Admitting Mistakes

I believe, from my years of experience, that health professionals, more specifically supervisors, educators, mentors, and managers have a very hard time admitting mistakes.

In how they handled a difficult client/patient. In how they handled strife in staff relationships. In how they handled their supervisory role when they should have been more inquisitive, supportive, rather that critical and demeaning.

In how they handled staff meetings. Staff meetings to me, are for sharing new information, but more importantly for team building. The more the staff talks and shares, the better. You will learn a lot! I have found that frequent staff meetings are extremely important. And the longer the agenda, the shorter the meeting. And the shorter the agenda, the longer the meeting. Staff is often very pleased to have a forum to be heard and respected.

A good manager, supervisor, mentor always gives the benefit of the doubt, and then shares similar experiences in order to help the staff persons grow, rather than become angry and disillusioned.

This concept leads somewhat to evaluations of staff. Why not allow “self evaluations” on which you can comment. Do not make these events a crisis and frightening. Make them a growth experience for both of you. Don’t make them long and tedious. See if you can prepare a somewhat brief, and to the point, evaluation. Just as your initial interviews should be. Let the staff talk. You will learn a lot more that way. Generally forget exit interviews. When that time comes, egos might be so bruised that you don’t hear the truth. I have occasionally left before the exit interview. I knew I would not be heard anyway. And I once had a lengthy interview, trying to be honest about the management style, and after I left several staff were laid off and/or fired and/or left because they couldn’t stand the place.

So what kind of manager/supervisor/mentor do you want to be?  One who is rigorously honest and willing to listen, grow, be even more supportive of your staff? Do you want your former staff to not fear asking you for references? Do you want to be respected and respectful?

Childhood Lead Poisoning and Pacifiers

Do these really go together? Of course not!  

I once thought that my little 2 year old grandson, like many other little children, were overly dependent on their pacifiers. (that  may be because my sons rejected pacifiers; though one son was dependent on his thumb, or biting his nails, and the other son on breastfeeding till age 3 years! for comfort).

 As you have probably heard, childhood lead poisoning is back in the news. I worked as a case manager in childhood lead poisoning for 4 years, not so long ago. We found out about lots of tainted imported toys, and food treats.  So I am now much more supportive of pacifiers! Better to put that in the mouth than a leaded toy.

But, PLEASE remember to wash those little hands before eating snacks and meals!!!! just in case the toy played with before meals and snacks had lead in them!

 Lead poisoning is something you need to be concerned about if you live in an old house, in an old city. Worry if you live in a big city on the east or west coast, or even an old city in between. If you are doing any renovation to an old house (tearing out the wallpaper, scraping paint) do consult someone from your local  health department, specifically environmental health.

 Why be concerned about lead? Because its ingestion  or inhalation can lead to serious developmental problems in little children whose brains are rapidly developing and susceptible to toxins. And how do they get lead in their bodies and brains? Scraping paint for renovation. Chewing fingernails that scraped lead painted walls. Chewing on windowsills in old houses. I did that when I was 2 years old. I am lucky to have some brain cells left. Oh. I also loved that sweet smell of lead in gas stations. Glad that is gone now!

 Beware of Mexican candies and those beautiful painted pots and imported toys. Beware of toys from China. Beware of using Kohl from India on eyelids. There is a lot more to tell you. Stay tuned.

Hiring and Firing Staff

One of the most difficult tasks that I have had as a manager is hiring and firing staff. I would like to share a few tips.

 Hiring: trust your instincts at the interview. Have a second interview. Try to avoid phone interviews. We all make such different presentations in person.  Don’t ask all the questions. Keep the forum open and encourage questions and comments. It is not even worth your time to contact references, but if you do, the only question worth asking is “would you hire this person again?” Be wary of letters of inquiry that say “I am the perfect person for your position”. Nobody knows this but you! Walk them through the work area;  introduce them to the current staff; show an applicant  the potential work area.

 Seriously consider the employee’s orientation. Make it thorough. Meaning, introduce a new employee, or an applicant,  to staff. Give them a packet that you created with the agency’s (of whomever) history, needs, current situation, mission, goals, funding sources. Include a list of staff with phone numbers and email addresses. Include a detailed, long list of acronyms. Tell them where to park, where to get lunch. Tell them the good and bad (yes; the bad things too) that they should be aware of. Make it clear that you have an open door…any time…

 And as I have said before, have the workspace CLEAN AND PREPARED. Have flowers. Be welcoming. Have the keys ready.

 Firing is much more complicated. One may have to go through all the union rules, and civil service rules first. One must document and document and document, while mentoring and trying very hard to save the employee. And it is best, when the day comes, to make it as pleasant and supportive as possible. I would suggest forgetting an exit interview, unless you really plan to listen intently and be willing to make changes in how you hire, supervise, manage. I would also suggest that you offer to be supportive, provide a reference that you feel that you can comfortably provide, and make suggestions that  will be helpful, not critical. I have had employees, upon firing, who cried and thanked me. Be prepared for this possible scenario too.

 Good luck