Radar is a nickname given to me when I first started working in healthcare 15 years ago. Yes, to those of you who are familiar with the old show M*A*S*H, it is that Radar. My beloved chairman felt it befitting of my personality and sense of perception. Radar is defined not only as a radio transmission device, but also as your range of notice. This definition is simply stated, but all encompassing. Often, a leader’s range of notice becomes tunneled as we enter trying times, the challenges of new healthcare regulations, decreasing job satisfaction, and the always pressing mantra to “do more with less.” It takes a keen sense of self-awareness to keep in check and remain objective when met with the crises of the hour, let alone the revolving, ever evolving, changes in healthcare administration.
After many years and new leadership, not many persons still call me by that nickname, but I hold the title fondly as it possesses many characteristics that serve as a guide in life and leadership. As I sit to write this article, I reflect on what Radar means today and how I define my range of notice.
R be Real
A be Attentive
D define expectations
A be Accountable
Be Real. While leadership can call for vernacular finesse in particular situations, strive to call it like it is. Being genuine and believable in your interaction with others. Your staff appreciates knowing where their employer stands, whether it is good or bad. Convey bad news delicately, but with honesty. Do not get me wrong, I am not saying that everyone is in the loop on everything but you never know who may be holding a hidden gem to solve a problem if you try to keep everything close to the vest. Use your judgment on what to reveal and when.
Be Attentive. This piece of advice is a two-for-one. First, be attentive by carefully listening to your staff, providers, and patients. Watch others and concentrate on their comments and verbal- or non-verbal reactions. You will be able to use it to elicit a more engaging dialogue. Second, be attentive by being considerate and responsive. Put yourself in their others shows, be open-minded, and quick to address their needs.
Define Expectations. Work will always go smoother when you have set clear expectations for behavior, process, policy, communication, customer service, etc. Properly train new employees on expected conduct and standards of performance. Provide everyone with copies of employee expectations in writing and review regularly throughout the year. We may oftentimes forget what we had for dinner or wore to work on Monday, but if you ingrain expectations in your leadership philosophy, you will spend much less time in reactive mode. We had a physician not long ago who had a reputation for strict standards of behavior and dress while students and residents were on her rotation. She meant business and her reputation preceded her among many, many class years. Despite, this she was always dearly regarded as one of our best teachers. She had not failed to set standards and people respected her for it.
Be Accountable. A natural segue from defining expectations is accountability. One should not happen without the other. I consider one of the best pieces of advice I have ever been given to be “pick your battles.” This could not be truer, but too many times, I have witnessed a failure to hold others accountable. Sure, you have times you need to operate in a gray area, to give a little, but in regard to behavior, service standards, and performance, you should never sway. This brings me to the second best piece of advice I have ever been given, “don’t do for one what you cannot do for all.” If I say yes to Susie, can I also say yes to Jill, Jane, and David? Something to consider.
Reflect. Lastly, a leader should always reflect. Schedule 15-30 minutes with yourself on your calendar. Reflect on the events of the day, the week, the month. This time can be small or monumental. It can be personal or organizational in focus. Ask yourself questions like what did you hear that was good? What did you hear that concerned you? What can you improve?
In the word of Woodrow Wilson, “You are not here merely to make a living. You are here to enable the world to live more amply, with greater vision, and with a finer spirit of hope and achievement. You are here to enrich the world. You impoverish yourself if you forget this errand.” So, what is in your range of notice?