1. McConnell, Charles R.

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I'd really like to take in that departmental budgeting workshop; I know I need to know more about budgeting. But there's just too much to do right now. Tell you what-I'll go the next time around, after I get a few of these overdue assignments off my back."


"Yeah, I know my files are an unholy mess. The drawers are bulging-and just look at this stack of stuff waiting to be filed! I keep saying I'm going to tackle it on a slow day, but who ever has a slow day?"


"Time management? Sure, I could use it; sign me up. But not for this time. Make it later, after the rush is over."


There was once a little cartoon that hung on many office walls. It showed 2 figures on opposite sides of a table, both leaning back with their feet on the table. They were surrounded by towers of haphazardly stacked papers. The caption indicated one of the figures saying to the other, "Next week we've got to get organized."


"Next week" hardly ever arrives in the sense of actually triggering action. "After the rush is over" becomes a hollow promise for the many working managers for whom the rush is never truly over. The long awaited "slow day" seems never to arrive except for those who make it arrive by coming in on a weekend, and getting those "overdue assignments off my back" usually accomplishes no more than staying even as other assignments arrive.


Running a department or other work group is an open-ended task. One is never finished, never totally "caught up." There is always something that has to be done, whether urgent, not-quite-so-critical, necessary but low priority, or "nice to do if we have time." Even a conscientious manager working in today's frantic health care environment may stay focused and productively busy all of the time and never get close to the "nice to do if we have time."


How, then, can we get at the overdue assignments and the office clutter and get them under control? Getting organized, getting caught up, or improving one's productivity, in general, depends more on attitude and mindset than on assistance and the availability of time. We cannot allow ourselves to believe we have to wait for a "better time." For the most part, there is no "better time"; once the future becomes the present it looks very much like the past did when it was the present. For most people most of the time, the best time is now.


Overdue assignments? Starting today, get one of them, preferably the most important, moving. Establish a priority order and keep chipping away in between and around your other work. You might prefer large chunks of uninterrupted time, but accept the fact that bits and pieces may have to suffice. If you are the average busy manager, this is the only way you will get reasonably current.


Office clutter? Bulging files? Set a loose schedule for yourself, perhaps a half-hour per day, one file drawer per week, one stack of miscellany per week, or whatever works. Again, the key is to chip away at it, to avoid letting yourself be lulled by the possibility of the "right time" sometime in the future.


Budgeting workshop or time management program? There's no better time than now. Would you avoid attending an educational program if your manager ordered you to do so? Probably not, no matter how inconvenient the timing seemed to be. So, order yourself to go, if need be.


All of the things you do to put your job or surroundings in order, all of the steps you take to learn how to be a more effective supervisor, combine to provide the most effective sort of continuing management development-self development.


This issue of The Health Care Manager offers the following articles for the reader's consideration:


* "Looking Good But Behaving Badly: Leader Accountability and Ethics Failure" addresses the interaction of the culture of organizations and the character of their leaders that create the environmental and social situations conducive to ethics failure.


* "Environmental Scanning and the Health Care Manager" proposes the means for managers and supervisors to improve their skills as environmental scanners as they develop and implement strategic plans in today's health care environment.


* "Structured Interview Questions for Selecting Productive, Emotionally Mature, and Helpful Employees" concludes that the best performing employees are high on intelligence and the most socially competent employees are high on emotional intelligence, and suggests questions to utilize in interviewing for these characteristics.


* "The Impact of Relational Norms on the Effectiveness of Health Care and Human Service Teams" reports on an investigation examining the relationship between relational norms with the perceived effectiveness of a number of health care and human services teams.


* The Case in Health Care Management, "This Place Owes Me," asks the reader to consider how to address the behavior of a long-term part-time employee who believes her longevity should entitle her to preferential treatment.


* "Assessment of Time Management Attitudes Among Health Managers" reports on a study designed to identify the main factors that consume a manager's time and further identify a manager's significant time-saving opportunities.


* "Hospital Design and Staff Perceptions: An Exploratory Analysis" examines a subset of results from an employee satisfaction survey taken at a medical center in an attempt to determine whether building design can have an impact (positive or negative) on staff satisfaction.


* "Managed Care and Patient Safety: Risks and Opportunities" reports on a study of patient safety practices undertaken to determine how patient safety might be improved in the managed care setting.


* "A Summation of Online Recruiting Practices for Healthcare Organizations" is intended to assist health care managers currently using online recruiting by addressing the most common and frequently asked questions concerning this modern approach to recruiting.


* "Attitudes Toward Incorporating Fun into the Health Care Workplace" reports on a study undertaken to examine the extent to which health care workers' attitudes toward fun influence their level of experienced fun and job satisfaction.


* "Nurse Attrition as a Process" addresses the effects of nurse attrition on the chronic shortage of nurses and considers the forces encountered in each of the first 5 years of a nursing career that may lead an individual to abandon nursing.


* "Motivating Your Employees and Yourself: How Different is the Manager from the Staff?" suggests that the managers who ultimately succeed are those who are sensitive to their own needs and desires, credit their employees with similar needs and desires, and treat employees in the manner in which they would themselves like to be treated by higher management.



Charles R. McConnell