Benefits of being a nurturing manager
What is the best type of manager?
There are many types of managers, from autocratic to permissive and everything in between, but no true consensus on which type may be better or more effective. That great authority, Wikipedia, defines management as the “act of coordinating the efforts of people to accomplish desired goals and objectives using available resources efficiently and effectively.” But this and other definitions don’t even begin to approach the different personalities and styles of managers that endeavor to accomplish these aims.
At one end of the spectrum is the autocratic manager. Autocratic managers make decisions on their own and communicate those decisions to their staff and expect them to comply with them without argument or negotiation. On the opposite end of the scale is the permissive manager, who turns decision-making over to subordinates, and encourages creativity and innovation. Because the staff is able to make decisions on their own, new leaders may emerge. Chaos and disorganization may also emerge due to lack of guidelines and direction from the manager.
Which management type works best? As previously stated, there really is no answer to that question, but the fact remains that some managers are best suited to one type and some to another and it can be very difficult to change from one to another other. But the most effective of leader may be one we can call the nurturing manager.
Nurturing managers honestly care about their employees. They know the names of their employees’ spouses and children, their outside interests, and have some idea of what is going on in their lives. This is not to say that the manager maintains inappropriate outside friendships with their staff, but rather that they know their employees as people and have some understanding of what makes each one tick. Many experts subscribe to the theory that a manager who obviously cares about the people who work for them can achieve more loyalty and higher productivity than a manager who takes a more strictly business approach.
I have long subscribed to the concept that employees will only treat a practice’s patients as well as they themselves are treated by the physicians and upper management. This theory suggests that employees who are nurtured will tend to nurture others, thereby improving the quality of patient care and patient satisfaction. Patients have a difficult time judging what quality care really is and may base their satisfaction level on how they were treated by the staff in the practice, rather than the quality of medical care itself. Patients understand social and business interactions, but most likely do not understand the practice of medicine. Besides, the majority of the time a patient spends in a medical practice will be with the staff rather than the physician, so it is important that the staff have a competent and caring attitude in their patient interactions that creates a feeling of safety and compassion. Patients who are treated well by the staff are less likely to sue the practice, and the best way to teach employees to treat those patients well is to treat the employees themselves well.
It is important that nurturing actions not be faked. When the manager asks an employee how their weekend was they should be prepared to show interest in the answer they get, and they should try to remember it. For example, how sincere would the employee find their manager if on Friday the employee said they were attending their sister’s funeral on Saturday, yet on Monday morning the manager cheerfully asked them how their weekend was? For some people it is hard work to remember this type of information, but it can be just as important as remembering the practice’s days in receivables or net profit for the month.
Can management style be changed?
Although it is difficult to change management styles due to ingrained personality traits, most managers can learn to become more nurturing. Start small. Pick a couple of employees each day and talk to them. Expect suspicion as the first reaction, but carry on! A conversation starter may be the pictures on the walls of the staff member’s cubicle, or knickknacks on the desk. Is there a photograph of girl in a cheerleading uniform? A boy in a football uniform? A trophy of some sort? Ask about them, and remember what the employee says. This is not just management by walking around. The typical goal of MBWA is to find out how work is going, not whether someone’s sick husband is getting better. Nurturing is personal, not business.
Being a nurturing manager does NOT mean being a doormat. It is not required that a nurturing manager have a permissive management style. An attitude of nurturing can be seen in any management style, even autocratic. But it is important for any type of manager to watch for employees who take the nurturing as a signal that they will be granted special privilege, or that they are being invited into the manager’s personal inner circle. Nurturing managers have to draw the line just like anyone in a supervisory position, and will still have to discipline employees as appropriate. But the discipline may go easier if an employee is comfortable in the fact that they are seen as a human being rather than just a cog in a wheel.