I want to be a leader, not a boss.
June 22, 2006 11:43 AM   Subscribe

I start a new job tomorrow. Help me not make an ass of myself!

You may remember me from this question Anyway, I've moved to a new city and landed a new job. Still a practice administrator in the world of dentistry. Still a very small practice with only one doctor. I haven't met any of the other people I'll be working with and I know almost nothing about the doctor's style. Within the year I will be completing a course of training with a large dental practice consulting firm.

I know a lot more about how to lead people, and I certainly know not to hold a garbage can in front of my assistant to get her to spit her gum out. (Yes, I did that once) I also know not to barge in and do all the work quickly and let others just sit around and watch. Still not quite sure how to delegate though.

What should I read to make me a good boss? (I'm still 24, and have absorbed Paul Homoly and Linda Miles) Bonus points if you have dental/healthcare management tips.
posted by bilabial to Work & Money (10 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Politeness and humility go a long way, no matter what you're doing.
posted by rinkjustice at 12:24 PM on June 22, 2006

Don't be aftraid to say "I don't know, can you help me with this." You don't get points for taking charge, you get points for helping get the work done easier even if it isn't the most efficient way.
posted by ptm at 12:30 PM on June 22, 2006

Your job is to make decisions. You get paid to make good decisions. Nothing else. Remember this and focus on doing a good job. Everything else is details.

And I'll second ptm's advice. Since you're new, you should get used to asking for help. Ask your employees how things are usually done, how things should be done, and what the outstanding problems are. Once you've gathered enough input, make the decision and do it. Don't be overly terrified of making the wrong decision either. If something doesn't work, admit it, and re-analyze the problem and make another decision.

Frankly I've never found a good book on leadership. Most of them suck, the few that don't suck contain only some of the basic truths. Personally, I'm of the opinion that good leaders are born and it's not something that can be taught. But if I had to recommend some reading material it'd be various biographies (Abe Lincoln, Napoleon, Frederick the Great of Prussia). But, yeah, that might not be your thing.
posted by nixerman at 12:40 PM on June 22, 2006

I learned an effective method of delegation: have two equal (in terms of work/effort) tasks ready and have the person choose which one they'd like to do, then you finish the other task.
If it's a one-way delegation (as if there's only one task to do, or you aren't supposed to be doing menial tasks), just ask kindly yet affirmatively. And honestly, don't over- or under-represent the task. "Hey Bill, could you take care of the filing situation for me today? Thanks so much!" always worked for me. Pepper your requests with politeness, and it all works out.
posted by Meagan at 1:23 PM on June 22, 2006

First the silly:

Step 1: Be yourself.
Step 2: Assuming your real self is NOT an ass, then rinse and repeat!

Now the serious:

Truly, they wouldn't hire you if they didn't have some level of confidence in your ability to do the job (unless it's your uncle or something similar). I would focus on making good relationships with your coworkers rather than making good decisions - that way, even WHEN you goof up, they'll be more inclined to smile and say, "No problem, that happened to me too!"

My personal favorite book on leadership is John Maxwell's "The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership". Whether you agree with all 21 of them, there are some really good gems in there.

I respectfully disagree, nixerman - you CAN learn leadership. Relationship building is a key lever in the process.

Good luck and congratulations on the new job!
posted by Bobtheordinary at 1:57 PM on June 22, 2006

Don't forget to acknowledge the work they do after it's done. "Nice job on the filing Bill." or whatever. Particularly if they are going out of their way. "You sure had to deal with a lot of cranky patients today. It was great that you didn't get flustered." (crap. everything I'm saying sounds pompous and patronising. But it's really important that you appreciate what your staff do. Just do it better than I suggested.)
posted by b33j at 1:59 PM on June 22, 2006

I think with delegating, the trick is deciding that the entirety of X task falls to Y person, then just telling that person, "Do X" and backing off. Be there if they have questions, of course, but don't dole out bits and pieces of the task so that the person can't ever progress on her own without getting you overly involved or take full ownership of the task herself.

/micro-managed employee
posted by occhiblu at 2:02 PM on June 22, 2006

A more concrete example: My most-favoritest boss tended to give instructions like, "Do all this filing" or "We need all these pages revised" and would then go away. If something was confusing or I needed help, he was there, but he didn't try to tell me how to do anything before I asked for help; he expected me to do thing well, and on time, and so I did.

My least-favorite boss was more like, "I need you to take charge of this project" and then a day later would email telling me everything he'd just done on the project, and ask if I had any additions. Consequently, I didn't tend to do much until asked directly, because I had NO CLUE which of "my" projects he'd already done work on, and I really hate duplicating work. And it was a total morale killer, because nothing screams "trust and respect" like doing your employees' work for them!
posted by occhiblu at 2:10 PM on June 22, 2006

Be a leader not manager. Delegate with clear and specific tasks. Leave the methodology for completeing the task to the taskee. Always acknowledge a job well done or completed as asked. Don't aks, tell politely, "Please complete this filing by tomorrow at 3." If you are delegating more than one task, prioritize for the person or you risk having the wrong one completed first. Ask the Doctor what his priorities are and plan accordingly. Arrive 10 minutes early. Everyday. Don't forget that just because "that's the way we always do that around here" is not a good reason to keep doing it. Change is good if it improves the process for both the person doing the job and the final result is as good or better than before.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 7:52 PM on June 22, 2006

Come early stay late say you're so sorry when you mess up and promise not to do it again.
posted by zackdog at 1:33 AM on June 23, 2006

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