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Competition: an objective way to select a supervisor.

Selection of a new supervisor from the ranks of technologists is usually preordained: Most laboratories turn almost automatically to the candidate with the greatest seniority or technical competence. Our blood bank decided to introduce competition into the selection process, and it has told us much more, in an objective way, about the leadership potential of our technologists.

Candidates receive scores in several areas--how intelligently they critique the department they seek to head; the outcome of an interview with the medical director; their responses in a meeting with all supervisors in the lab, at which they're asked to solve hypothetical supervisory problems; and their experience and past professional conduct (Figure 1).

The ultimate mark of leadership is the ability to direct others in accomplishing a task. A supervisor must also define objectives, establish priorities, recognize the importance of delegation, understand employees and their motivations, communicate ideas, and develop an effective leadership style. Untested promise along such lines is not easily identified. Our system provides the needed testing.

In the past, only one or two really qualified candidates surfaced whenever we sought a supervisor. If we had to make a choice, interviews and a review of personnel files seemed to furnish sufficient input. That worked, more or less, until two supervisory positions opened up in the blood bank, for the component preparation lab and the compatibility lab. The jobs attracted no fewer than seven applicants, all of them comparably qualified in terms of experience and proficiency. Forced to dig deeper into each individual, we hit upon the idea of a competitive search.

The process begins with posting of the job opening. Those interested in applying must submit a written evaluation of the department that has the vacancy. They are asked to define objectives, list strengths and weaknesses, suggest improvements, and discuss the department's future direction. Although a candidate may not be working in that department, good communication throughout the blood bank makes employees generally knowledgeable about every area.

These critiques are submitted to the laboratory secretary, who retypes them and distributes copies--without the authors' names on them--to current supervisors. Keeping the applicants anonymous at the outset enables the supervisory team to consider the proposals more objectively. In our 100-point scoring system, a maximum of 25 points is allotted for this part of the selection process. And applicant's grade is the average of all the supervisors' scores.

Supervirors look at the critiques much the way an instructor grades an essay question. Any number of responses can be correct, but some will indicate a sounder supervisory outlook than others. One applicant's objectives for the compatibility laboratory included efforts to maximize productivity while insuring safe transfusions. Another applicant said that performing surgical crossmatches on the afternoon shift, instead of all day long, would increase productivity. Several applicants advocated changes in staffing patterns to help the blood bank meet future needs.

Next, each applicant is interviewed by the medical director on his or her professional goals and reasons for seeking the supervisory position. The medical director awards up to 10 points for this part of the competition.

Then comes a meeting with all members of the laboratory supervisory team. The applicant is presented with four or five situations that might confront a supervisor and asked how they shuld be handled. A philosophical question may occasionally be thrown in--for example, "How do you view the supervisory position in relation to overall management of the laboratory?" But we're more interested in the practical side:

"A special project arises in your department. Do you select an employee who is very enthusiastic and will get the job done quickly, or do you use the project as an opportunity to motivate and build self-confidence in an employee who lacks initiative?"

Here again, there's frequently more than one correct answer. As Figure II demonstrates, the diverse questions serve to measure management common sense and draw out applicants' views about such matters as delegation, motivation, discipline, continuing education, leadership style, and communication. Supervisors give applicants up to 25 points for this phase.

final selection is made after two more categories, experience and professional conduct, are assessed by the supervisory team. Personnel files and pasat performance appraisals are used to rate the candidates in these areas. In other words, the competition doesn't ignore what an individual has contributed thus far to the laboratory.

The experience category has a maximum point value of 10. Applicants are rated on their experience in blood banking and teaching assignments, and past supervisory experience.

The professional conduct category merits 30 possible points, the highest total in the competition. Basically, applicants are scored for what we have learned about their dependability, ability to work with others, the amount of direct supervision they need, willingness to communicate problems to their supervisors, self-motivation, work habits, and initiative.

Finally, we add up the numbers, and the applicant with the top score gets the job. This largely objective process zeros in on the best candidate, in our experience. Supervisors selected via the competitive route have gone on to demonstrate superior management abilities.
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Author:Sherwin, Judith A.
Publication:Medical Laboratory Observer
Date:Jun 1, 1985
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