In my first facility in Glendale, AZ, I was eager to prove myself as the best leader my staff had ever seen. One problem with that was … that I wasn’t. But, I’m getting ahead of myself. In my AIT program (Administrator in Training) I learned as much as I could about the departments I was to oversee. But, I failed to dive deep enough into the nooks and crannies of the facility which resulted in insecurity in me, the new leader, when it came to supervising department heads and holding them accountable and teaching them.
So, instead of investing in building a relationship of trust with my department heads who could then, in turn, do the same with their staff, I felt much more comfortable working out on the floor with the line staff. I would show how much I cared for them and the residents by staying out of my office and walking around. I would be visible. I would get to know everyone by name. I would get to know their lives. It didn’t occur to me at the time but my department heads resented my behavior. I’m saying they resented me being visible and out of my office. We all should do that. The ED who’s stuck in his office all day becomes out of touch, ineffective, and won’t be employed very long.
BUT … what they resented was that I was spending the necessary time to hold them accountable, invest in our relationship, and help them succeed. Some of them felt like I was ‘going over their head’ or ‘undermining’ them. What I learned, the hard way, was that when the ‘line staff’ feel so comfortable with you/me as the administrator, that can threaten their direct supervisor’s relationship with them. And, their supervisor (your department head) feels it and trusts you less.
It happened to me. Don’t let it happen to you.
Of course we should know everyone by name. We should have an open door. But, we should direct them to talk to their supervisors first before rushing in to solve problems. And, we should make time, at least once a week, to have a meaningful status review with each department head. That tweak to my management approach made a huge difference in my effectiveness and results in my next two facilities.