Bonnie Cheney, manager of a growing number of teams in multiple locations, shares her tips for supervising a workforce constantly in motion as our inaugural interviewee for our new blog series.
A typical day for Bonnie Cheney, VP of Medical Imaging Specialists (MIS), is “pretty hectic.” In the New York headquarters for the radiology consulting firm, Cheney works with C-level executives to oversee operations on base. She is also an integral part of MIS Investments, whose mission is to acquire imaging centers in the Northeast and ensure quality patient care throughout the region. Serving as the new interim Director of Operations at these acquired centers requires an innovative style of management from Cheney. She herself is rotating through locations, while the imaging centers function as “hives” on the Lua Spectrum of Industry Mobility, with everyone in constant motion within the workplace:
“You have at some point in the day 10, maybe 12, patients checking in at the same time, while 20 or more are in the back already – so the workflow is constant, it is fast-paced. Everyone’s moving – everyone’s moving around and taking care of patients, and there’s a lot of sensitive or urgent issues that can come up within patient services, so we have to always be ready to act fast. So a typical day is move, move, move; take care of patients and make sure it’s quality care.”
This “move, move, move” environment was a change for Cheney and demanded on-the-go coordination, which she has been able to realize with Lua’s help. I found out her top three tips for people newly managing mobile workforces:
1. Be the new sheriff in town without disturbing the peace
What would you say your most challenging moment was when moving into this new culture and making sure everyone’s on the same page, especially when you’re back and forth between offices?
“Creating good communication between everyone on the team was a struggle for me. I don’t like to micromanage, but I do like routine communication. In patient services, you can’t just call a staff meeting in the middle of the day because patients have to be taken care of. A staff meeting might be the most familiar way to get the word out on something, but it would only hurt our business by disturbing workflow and making us have to turn away customers. So for me, it was hard ensuring we stayed connected while balancing all the moving parts and people. And as a new manager, I had to consider, you know, how do you relate to them, how do you get them motivated, how do you deliver your message, and how do you make sure that your ideas or delivery method is practical for the business.”
How do you ensure that motivation and that delivery when you’re coming in as a new manager?
“I think that there is a lot of fear associated with change – I think that’s a common theme when a company’s morale is down: it has a lot to do with people being scared for their job or scared of change in management. So I think that one way to handle it is to go in and almost do nothing at first. Be calm with the people, make them feel comfortable, and make sure they see that you’re not afraid, so there’s no reason for them to be. A lot of people would say, you know, it’s good to go in and make the drastic changes, go in with a bang and show there’s a new sheriff in town. But I’ve learned it’s better to take it slow, observe, feel people out and find out what motivates everyone, which is not easy to do. So, take the time, find out that motivation, find out what it is that they’re so scared of – then prepare a way that works best to deliver a new message of, ‘Now that we’re all comfortable, let’s move forward.’ From that point you get to be the manager you want to be – the one you need to be.”
Going in, Cheney’s new team at Vision Imaging of Kingston, PA, didn’t have corporate emails, and many still used pagers and the intercom system to relay information. So how did she make that positive move forward? For her, effective communication was key.
2. Get your internal communication up to snuff
“Find a communication method that actually works. Find a tool that’s practical for your team, and one that can quickly deliver a message properly. I can’t send hundreds of emails to different people; I can’t keep track of that. Create something that allows you to focus on each entity, each department, each specific project. The fact of the matter is, there’s always going to be so much stuff coming in, so many notifications or interruptions, that if you can find a communication method to zone into, the way you zone into reading a book, and really give full attention to – even if it’s only for two minutes – then you can start effectively making decisions and progress. You really need to have that visibility and know what’s going on to be the most effective manager. You can’t just sit back and just hope everything is going through.”
3. Foster a sense of community
“Once you find a good communication tool, lead by example, use it, use it effectively, and try and create a culture within it. Use that tool – and other tools – to foster positive vibes. Most people work at least 9 to 5 every day, 40 hours a week, so your job is where you spend many, many hours of your life. I know people view their jobs in different ways – to some, it’s their passion; to others, it’s just to make ends meet. But regardless of the industry or the people, I think everybody likes to be a part of something, to be valued, talked to, and to see that management would try something different, even fun, for them. You know, simple things like positive quotes, new resources, upgrading technology. Whatever it is, show them you’re invested and be cheesy and be corny, and do what you need to do to say, ‘Look, I’m in this. Are you?’”
This post is the first in our new series featuring insights from mobile managers and communication experts. Comment below or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you also have experiences to share!