is too much to do and not enough time in which to get it done.
One of the biggest myths that people in supervisory roles have is that they will be able to get absolute control of the job and accordingly, catch up. The reality is a far cry, and a hard lesson for new and first-time supervisors to learn. So what’s a new home health care agency supervisor to do? Take a few tips from the staff at Overland Park, KS-based Fred Pryor Seminars, one of the country’s leading training providers.
Regis Smolko, an instructor for Fred Pryor Seminars, says that the first thing any supervisor should do upon getting to the office each day is to set aside some time to plan. "Take the first 30 minutes of your day to plan," he says. "For every minute planning, you will save yourself 12 minutes of work."
A hard concept for many managers to grasp is that they are no longer accountable only for their time, but that of their employees as well — a home care agency is no exception to the rule. As such, Smolko says that it is important that supervisors and managers set a solid example by prioritizing their work and making a consistent effort to stay on top of things.
He recommends that people tackle short-term projects in the morning when their thinking is sharpest, and in the afternoon, take on longer-term projects. Within each of these categories, he further prioritizes his work to "tackle the ugly’ things first. If I try and do something in fits and starts that I’ve been putting off or don’t want to do, it takes me four times as long."
Smolko also recommends that all first-time managers and supervisors take advantage of all the tools at their disposal. This means taking seminars or classes on management techniques, reading articles, and even keeping a useful tips file. Home care professionals should look into taking not only general management courses, but courses specific to motivating people in the health care industry.
As every home care agency employee knows, motivation can be a particular challenge when faced with deep budget cuts, long hours, and in some instances, chronically ill patients. Even experienced managers should take a management seminar — everyone needs a refresher from time to time, and "old dogs" can learn new tricks.
Smolko warns first-time managers and those who are new to the job that not only are their responsibilities and tasks different, but the kind of satisfaction they garner from their jobs also will be different. "Satisfaction becomes more abstract," he says. Whereas once you could look at a completed project or task and see the fruits of your work, people who manage other employees find that all too often their days are filled more with solving people-related problems and handling complaints than actually completing projects."
He notes that it becomes very difficult to motivate employees when you can’t visibly see your day’s accomplishments. "Satisfaction," he says, "must come from an inner sense of knowing that you’ve helped someone develop, you’ve managed a crisis effectively, or you just got the job done with very little hassle." It seems that for every project you accomplish, there are several more waiting in the wings. There is always something else to be scheduled, another meeting to attend, another crisis to be solved, Smolko points out.
"As a manager, your problems are now long-term," he explains. "Almost as soon as you’ve finished one, several more will pop up that demand your attention. It seems that you never really get them all out of the way, and that developing your people is an endless process."
"Making your employees productive is extremely key. Everyone needs to realize that they are in it together, sink or swim," Smolko points out. "Give people a sense of self-esteem, and they will work for you." Part of self-esteem comes from having an inner faith that you can do the job, and part of earning that is making mistakes. "Sometimes we need to allow people to experience the consequences of their problems," he says. "Allowing people to make mistakes is how we teach them."
Smolko warns managers not to accept "monkeys." By that he means employees for whom "if you solve a problem for that them today, they will come back with two problems for you to solve tomorrow." The trick in these cases, he says, is to put the problem back on them to solve. "Ask them what they think needs to be done and how they would do it. Tell that person to go ahead and handle it and get back to you with the results. If it helps, ask them what they would do if you were on vacation."
With Smolko’s employees, he has a weekly meeting for which his staff creates the agenda. "It gives you a chance to put the problems back on them and for them to grow."
Finally, says Smolko, "Sometimes it feels good to be the boss, but in most cases you grow into it."
[For more information, contact Regis Smolko, Fred Pryor Seminars, 9757 Metcalf Ave., Overland Park, KS 66212. Telephone: (800) 905-8442.]