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Developing the potential for staff success.

Most of us, believe it or not, only live up to 10 to 15 per cent of our potential. In fact, behavioral scientist Frederick Perls noted that a person performing at 2k per cent of potential is considered a genius.

It's tragic to think that so much human capability is never used. The reason is that we live and work in cliches or in highly patterned behavior-we're in a rut. If members of lab management and their staffs are to grow as professionals, they must shed the comfort of their present roles and be willing to work hard toward improvement, often by using time away from work to study and position themselves for new opportunities.

Waste of potential is troublesome to lab managers striving to bring their organizations to peak productivity under prospective payment. Yet managers and supervisors have the power to maximze staff contributions.

Thirty years ago, psychologist Abraham Maslow described a five-tier need hierarchy as a guide to motivation. In ascending order, the needs are: physical comfort, security, rewarding social relationships, esteem, and self-actualization or the need to develop oneself more fully. We are all motivated by each need until it is satisfied.

Maslow's concept is the foundation of a humanistic approach to management, along with supporting theories supplied by such other behavioral scientists as Argyris, McGregor, and Likert. The thinking is that managers should build opportunities into their organizations that allow employees to satisfy their own needs while working toward organizational objectives. Today, most laboratories satisfy employees' lower-level needs with fair wages, benefits, job security, workplace comfort, and social interaction. The ability to find a job somewhere else, the existence of unions, and the threat of unionization help guarantee that these needs are met. Managers, therefore, should direct their attention to the higher needs that are the primary motivators in developing an employee's potential--esteem, acceptance, recognition, and self-actualization. If we heed Maslow's advice, self-actualization can be fostered by offering a good work environment--providing all the necessary ingredients for growth, then getting out of the way and letting the individual perform.

It is easy to spout these ideas and theorize about their effectiveness. In practical terms, what does a manager have to supply in order to develop the laboratory staff's potential more successfully? I suggest the following ingredients: a good role model and occasions for growth, coupled with support and encouragement.

The laboratory director, manager, or supervisor who seems to relish working hard toward a lab goal is an appropriate role model for bench technologists. The goal might be introduction to a new procedure or implementation of a computer system. Given that kind of leadership and a part to play in improving operations, employees not only grow but draw pleasure from the experience.

The real difficulty lies in getting staff members to take the first step. Managers often must encourage technologists to do research and development, to write a paper for publication, or to prepare a continuing education lecture for the very first time. When staff members make a major contribution to a diagnosis or have a paper published, that's important to both the individuals and the organization. Once touched by the heady feeling of doing something new and significant on their own, employees become hooked. Maslow calls it a peak experience.

Managers are rewarded by serving as a catalyst in this process and watching employees overcome their indecisiveness, confusion, and even anger--watching them, finally, become motivated to finish the task successfully and go on to other accomplishments. I have observed that the fulfillment derived from special projects carries over a heightened interest in the day-to-day routine. In fact, I have seen many technologists "infect" co-workers with their new-found enthusiasm.

Unfortunately, not all members of the management team serve as exemplary role models or try to open new paths for employees. When a leader lacks initiative and doesn't communicate well, the rest of the work group is likely to be passive and uncommitted. The answer is to choose and develop better leaders. We want directors, managers, and supervisors who will create opportunities for their employees to taste success. If employees are expected to do well and are led by someone who believes in them, they will do well.

Moreover, the sooner employees experience success, the more apt they are to make success part of their future goals. Success-oriented individuals increase their energy and efforts to get past obstacles. Employees who have not been given an early chance to experience growth and success will stumble over even the smallest obstacle, give up, and fail. Frequently, they are victims of a self-destructive outlook; they do not believe they can succeed.

To help employees grow, supervisors must also get to know something of their staff's non-working lives--their hobbies, recreational activities, and friendships. How fruitfully eight hours a day are spent in the lab is to a degree determined by what, if anything, the employee does to promote personal growth afterward.

I recently spent an afternoon talking to a very troubled technologist who said his main problem was an inability to have fun anymore. While we struggled for words to identify the root of his difficulty, be blurted our: "When I was a kid, I didn't have to worry--everything was fun. Now everything is much too serious."

Could it be that when we were youngsters, we were freer in exploring feelings, formulating concepts, and searching for identity? If that's the case, managers can rejuvenate employees by returning them to the pursuit of self-development.

Remember, however, that this takes time. As leaders, we must find opportunites that allow employees to choose their own directions for subsequent learning. The outcome--more staff members with independence, creativity, and self-reliance--will be satisfying and beneficial to all concerned.

We can no longer afford to lose 85 per cent of staff potential.
COPYRIGHT 1985 Nelson Publishing
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1985 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:management in the medical laboratory
Author:Martin, Bettina
Publication:Medical Laboratory Observer
Date:Aug 1, 1985
Words:963
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