Many middle managers did not start out with their current position being their dream job. Circumstances prevailed, and they found themselves being offered or told that the supervisory position was theirs. Very often this promotion appeared because they were terrific at “doing the job,” as a great biller or ophthalmic tech. If they were lucky, they happened to be an informal leader, anyway, and this gave them a step up toward success in their new management position.
This type of job trajectory comes with built-in issues that need to be resolved. Often these include lack of:
1. Management experience.
2. Numeracy skills.
3. Support from co-workers who are or were friends.
4. Time management skills, needed to juggle management and staff work, if they became a “working supervisor.”
5. Realistic expectations. They don’t know what to expect, need or ask for in terms of support from administration and doctor leadership.
The first important way to address these issues is with a strong communication structure. Be sure there are:
1. Weekly meetings between administration and the department manager.
2. Clear and specific written department goals from the administrator and physicians so there is no confusion on what the middle manager must prioritize.
3. Monthly department meetings held by the manager so she understands the needs of her staff and possible barriers to them getting their jobs done properly. Often managers with little experience think they are supposed to know the answers and skip the necessary research.
Other ways to assist with and help a newer manager be successful include:
1. A proper balance between management responsibilities and staff work, if as a working supervisor she continues to do both.
2. Books or classes on basic supervisory skills; HR management and trends; time management skills; and practical business accounting.
3. Showing public support of decisions made, even if you’d prefer that another one had been made. Talk about those circumstances, in private, with the manager for future guidance. Beware of accidentally stripping the manager’s authority in the eyes of the staff.
It’s important that the staff observe that middle managers have definitive authority and respect from their administrator and doctor owners. Being closer to the front line, they will observe things that senior management won’t, and it is more effective for your practice if they are viewed to have the authority and overall practice support to make decisions and changes.
Corinne Z. Wohl, MHSA, COE, is the administrator at Delaware Ophthalmology Consultants and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Corinne earned her Masters of Health Services Administration degree at The George Washington University and has 30 years of hospital and physician practice management experience.