Priya Smith, Assistant Medical Group Administrator, San Jose Medical Center
When you get to the leadership level it’s easy to become disconnected and to forget that where the rubber meets the road is at the front line. Sponsoring a unit-based team helps me stay connected—and that helps me be a better manager.
As a sponsor for the Medical Secretaries and Scanning Center, I help the teams see where they fit in the bigger picture—and they help me see the challenges that teams face every day.
I check in with the teams and their co-leaders regularly, make sure they’re accomplishing their goals and doing work that meets regional and national goals. They have their own ideas for improving department operations and doing their own small tests of change. I help them think strategically about how they can impact the region and Kaiser Permanente as a whole.
There will always be the manager-employee relationship, but when you walk into a UBT meeting, you leave the hierarchy at the door. To build credibility, everyone on the UBT must have an equal voice at the table. I believe in the partnership and, yes, there are a few times when a manager shoulders the responsibility and has to make decisions about regulatory compliance issues, regional strategic direction and planning, scope of practice discussions about licensures and policies, and personnel management. But there are a lot of other decisions that staff can be a part of making in a group setting, and getting buy-in from the folks who do the work makes all the difference in the world.
Because I’m in a leadership role, it is important that I help the teams overcome barriers. If they need help understanding a goal, metric or budget, I can gather the information and package it in a way that is most helpful to the team. When I started working with these teams in 2007, they were already doing good work despite some major obstacles. The chartroom transitioned to the scanning center, and the medical secretaries had a lot of manager and staff turnover, and had difficulty meeting performance metrics. Now both teams are high functioning. They have accomplished so much in the last two years.
So to other sponsors I say, don’t be afraid to jump in. It’s so rewarding to see your teams grow. If we are going to improve performance, we’ll need engagement at all levels of the organization, and the UBT process allows that to happen.