Beware of mediocre supervisors

Monday, December 31, 2007

Supervisors play a key role in any successful business as they are confronted with the daily challenges of leading people and coordinating their daily work. Given the complex and ever-changing HME business climate, the role of frontline supervisors has taken on a heightened level of importance for HME providers wishing to succeed in a challenging, yet opportunity-filled industry.
Mediocre supervisors can pull-down the business and create a drag on financial performance in ways that are not readily apparent. Worse yet, poorly performing supervisors can have a devastating effect on overall business operations, employee performance, customer service, and staff retention. In fact, studies on employee retention indicate that a poor relationship with an immediate supervisor is one of the primary reasons why an employee leaves his or her job.
Successful HME providers understand the essence of effective frontline supervision and they resist the temptation to rely on inexperienced and poorly trained supervisors. High-performing HME providers do not settle for a “convenient level of incompetence” in their supervisors in order to meet short-terms goals (like getting as many first-time claims out the door as possible) while foregoing opportunities for longer-term success. The ultimate test of a leadership team is not how fast it can grow the business in the short-term, but how consistently it can grow it over the long-term. Consistent long-term growth demands consistent, effective frontline supervision.
Basic Requirements of Effective HME Supervisors
An effective supervisor is someone that has excellent communication skills; they are able to write, speak and persuasively present their case. An effective supervisor is also an excellent listener. In the fast-paced world of the typical HME provider, supervisors must remain accessible and approachable so they can help solve problems and provide guidance in near real-time.
An effective supervisor has a deep understanding of the entire business, not just the department they represent. HME businesses are highly cross-functional and interconnected. Operations in one area of the business directly impact all other areas.
An effective supervisor understands the importance of coaching, including taking advantage of teachable moments when something goes wrong (or right) in the operation. Good supervisors are constantly training and providing guidance to the people they direct in a way that helps to meet the business and strategic objectives set by management.
An effective supervisor understands the importance of performance management. They set goals, clearly define expectations, provide feedback, and utilize rewards and corrective action when necessary.
An effective supervisor relies on data and performance metrics to help manage performance and make decisions. Without relevant metrics, there is no way to objectively gauge performance.
An effective supervisor is able to establish a good working relationship with staff, yet they are also able to set boundaries so they do not become perceived as equal to the coworkers they are expected to lead.
Supervisors provide the link between management’s strategic objectives and the employees that must bring the strategy to life through their daily work. The key to a successful HME operation goes beyond effective claims and revenue management—it requires solid, effective frontline supervision in order to meet both the short-term and long-term business objectives.
Chris Calderone is the founder of Lean Homecare Consulting Group.