Staff Management

Replace Micro-Management with Staff Empowerment

By Colleen Hannegan, ABOC, CPO

July 12, 2017

A great manager trains and delegates to employees in a way that encourages them to grow and be successful. A great manager leads others to do their best work, and contribute to the practice’s profitability.

Then there is the micro-manager.

As practice leader, you may yourself be guilty of micro-managing. If not, there’s a good chance you have an employee who’s a micro-manager. The problem: Micro-management dis-empowers employees and creates a demoralized, inefficient office. Employees lose faith in themselves, fail to take ownership of challenges, and are not able to make decisions. Work can get mired in process as the micro-manager nitpicks over it.

Micro-managing is more than a management issue; it can directly affect your office productivity, and reduce your revenues and profitability.

To serve patients, and build your practice, you need employees who are able to act competently on their own, and who have confidence that they have the know-how to do their jobs effectively in timely manner. I have worked as a manager and optician in optometric offices for over 30 years, and have seen the negative effects of micro-managing up close.

A great manager listens well to employees needs, and pays close attention to both team and individual efforts. The effective manager also acknowledges those who are doing a great job, and spends the required time with those who need additional training. Then he, or she, lets them do the job without peering over their shoulder and triple-checking their work every hour. Praise for a job well done comes easily from a great manager. They are well aware who is doing their job, and who is not.

Are you a great manager or a micro-managing, controlling boss? How about your office manager?

To put this in medical terms, you need to diagnose your in-office management–and come up with a treatment plan.

Signs You May Be a Micro-Manager
Business coach Muriel Magian Wilkins writes in the Harvard Business Review that most micro-managers probably don’t know that they’re doing it. Wilkins lists these signs that clearly show one is a micro-manager:

• You’re never quite satisfied with deliverables.

• You often feel frustrated because you would’ve gone about the task differently.

• You laser in on the details and take great pride and/or pain in making corrections.

• You constantly want to know where all the team members are and what they’re working on.

Curing Micro-Management
During a recent six-month consulting position with a multi-location optometric practice, I was often aware of the optical manager’s interaction with employees. She would give a directive to a lead optician who was assisting a difficult patient, only to step in and take over the sales order. It would have been more instructive to allow the optician to continue working with the patient, using her skills to handle the problem, and then discuss the situation with the employee after the patient was gone.

The better choice would have been to have a problem-solving discussion that allowed the optician to review the experience, and the manager to give constructive guidance if needed, on how the situation might have been better handled.

Many staff members at this practice resented the manager jumping in frequently, into the middle of a sale, because she thought she knew better. It became a serious issue among the four women working in one of the practice’s offices. Nasty gossip and cruel e-mails began circulating among staff.

My advice to this micro manager was three-fold:

Learn to Trust. At meetings she was taught to more clearly share best-dialogue scripts for challenging patients, and then allow staff to apply the lessons within their own personality. Staff ideas to problem-solve were encouraged. Everyone was allowed to talk about ways they deal with challenging patients, and to ask for help. She learned to acknowledge and praise employees for work well done, and guide without pressure, and forgo the magnifying glass over all their moves.

Communicate Expectations. Maybe their how-to is slightly different than yours. For instance, let’s say you want to change the frame-display area, or you want to improve patient flow through the office. Start with telling staff the results you expect, then ask for their ideas on how to make it happen. Team effort always improves staff morale over dictatorship. Inspired management allows staff to feel they are part of the effort toward success.

Exude Calm & Confidence. Managers sometimes don’t have the right answers in an instant. It’s perfectly alright to assess a situation with a little time between what just happened and what your response will be. A great manager is calm in the midst of crisis; an example of grace under pressure. Confidence is an acquired skill learned over many years and situations. Be quick in confidence and slow to disappoint. Understanding your employees’ need to feel appreciated will enable your practice to run well without you scrutinizing each detail of its operations.

Create an Emotionally Safe Work Environment
I also advised that it was part of the practice’s legal responsibility under the federal government’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to create an emotionally safe environment at work, as well as one that is physically safe from harm. Superiors who attack an employee’s dignity, integrity and competence repeatedly over a long period of time can be liable for bullying.

OSHA rates six different categories regarding workplace behavior. Here are some of the points OSHA addresses that relate to micro-managing:

Under Category I, #4 is “Work constantly criticized.” and #2 is “Employee constantly interrupted.”

Under Category II, #2, “Employee treated as if invisible.”

Category III #2 “Decisions always questioned.”

Category IV #2 “Supervisors take away assignments. Employee continuously given new tasks.”

There are times when micro-managing crosses the boundaries of just trying to get things done, to employee harassment and laws being broken.

Weekly meetings with your practice’s managers can keep you in-the-know about employee and patient issues. Periodic one-on-one meetings with your other staff members allows a safe place for each employee to share their concerns privately, or just for you to stay tuned to their progress.

 


Colleen Hannegan ABOC CPO
, is a licensed optician, and owner of Spirited Business Advisor, a consultancy that works with small businesses, including independent eyecare practices, on how best to serve customers and generate profitability. To contact her: colleenhannegan@yahoo.com

 

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