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Imperative skills for today's lab manager.

Last month's Viewpoint column, "Updating management skills for the '90s," may have led MLO readers to believe that I think the only lab managers who will be successful in the coming decade are those who can leap tall buildings in a single bound. It's not as hard as that. In fact, becoming a better manager can be challenging and stimulating--even fun.

* Overview. Those who have the time may choose to read a stack of the dozens of books and articles available on providing effective management. Even so, information overload can be overwhelming. Of the behavioral and technical management skills needed to survive to the year 2000, six key areas, discussed below, merit your attention.

* Administrative skills. Successful middle managers must be adept at strategic planning, setting objectives, developing policies and systems, and evaluating operations continuously. They must be able to develop job descriptions and performance standards, establish and monitor productivity systems, devise or oversee appropriate information system, and generally coordinate all operations. They must communicate effectively, both verbally and in writing.

* People orientation. Nurturing a motivated and committed staff is essential to successful management. Employees of good managers are involved in daily operations and decision making. They are granted autonomy, authority, and independence. They are given sufficient preparation for expanded roles and responsibilities. A compassionate and just managerial approach commands their respect and commitment.

* Financial acumen. Developing and monitoring budgets, cost accounting, selecting referral labs, financial analysis, charge setting, and CPT-4 coding all require skills outside the clinical sciences. Materials management plays a part as well regarding the manager's responsibility for purchase bids, equipment justification, contract negotiations, and inventory control. Those whose institutions have outreach programs must learn how to develop a business plan, provide timely service, and market the laboratory's services.

* Decision making. Effective managers don't shrink from taking risks and including staff members in reaching solutions to identified problems. They encourage innovation, challenge the status quo, welcome change, and experiment with others' visionary ideas.

* Institutional identification. Many laboratory managers find this area difficult. Cooperation with other departments is crucial in promoting quality assurance initiatives, which should be patient-focused. Good managers see themselves as an integral part of the management team. They see managers of other departments as their peers and interact with them accordingly.

* Personal development. Promoting one's own growth is as important as promoting others'. Effective managers read professional journals and newsletters as well as pertinent Government-related periodicals. Networking with other professionals and involvement in community services are two routes to success. Attending management seminars, workshops, and educational classes helps managers maintain and upgrade their skills.

Good managers keep abreast of scientific and technological developments and assess their relevance to the laboratory of the present and future. They are pro-active rather than reactive. They develop political savvy, stay on top of rules and regulations, and understand labor relations.

* Possible dream. Attaining all the skills discussed above may seem like an impossible dream, but many managers already possess them. To do so, you must be willing to analyze your personal leadership style and abilities continually and to determine their impact on your laboratory.

If you believe you are a superior manager or would like to identify areas of deficiency, why not take a laboratory management certification exam? If you pass, you'll have confirmed your competence. If you fail, you'll have identified areas of weakness so that you can start to strengthen them. Either way, you'll come out a winner. And so will your lab.

Annamarie Barros is a management consultant and educator; director of Health Management Analysts, Woodland, Calif., and laboratory operations adviser, Ernst & Young, Great Lake Region, Cleveland.
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Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Viewpoint
Author:Barros, Annamarie
Publication:Medical Laboratory Observer
Article Type:Column
Date:Dec 1, 1991
Previous Article:Is your hospital ready for CQI?
Next Article:Medicare weighs outpatient, lab bundling schemes.

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