The optical world is continually changing. Today's
optical organizations are comparatively larger than the
small, independent practices of the past, and mom-and-pop
solo practices are slowly declining.
On top of that,
corporate, as well as private practices now face a
different, more diverse workforce then ever before, so it is
imperative that people who own, or hold management roles
understand the importance of not only managing but leading
the organization to be successful in the contemporary
Management versus Leadership
Robbins and Coulter (2007) define management as
"coordinating and overseeing the work of others so that
their activities are completed efficiently and
effectively." In brief, making sure someone does what
you ask them to do. Leadership, according to the same
authors, is described as "the process of influencing a
group to achieve goals," a somewhat different
perspective. In today's organizational climate, and in
particular in health care organizations of all types, the
owner/manager must be a leader as well. Understanding what
motivates this diverse workforce is imperative for success
in today's environment.
Evaluating Different Perspectives?
Diversity is a good thing, in that it provides us with
opportunities to learn about each other, but that can also
be a concern for management. We must understand what makes
our employees tick to be successful, and to do that we need
to learn about the different ways to motivate them.
What Are the Differences?
We all know there are gender differences in the workforce
today, because we see it. In the optical world, there are
more women entering the profession than men. In the past,
the field was clearly dominated by men. Diversity is also
easily recognized in the ethnic and cultural makeup of the
workforce today. Also important is the age differences we
must face, and that may be as difficult as any. Let's take a
closer look at these issues.
Some years back I was a volunteer soccer coach at a high
school. Our boys and girls teams were highly successful,
despite the rather questionable fellow they had coaching
them! One day, I was asked to step in for the girls' coach
who needed to tend to a family illness. I was pleased to do
so, and knew all the young ladies and their families. My
very first practice I used the same strategies I had with
the boys, and my next door neighbor's daughter made a rather
egregious error, for which I chastised her immediately. I
was shocked when she began to cry uncontrollably. I did not
understand what happened, but upon reflection and some
research, I learned to speak more softly next time, and that
the first rule in coaching young ladies is to show them you
care about them as individuals and treat them respectfully.
Above all, do not embarrass them in front of the group!
While my boys were used to my yelling at them for a mistake,
the girls simply did not relate to that at all, and I
changed my approach the next time.
With over 50% of the eye care workforce female today,
learning how to effectively motivate women is important.
When I first went to Opticianry School, my class had 2
females out of the 20 students who started the program. Now,
most of the classes are female. The bottom line is this, men
no longer dominate the optical world, and Optometry is the
same. The lesson is not that you shouldn't yell at the
"girls," but that all professional colleagues need
to be treated as such, and effective communication must be
free of any gender influence. Again respect is the key word.
Today, you may be working with people from a variety of
backgrounds and not even know it. My city (Fayetteville,
North Carolina) is one of the most diverse communities on
the planet, due to Fort Bragg, the nations' most populous
military base. It is located right outside the city limits,
and will soon be annexed by the city. We have 85 recorded
cultures here, and to be able to work with this variety of
backgrounds can be both a blessing and a curse. Melding all
those different perspectives together without public unrest
can be difficult. The workplace is the same and policies and
procedures need to be designed to allow for cultural
differences. An example occurred a few years back that stuck
with me. A man, who happened to be Muslim, was fired from
his job after 9/11. He was born in the United States and
lived here all his life, but was blamed for what happened on
that tragic day because of his faith. He won a lawsuit for
wrongful termination, and was awarded significant back pay
and other monetary concessions from the company.
Another recent case centered on race. A woman, who
happened to be Caucasian, was married to an African-American
man. The boss was unaware of that and was notorious for
telling degrading racial jokes. The woman finally had enough
and sued, winning a substantial settlement. You never know
who you are talking to and it is best to keep things like
that out of the work environment. Cultural and ethnic
differences are found in every city, and we need to
recognize that the folks we manage may be somewhat different
from us, and respect those differences.
Managing the millennial generation and managing the Baby
Boomers in the same organization can be a real challenge. I
happen to be a Baby Boomer, or someone born between the
years 1946 and 1964. My generation is known for idealism,
self-focus optimism and involvement. We wanted to work hard,
and get paid. We grew up with President Kennedy, the Cold
War, and television. The Generation X population, born
between 1965 and 1977, grew up with President Clinton, the
Iran hostage crisis, MTV, and AIDS. They are motivated by
enjoyment of life and want to balance work and personal
life. Often referred to as the millennial generation,
Generation Y grew up with President George W. Bush, the
Internet, and is technologically savvy. They want
flexibility, choice, and meaningful experiences and work.
They ask why, and appreciate diversity.
All of the generations want something different from work
and to effectively motivate them all simultaneously, one
must understand their differences. It is important to
provide a variety of incentives that may be motivators
across the generational boundaries. Just giving someone a
raise may not positively affect Generation Y, but may work
well with the Boomers. Generation X may prefer time off
versus a raise. All-in-all, respecting those differences can
provide significant rewards for your organization, so take
the time to learn more about what motivates your staff. It
will pay dividends in the long run. And remember, a simple
informal recognition of a job well done can be a positive
motivator for all generations.
You can clearly see that we face hurdles in managing
successfully in today's healthcare environment.
Organizations must be cognizant of the makeup of their
workforce and develop policies and procedures to address
diversity. At the same time and even more important than
policies, is the fact that those who manage must understand
that Gen X and Gen Y may not be as easily
"managed" as previous generations. Leadership
plays a significant role in "influencing" folks
from those generations to effectively reach organizational
goals. Just telling someone today to do it because I am the
boss is ineffective and will certainly be a source of
constant turnover. You may have noticed a key word
intertwined throughout this article, respect. Respecting the
differences in the generations, cultures and genders is our
key to managing and leading successful organizations of the