By Nicole B. Dhanraj, PhD, CRA, RT(R)(CT)(MR)
Prior to climbing the professional ladder, I remember critiquing my upper leadership with my colleagues for not being involved in our work on a frequent basis, not knowing us as people instead of just “staff,” and not taking the time out to give us some attention. After all, we worked hard, we gave our best, and as every human, we craved the attention and accolades. The tables quickly turned when I moved into a director role and found myself reading the same critiques about myself in a staff satisfaction survey. Even though I vowed I would always be employee centric, the results didn’t reflect that, and it prompted me to pause and view myself through my employees’ eyes.
In today’s healthcare industry, where we are forced to do more with less, deal with budget cuts, improve productivity, and balance the value of care delivered with proper resource allocation, leaders can sometimes fall victim to focusing on the work at hand more than our people. We assume that the updates and thank you’s provided at monthly staff meetings, the occasional rounding with the group, the intermittent water cooler discussions, and the open-door policy will remind staff that as leaders we do care; however, they need more than that.
Meeting with employees regularly is one way to show them we care. We cannot just try to “fit” people into our schedule as it suits us. Like any other relationship in our lives, as leaders we need to devote time and effort to creating and maintaining employee relationships. This effort is a continued, dynamic process that probably needs more attention than our actual work tasks at hand. The following are five tips that I’ve found helpful in fostering relationships with employees:
- Schedule regular one on one sessions that focus on two main activities: discussing their job/tasks and fostering the relationship between the two of you.
- Take the time to get to know employees. Learn about them; their career goals, their interests, what makes them, “them,” and talk about things that are important to them.
- Prepare for the meeting. Don’t wing it. Have at least three questions ready to discuss with the employee. This helps engage those that may not be as open in conversation, including taking the pressure off of introvert employees. It can also dispel any myths about favoritism, since it’s less likely you’ll seem more engaged with one employee than the others.
- Maintain meeting appointments. Sure, things come up, but don’t make cancelling your pattern. Though your plate may be full of your leadership tasks, employees need to feel that they are always at the forefront of your work. Chronic cancelling will lead them to be disinterested, feel second class, and in some cases will cause frustration.
- Balance the meeting as much as possible. Don’t let yourself or the employee overpower the meeting. Each person should have equal airtime.
For those of you who are already engaged in dynamic meetings with your employees, are you both receiving the maximum benefit from them? To make sure that both you and your employees are getting the most out of these meetings, ask yourself the following questions:
- Why do you meet? Is it to provide updates on tasks? To discuss projects? Are you meeting just to meet?
- What is your perception of the meeting’s purpose?
- What is the employee’s perception of the meeting’s purpose?
- What are the expectations from both sides?
- What’s your communication style during the meeting? Are you a bottom line person? Do you tell a story? How does this change according to your employee’s personality?
- How do you influence your employee? How does your employee influence you?
Thinking through your answers to these questions can help you better focus the meetings.
The benefits of scheduling individual meetings with employees include building or increasing trust, understanding cultural and personality differences and most of all, pausing to nurture your best assets: the people of your radiology tribe. Your workload is always going to be there, along with the insane deadlines and the everyday demands of your job. It may seem impossible to find the time to create and maintain employee relationships. However, you can start small, or even meet as a group until a better balance is achieved. Once implemented, you should follow these basic rules for conducting meetings:
- Have a clear purpose and be prepared.
- Talk with employees, not at them.
- Discuss work tasks while tending to relationships.
- Ensure both parties have equal time to talk.
- Don’t rush the meeting; show a genuine interest in the person.
Pausing to invest in your people helps create the momentum to keep your department productive and efficient, as well as more collaborative. Having one on one meetings promotes individuality and reminds us as leaders of being in touch with what matters most—our people.
Nicole B. Dhanraj, PhD, CRA, RT(R)(CT)(MR) is the chief of radiology at Guam Memorial Hospital in Tamuning, Guam. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.