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Monday, June 25, 2012

Lead From the Front

I have always had a practice of not asking my team members to do things I would not do.  Now, let me clarify.  I frequently ask my team members to do things that they can do better than I can do.  I have had people working under my direction on the organizational chart, but the skill and ability they had to do their job, far exceeded my ability to do their job.  Yes, I am a nurse and a paramedic, but if you are a trauma victim, at this point in my career, where I spend most of my time managing or leading, you want someone else on the org chart drawing your blood and pushing the your meds.  The leadership key is that your team members know who you are and know that you would be WILLING, IF NOT ABLE to do the very work they are being asked to do.

Today, while rounding in the hospital kitchen, as I entered the dishwashing line I saw an employee and her supervisor working together washing dishes.  The employee assigned to do dishes was by herself with a moving line of breakfast dishes.  Her supervisor, has some choices:
  1. Stay in his office and try to call for someone to call in to help.
  2. Move another employee from another prep area and make that area short
  3. Roll up his sleeves and work

When assigned to lead other people, it's hard to do your management duties and also do the work, but many times the right thing to do is to LEAD FROM THE FRONT.  When the ED got very busy, I sometimes went to triage and triaged incoming patients.  An example is set that our leader is willing to pitch in and help us. 

I like the television series "Undercover Boss".  It highlights company CEO's who have rarely been seen outside of ivory towers that wear a disguise and rotate some of the more routine jobs of the company.  Invariably, the CEO learns pearls of wisdom from the frontline employees who are generating millions for his company. http://www.cbs.com/shows/undercover_boss/  Leaders need to find a way to be more familiar to the front line.  I use taped video messaging of my hopes for how we provide service and my expectations for our team members.

I've not been in the military, but I think the military understands leading from the front.  Troops have to be led into battle.  All the supervisors can't just stand back in a safe place and say "OK guys, go get em!" 

If that is true, what are the behaviors we as leaders need to exhibit, when we are leading from the front:
  1. Knowledge of the Plan
  2. Resource Person
  3. Calmness Under Pressure
  4. Technical Skill
  5. Teamwork
  6. Excellent Customer Service
We are to be role models as leaders.  If you let your guard down and laugh at a demeaning joke, or you allow rule-breaking in your presence, you need to remember -- WHAT YOU PERMIT, YOU PROMOTE.

A closely related skill to leading from the front is the skill of delegation.  Here are some do's and don'ts for delegation:

  • delegate tasks that can be done better by someone else.
  • delegate tasks that will develop another person.
  • delegate tasks that are repetitive in nature.
  • delegate things that you just don't want to do.
  • delegate things that you are not willing to be responsible for if mistakes are made.
Leaders can be more effective when they get things done through others.  For more information about delegation, see:  http://www.businessballs.com/delegation.htm

“Lead from the front — but don t leave your base behind.”
Nelson Mandela

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