The University Record, October 22, 1997
By Rebecca A. Doyle
Two of the UniversityÕs best managers--according to their employees--last week shared with others their secrets of management techniques that make the people on their teams respect them, follow their lead and turn out the best work they can.
Sophia Jan, coordinator of nursing services at University Hospital, and Brett Ashley, associate director of Marketing Communications, outlined their very similar management strategies at the M-Quality EXPO.
Being a leader isnÕt something that just happens, they note. There is a great deal of growth and learning in the process of becoming an outstanding leader.
Ashley, who won the 1997 Workplace 2000 Outstanding Leader award, and Jan, a finalist in the same competition, were nominated for the award by their employees. As they talked with participants in the workshop, titled ÒThe Leaders and the Best,Ó both stressed the importance of remaining involved in the work process and knowing what each of their team members was responsible for.
Jan recognizes that the nurses who work in her unit are as committed as she is to providing the best care possible in a timely manner and at a reasonable cost. She occasionally transports patients to the radiology lab herself in order to keep the sch edule flowing smoothly, and with her staff has developed a reporting process that now takes only a few minutes compared to the half-hour procedure previously used.
Working toward the same goal, communication and having a cultural background that values caring for others are what Jan says makes her a better manager. She worked as a clinical nurse for 10 years before becoming a supervisor, so she is very familiar with all the work that must be done to reach the unit goal. Jan also is very careful to take into consideration each individualÕs needs and to discuss changes in such areas as work schedules before making changes.
ÒSometimes a change in hours works out very well for the other person,Ó she says. ÒSometimes they want to go to school and evening hours work better for them.Ó
Agreeing that there is stress included with management positions, Jan and Ashley talked about how they keep their cool under stressful office situations.
ÒWe treat each other,Ó Ashley says. ÒIÕve become a much better cook since I took this job.Ó Humor, exercise and sharing food work well to keep things on an even keel at Marketing Communications. Tension and stress get relieved on a large board wher e humorous sayings and drawings reflect moods. Ashley says getting it out of your system and tolerance for othersÕ moods help them all understand a little better how everyone else feels and how similar those feelings are.
Including employees in the decision-making process and having them help find solutions is important to Jan, who says her staff takes part in the process of deciding how to handle situations. She is aware of the strengths and weaknesses of each of her staff members, and is careful to offer them support and back-up without taking back control when there is a problem to solve as a group.
ÒIn a group, you have different kinds of people. There are those who add solutions, some who always question, some who follow without question and some who are always negative,Ó Jan says. ÒIt is your job to balance the group, bring out the less verb al members and value all members of the group.Ó What might be perceived as negative or questioning a process just to raise questions might be very valuable and bring up points you had not thought of, she says.
But managers, Ashley says, must Òalways be one step ahead, always be thinking of all of the possibilitiesÓ when they give control to staff. ÒThat is actually the fun part. It is really a challenge to be aware of all the possibilities, all the scenar ios.Ó
Both Ashley and Jan added that the following guidelines make the best managers:
Listen to all the voices to make informed decisions.
Use critical thinking rather than clinging to policy.
Use common sense in the face of bureaucracy.
Trust your staff with information; they need to know what will happen so they can plan.
The workshop was moderated by Deborah Orlowski, staff development associate in the Human Resources/Affirmative Action Office.
How common are managers like Ashley and Jan, who value staff opinion and support decisions that are made by a group? Orlowski says that she thinks they are the exception rather than the rule.
ÒIÕm always intrigued by the process of benchmarking,Ó she says. ÒI see it almost as a norming process. You look at other universities, see that they are all doing something this way, and that becomes the standard. I think if you are going to be an innovator, often you have to look at what others are doing, but say that you just donÕt care. You have to look at the standards but go off and do it another way.Ó