The Million Dollar
By Mark Lerner
We recently promoted one of our night CT
technologists to the position of supervisor
after the employee who had been in that
position for years retired. One morning the
individual who was new to the job came to
me and asked a question: “How do you learn
to be a good manager?” I looked up from
what I was doing and immediately felt an
extremely odd feeling. I didn’t have a clue
what to say. My mind immediately went on
a literature search of all the articles and
books I have read on the subject throughout
my career and in graduate school. Nothing
came to mind. I sat silent and stunned.
After what seemed like minutes but was
really only a few seconds, I had to admit that
I didn’t have a response. I thought about my
own start as a department director and how
I had gained the knowledge I needed to be
successful in my job. I came to the conclusion
pretty quickly that there was no one book to
which I could refer my employee for advice.
Ever since that day I’ve been thinking
about how I should have reacted and I
believe I now know the answer to her
inquiry. I should have responded that the
key to being a good manager is vision.
Allow me to explain.
With every task I complete, I have a picture in my mind as to what the outcome
will look like. For example, if I am meeting
with an employee regarding a disciplinary
issue I plan out the words I am going to
use. I imagine how the conversation will
proceed and possible reactions to what I
am saying. In envisioning the progression
of the conversation, my emphasis is always
The trick for a manager who strives to do a good job
while learning the ropes is to focus his or her work
around one big picture goal.
on achieving the highest quality result
which supports both the department and
the hospital. Now, sometimes what quali-fies as the highest quality result is not
readily apparent. Every work environment
is different and not all supervisors like the
same thing. Therefore, it takes experience
to learn the best way, for example, to complete a capital or operations budget. Alternatively, there may be specific parts of a
staff meeting that some teams like to see
included that others do not. But these are
details that are learned along the way.
I have found that the trick for a manager who strives to do a good job while
learning the ropes is to focus his or her
work around one big picture goal. And the
goal that has worked for me is to have the
radiology department staff strive to complete their work to the best of their abilities.
The achievement of this aim entails
many steps.It involves talking about quality in conversation after conversation with
employees. It means bringing up the idea
of quality in every staff meeting. It manifests itself in the manager going home at
night and reflecting on ways that the operation of the department can be improved.
Most importantly, a focus on quality
means engaging coworkers in the process
of trying to make things better.
Like anything needing to be learned,
studying can help improve your department. Let’s go back to the example of the
employee disciplinary meeting. After the
session is over, it is a good idea to go over
in your mind exactly what took place and
whether in practice you were able to
match the original vision you had for the
interaction. Next, you should see what you
could have done better. This process will
help you with human resource issues in
The idea of studying can be applied to
your entire department. As a manager it is
imperative, of course, that you spend time
observing how the department operates.
But I would go further than watching. Spend
some time reviewing what you believe you
saw. Then interview staff members to
understand the process completely and the
reasons behind what is done. Then, when
you find something that needs to be corrected, fix it quickly.
Employees don’t react well to managers
that act impulsively, but I find that the
opposite is much worse. People say that
change is difficult but standing still has
only one result. It leads directly to staff that
come to work to collect their paychecks
and go home. Perhaps in the end this is the
first lesson for being a new manager.