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Recipe for a successful lab manager.

Recipe for a successful lab manager

Employees who might aspire to my job often ask me what it takes to be a laboratory manager in today's environment. In addition to the obvious--education and experience --there are some other very important ingredients, and they have to be blended together in just the right proportions. Here's my recipe for one laboratory manager.

To generous parts of education and experience:

Add one part psychologist. Laboratory managers must be able to understand the true feelings and emotions of others. This trait, helpful during the recruiting and interviewing process, becomes invaluable when employees come to managers with their problems. During counseling sessions, I may do little more than nod and ask open-ended questions. But this often is enough to help employees solve their own problems.

Stir in equal parts judge and jury. All departments should have well-defined policies to follow, but occasionally situations may fall into gray areas. Laboratory managers must then make a judgment call, taking all the facts of the particular incident into account. The decision rendered must be fair to all. It may have to stand up to challenge.

Throw in one part horse trader. With the cost of operating the laboratory under close scrutiny, we must negotiate the best deals for reagents, supplies, equipment, and so forth. We also have to gather information, review technical specifications, and make site visits. But the real the test of our talents comes when we try to convince vendors that we can do without their products, and at the same time convince administration that we can't.

Blend in one psychic. It would help if we all had a crystal ball to insure the decisions we make today won't turn into disasters tomorrow. Rapidly changing technology, and even more rapidly changing regulation, make it difficult but imperative to analyze how our decisions will affect future operations.

Fold in one diplomat. Check the space between a rock and a hard place and you will usually find a laboratory manager. We are constantly asked by medical staff and administration to provide better services with fewer resources. On the other hand, employees tell us they can't possibly work any harder. Because we are in the middle, we need to develop diplomatic skills that help us see all sides of the issue and find equitable solutions.

Pour in one accountant. With the bottom line ever more important in health care, the successful manager needs to identify the true cost of laboratory operations. If your laboratory plans to market its services, for example, you must have a system in place that will determine marginal costs, indirect costs, etc. Your position requires that you be able to read and interpret for others the complicated statistics now being generated to help manage laboratory operations.

Sprinkle in a pinch of farmer. We have to promote growth like a farmer nurturing crops. That means generating advancement opportunities for our employees as well as new ideas that will help us perform better. We need to keep the laboratory a dynamic place, but we can't do it by ourselves. Others have to help us harvest ideas for growth.

Combine all of the above. Cook under the high pressure of increased service demands and limited resources. Recipe will serve approximately 10 to 300 according to the size of the laboratory.

As you can see, it takes many ingredients to make a successful manager in today's environment. Quantity depends on the needs of the organization, but I don't recommend leaving anything out of the recipe because that will ruin the final product.
COPYRIGHT 1986 Nelson Publishing
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1986 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Maratea, James
Publication:Medical Laboratory Observer
Date:Sep 1, 1986
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