History of Generation: Traditionalists

Traditionalists make up the smallest percentage involved in the current workforce, but they are the organizational historians as they know and remember the organization’s past and founding goals. Traditionalists are typically born between 1927 and 1945 and grew up during the Great Depression, which was from 1933 to 1938. After that, the second World War started and the U.S.A got involved after the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941.

These years had a significant effect on this generation. Traditionalists are known to work collaboratively, know how to do more with less, and are task-oriented. They typically have a strong sense of what is right and wrong, which was fueled by the historical events in their childhood and early adulthood. They have a strong sense of patriotism and respect for authority figures.

This generation is also one of the first major innovators; they created space travel, vaccination programs, and the foundation for modern-day technological innovations. They were the driving force of the civil rights movement of the 50s and 60s and were also the ones that started moving to suburbs. Currently, the are serving on many Board of Directors, as Presidents of organizations or as executive leaders. They have generally moved up in the hierarchy of organizations that they have spent years working for. They are loyal employees who require little feedback from their managers.

Because this is the era of pre-feminism women, the majority of women raised children and only had a job before marriage as teachers, nurses, or secretaries. This generation is self-disciplined, cautious, and self-sacrificing.

 

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-Lotte Mulder earned her Master’s of Education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education in 2013, where she focused on Leadership and Group Development. She’s currently working toward a PhD in Organizational Leadership. At ASCP, Lotte designs and facilitates the ASCP Leadership Institute, an online leadership certificate program. She has also built ASCP’s first patient ambassador program, called Patient Champions, which leverages patient stories as they relate to the value of the lab.


 

This generation was born before 1945 and is the oldest generation in the American culture. However, not all of those born before 1945 are alike.  They either fought in WWII or were children through those war years.  The Traditionalist generation are really the first strong innovators and if they are still working they act as the historians of the organization because they have been there for a long time. They often serve on Board of Directors and are Presidents because of their organizational knowledge and expertise. They are typically very disciplined, consistent in their behavior and opinions, and are known for their loyalty.

The majority of Traditionalists are retirees and are the largest lobbyist group, which is the AARP.  If your parents or grandparents were of the Traditionalist Generation, you might have experienced a “waste not, want not” attitude with strong family values, conformity, and team players.

The Traditionalists are often referred to as the “Silent Generation.” This term came from the fact that during this era, the children were often expected to be seen and not heard.

As I pondered this generational topic, I found myself searching for an example of an “Active Working Traditionalist” that I could talk about because they might not have yet retired!  To my surprise I found myself thinking about my Uncle Tom.  This man has taken care of me and his family of five children with my Aunt Pat my whole life. He is a strong family man and then realized he is still working! Uncle Tom (he prefers to remain nameless) turned 83 year’s old this past April 16th.  He is still the principle owner of his own CPA firm and worked those long and hard CPA hours during this 2018 tax season.  As I mentioned early in this blog, all Traditionalists are not alike, and Uncle Tom never expected children to be “silent.”  He valued their opinions, and my Aunt Pat was both a stay home mom and a partner in their CPA firm.

Uncle Tom values the old-time morals of family first, safety, conservatism, patience and financial security.  I encourage you to look around for your Traditionalist at home, or maybe even in the workplace.  Let’s appreciate our Traditionalists while we still have the opportunity to learn from them!

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-Catherine Stakenas, MA, is the Senior Director of Organizational Leadership and Development and Performance Management at ASCP. She is certified in the use and interpretation of 28 self-assessment instruments and has designed and taught masters and doctoral level students.  

Ethical Leadership

Ethical decisions are a part of everyday life, but they are even more prominent when leading a team, a company or an entire organization. Ethics are essential for effective leadership, and leaders are responsible for creating ethical organizations.  Because people make decisions multiple times a day, ensuring that every decision is ethical is an essential skill, especially for leaders. Ethical decisions are often based on intuition without a logical explanation for why a certain solution was chosen. However, to increase the ethics of a situation, logic needs to be applied to the decision-making process.  Logical analysis of a situation creates a deeper understanding of the underlying issues and so improves outcomes. As ethical leaders it is our duty to lead employees and the company towards the best possible outcomes.

There are many logical approaches to ethics and multiple approaches can be used simultaneously to arrive at the best ethical answer. Some analytical approaches to ethics include:

The Utilitarian Approach

This approach relies on the concept that the best ethical decision has the most beneficial consequences for the largest group of people. The four steps of a utilitarian analysis include defining the ethical challenge, identifying those affected by the decision, determine the positive and negative consequences of the decision, and weigh the differences between those consequences.

Kant’s Categorical Imperative

Kant approaches ethical dilemmas based on the belief that people should always be the main focus and never be treated as a means. Kant recommends basing your ethical decision on one simple question: “Would I want everyone else to make the decision I did?” If the answer is no, then it is not the right decision. If the answer is yes, Kant argues that the analysis and decision are correct.

Rawls’ Justice as Fairness

This concept is centered on two principles based in theories of fairness and justice. First, everyone has an equal right to basic liberties, and second, inequalities, both social and economic, have two conditions: 1) everyone has an equal opportunity to qualify for job, and 2) priority should be given to meeting the needs of the less fortunate.

Pragmastism

This approach uses pragmatism as an ethical decision making tool. The process of using the scientific method allows people to come up with ethical solutions, because the hypotheses are tested through dramatic rehearsal. One should come up with a solution to an ethical dilemma and then test it, hypothetically, to see if the solution and its consequences were indeed ethical. What sets this approach apart is the use of emotion and feeling as indicators of unethical decisions.

Altruism

This method to ethical dilemmas focuses on what is best for others and not what is best for oneself.  People helping one another and witnessing leaders make sacrifices to the benefit of their employees or customers has a trickle-down effect on the rest of the staff.

Ethical decisions have a profound impact on others, even when they are not directly involved or affected by the decision. Good character is created when making ethical decisions and that character disintegrates when unethical decisions are made. Everyone has an influence on other people, therefore it is our obligation to others and the world to not only keep our ethical character intact, but to increase it so that it can withstand the tests of our time while encouraging others to do the same.

 

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-Lotte Mulder earned her Master’s of Education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education in 2013, where she focused on Leadership and Group Development. She’s currently working toward a PhD in Organizational Leadership. At ASCP, Lotte designs and facilitates the ASCP Leadership Institute, an online leadership certificate program. She has also built ASCP’s first patient ambassador program, called Patient Champions, which leverages patient stories as they relate to the value of the lab.

 

 

 

FISH! Philosophy

In Seattle, Pike Place Fish Market is nearly synonymous with the Pike Place Market. Tourists and locals stand and watch the fish mongers fill orders by throwing fish around the stand.  Everyone, including the employees, laughs and enjoys the atmosphere. This is where the FISH! Philosophy was born. FISH! is a leadership training method that focuses on four concepts to increase collaboration and excitement about work:

  • Choose your attitude
  • Be present
  • Play
  • Make someone else’s day

These concepts are not mind-blowing, and this is exactly why they’re effective. They are easy to remember and easily integrated into daily practice, whether you are a teacher,a an office worker,  or a laboratory professional. Becoming an effective and productive employee starts with choosing your own attitude. For example, when you choose the attitude of empowerment, support, and kindness, you start enacting them. In other words, you become kinder and you support and empower others more easily. As an experiment, I recently said to myself “I am energized and excited” when I was feeling the complete opposite. I started it as more of a joke, to be honest, but the interesting thing is that within twenty minutes, I actually became energized and excited. The power of our attitude is immense and we can all use it to our own and others’ benefit.

To be present is not an easy task. We are often pulled in many different directions, whether professionally or personally. Sometimes we can only think about work when we are at home, or we want to be at home when we are at work. The power of being present comes from acceptance; accepting that we are at work frees us from the resistance that is sapping our energy if we are mentally at home. We have all had conversations where someone wasn’t quite present and we can all remember how frustrating that was. On the other hand, having a conversation with someone who is present makes us feel important, appreciated, and empowered.

Work can be a serious place, especially when lives are at stake. However, there are always moments of play possible, even if it is during breaks or at lunch. If we focus on making someone else’s day, not only do we create a happier work force, we become happier ourselves. We all know how good it feels to make someone laugh, to make someone feel cared for. Perhaps it is something small, like asking if you can bring someone a coffee when you are running out to get one. Or perhaps you leave them a nice note or do a small task for them to make their day easier. I have a notepad with “Awesome Citations.” It is a simple note that I fill out and I hand to someone each week. Making someone’s day does not have to be big or extravagant. It is often the small gestures that people remember.

So go out and be present, while choosing your attitude. Play a little at work to make someone’s day. The simple acts we take every day can transform an entire department and organization. So why not throw some fish and have some fun?

 

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-Lotte Mulder earned her Master’s of Education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education in 2013, where she focused on Leadership and Group Development. She’s currently working toward a PhD in Organizational Leadership. At ASCP, Lotte designs and facilitates the ASCP Leadership Institute, an online leadership certificate program. She has also built ASCP’s first patient ambassador program, called Patient Champions, which leverages patient stories as they relate to the value of the lab.


 

My story begins many decades ago when I was working in the laboratory at Bronson Methodist Hospital in Kalamazoo, Michigan. While my favorite departments were Blood Bank and Hematology, I had the honor of working with Joie Vine and Dr. Hubbard, the supervisor and chief pathologist, respectively, of the microbiology department. Microbiology was my least favorite department, but luckily for me, Dr. Hubbard discovered early on that I loved to learn. Dr. Hubbard was small in stature, yet large in leadership skills.  He knew when to be serious and when to be light-hearted.  That attitude permeated the lab. Dr. Hubbard made it possible for me to go to the AABB conferences and U-Hospital (University of Michigan) for specialized training. As a lab professional, I was living the dream!

It was spring when Joie told me she was going on vacation and was short-staffed.  She asked me to fill in for her during the lunch hour for one week, which would allow her staff to go to lunch.  I said yes.  Everyday Dr. Hubbard would check in with me on his way to and from lunch.  By Thursday, I was really missing Blood Band so I decided to have some fun.  When Dr. Hubbard stopped by microbiology,  I opened a  feces container.  I look at him and said, “hmmm, looks like feces,” held it to my nose, “smells like feces,” and with my finger, I scooped a little and placed it in my mouth. I proclaimed, “it tastes like feces!” He was in total shock.  After a brief moment I burst into laughter and so did he!  I had placed peanut butter in the feces container!

So if you’re thinking you can’t apply the Fish Philosophy to the clinical laboratory environment, remember, we “Choose our Attitude every day.” It feels good to “Be There” when a friend needs us.  I’ll always remember when Dr. Hubbard said that “I Made His Day!” because we took a break from our serious work and played!

Catch the Energy — Lab Professionals are Fun People!

 

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-Catherine Stakenas, MA, is the Senior Director of Organizational Leadership and Development and Performance Management at ASCP. She is certified in the use and interpretation of 28 self-assessment instruments and has designed and taught masters and doctoral level students.  

Why is it Important to Learn About Generations?

Understanding and appreciating different generations is critical for effective and productive teams, departments, and companies. Currently, there are five different generations in the workplace: Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, Generation X, Generation Y/Millennials, and Generation Z. A wide variety of experiences exist between these generations. For example, most traditionalists grew up without television, while almost all Generation Z’ers have a cell phone. If we look deeper, however, we can see commonalities between Traditionalists and Gen Z; both grew up during economic strife (The Great Depression and the Great Recession, respectively). Understanding each other’s views and values will allow different generations to increase their appreciation of one another. This, in turn, will lead to better communication and collaboration because people are now talking from a sense of appreciation and acknowledgement. When people feel heard, understood, and valued, they are more likely to invest time and energy into their projects and jobs and they are more likely to stay at an organization. Truth is, we need people of all generations to make organizations effective. You want the “getting the job done” attitude of the Traditionalists, the teamwork skills of Baby Boomers, the self-reliance of X’ers, the multitasking abilities of Millennials, and the entrepreneurship of Generation Z. Combined, these qualities create a powerful workforce that is able to handle any challenge that comes its way.

It is important to remember that learning can, and should, go both ways: newer generations can pay attention to the older generation’s lessons and knowledge, while older generations can learn a lot from the younger ones (and not just about how to use technology). Each generation has its own unique perspective, challenges, and contributions, and we can all grow by listening to and learning from people who are different than us. Generational diversity is one way to strengthen your team.

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-Lotte Mulder earned her Master’s of Education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education in 2013, where she focused on Leadership and Group Development. She’s currently working toward a PhD in Organizational Leadership. At ASCP, Lotte designs and facilitates the ASCP Leadership Institute, an online leadership certificate program. She has also built ASCP’s first patient ambassador program, called Patient Champions, which leverages patient stories as they relate to the value of the lab.


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The differences are many and yet so few.  This is stated so clearly by Gretchen Gavett when she wrote in the Wall Street Journal:

“Baby Boomers, Gen Xers, Millennials, the Gen Z up-and-comers – we all want the same things, (income, sure, but also purpose, and to feel valued) just in slightly different ways. The challenge is to look past the stereotypes and listen to one another so that good work gets done efficiently and humanely.”        

Let’s begin with the GI Generation. The youngest of this generation are in their early 90’s so they are almost non-existent in the workplace.  They are our oldest living generation and were born at the beginning of the 19th century. Most of the soldiers during WWII came from this generation.

Traditionalists make up 2% of the current workforce which is the smallest percentage. However, they represent the institutional memory of a workplace. They know and remember the organization’s past and founding goals. Typically born between 1927 and 1945, they went through their formative years during the Great Depression and its aftermath.

Baby Boomers are currently the largest generation at approximately 77 million people in the United States. (Generation Y runs a close second.) Born between the years of 1946 and 1964, they are the post-World War II generation. The Baby Boomers represent about 29% of the workforce; that number is declining by the day.

Generation X is bookended by the two largest generations, Baby Boomers and Generation Y. They are born between 1965 and 1980. They make up approximately 23% of the workforce.

Generation Y, also known as the Millenials, are born between 1981 and 2000. The Millenials are currently about 42% of the workforce, which makes them the largest working generation.  They have their own values and characteristics (as do the other generations) their numbers make them a force to be reckoned with. 

Generation Z is our newest generation.  They’re currently around 4% of the workforce and growing.  They grew up during the great recession after the early 2000’s.  We are learning about what the Generation Z’s value and their characteristics as each day passes.

The challenge we all face: how can we connect, communicate, and collaborate most effectively in the workplace and outside of the workplace?

Source: https://hbr.org/2009/10/are-you-ready-to-manage-five-g

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-Catherine Stakenas, MA, is the Senior Director of Organizational Leadership and Development and Performance Management at ASCP. She is certified in the use and interpretation of 28 self-assessment instruments and has designed and taught masters and doctoral level students.  

 

Synergistic Decision Making

Contrary to common belief, the group is NOT as strong as the weakest link. Instead, a group is as strong as its capacity to compensate for the weakest link. We have all experienced this when, for example, a colleague does not do their share for a presentation or project. This does not mean that the project or presentation fails; it means that other team members will compensate and do additional work that was initially assigned to the unproductive team member. The group thus does not sink to the level of the unproductive member. Instead, it rises to the level of how well others can do that members’ job.

When teams reach synergy, they reach a high level of effectiveness and productivity. In order to find out if your team is synergistic, this course conducts a simulation. The team-building simulation, designed by Human Synergistics International, revolves around some type of emergency situation: people are stranded in the desert, a tsunami is coming, they are surrounded by incoming bush fire, there is a severe snowstorm on the way, or people are stranded on a float plane in the middle of the subarctic. Through a video story, participants of this course are introduced to their situation and then asked to rank available items in order of importance. This is first done individually and then with a group while being observed by one person who is assessing their discussion. Once the correct ranking is revealed, participants will see the difference between their individual and group scores and they receive insights about how effectively they worked together.

Understanding the challenges of a team and how to move ineffective behaviors to productive ones is essential for team synergy. This course follows the Human Synergistics circumplex, explained in more detail in the Organizational Savvy and Reacting to Change course blog. In short, this circumplex indicates which behaviors are constructive, passive/defensive or passive/aggressive. Awareness of the constructive and ineffective behaviors will increase a team’s synergy. The idea behind this model is that when a team adopts constructive behavior, their collaborative results will produce greater results than the sum of their individual efforts. These groups are not as strong as their weakest link, nor are they as strong as their capacity to compensate for the weakest link. Rather, these groups are as strong as their syngeristic capacity.

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-Lotte Mulder earned her Master’s of Education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education in 2013, where she focused on Leadership and Group Development. She’s currently working toward a PhD in Organizational Leadership. At ASCP, Lotte designs and facilitates the ASCP Leadership Institute, an online leadership certificate program. She has also built ASCP’s first patient ambassador program, called Patient Champions, which leverages patient stories as they relate to the value of the lab.


“Doctor! We need your help STAT … in Antarctica!”

As a pathologist based in Denver, Colorado, I can easily say this is not a statement I ever expected to hear. Because of my sub-specialty expertise in surgical and cytopathology, and my role as chairman of the pathology department in a tertiary care facility, it was not unusual for colleagues, staff and administrators to stop by my office or to phone me for a matter in need of immediate attention. The conversation would usually start with, “Doctor Sirgi, we need your help as soon as possible with …”. I always welcomed these opportunities to assist with whatever matter needed attention, knowing full well the ultimate beneficiary of these calls would be a patient or an anxious family member. However, I could not hide my surprise when I heard the second part. “You need me where?!” I asked, thinking I had misheard the latter part of the phrase. It turns out my assistance really was immediately needed in Antarctica!

That moment in June 1999 I learned the headquarters of Antarctic Support Associates (ASA) is based in Englewood, Colorado (a suburb of Denver). ASA is contracted by the National Science Foundation to provide science support to the United States Antarctic Program (USAP), based at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station (ASSPS). The ASA director told me they had received a desperate call from the scientific team deployed in the South Pole informing them their only medical doctor on site, Dr. Jerri Nielsen, had discovered a breast lump worrisome for cancer during self-palpation. Considering Antarctica was in deep winter, with outside temperatures hovering around negative 85 degrees Fahrenheit evacuating the doctor for medical tests and treatment was completely impossible. This was a full-fledged “Houston we have a problem!” kind of situation.

As soon as I arrived at ASA, a videoconference was established with the afflicted doctor and a few non-medical scientists on site via satellite link-up; the first order of business was to understand the elements of the problem and offer a potential course of action. We only had a few precious minutes of satellite connection before lost of signal. We learned the following:

  • The doctor had self-detected a sizable breast mass of hard consistency.
  • Nobody around her had any experience at performing a biopsy or fine needle aspiration, let alone surgery.
  • There was no laboratory facility or expertise to offer pathology examination, should a sample be obtained.
  • There was no mammography or ultrasound equipment adequate for the evaluation of a breast mass.
  • There was no adequate medication, should a diagnosis of malignancy be established.

With the possibility (or the wishful thinking) that we could still be dealing with a benign lesion, I recommended that we first focus our efforts on securing a diagnosis. Luckily, the rudimentary equipment available to Dr. Nielsen included needles, glass slides, Giemsa stain, an antiquated microscope (with no camera attachment), and a medium resolution digital camera borrowed from scientists working in another area of the research facility. I explained in detail to Dr. Nielsen and her team of worried volunteers how to use these seemingly unrelated pieces of material and equipment. Keep in mind that all this happened at a time when digital pathology was still in its infancy (if not fetal stage), and a hefty dose of DIY had to be improvised on the spot.

I had brought a needle, an orange, a couple of glass slides, and three jars filled with the fluids needed for a quick staining of the material obtained. Dr. Nielsen had herself and her crew of non-medical scientists. I demonstrated how to perform a fine needle aspiration, smear the material obtained on a glass slide, and how to properly stain it for microscopic examination.

These were but the very first steps of a long journey toward obtaining a diagnosis. Considering Dr. Nielsen had no expertise in the examination of pathology material, she needed to follow steps completely unfamiliar to her in order for me (and other experts mobilized around the country) to establish a diagnosis:

  • Perform a medical procedure she had never performed before … on herself!
  • Prepare smears of the material aspirated from the mass
  • Have those smears stained
  • Use a microscope to identify areas of cellularity on the slides obtained
  • Use a camera to take pictures of these areas
  • Load the pictures in an email
  • Transmit an email “heavy in data” across the planet, on a very slow satellite linked connection

Dr. Nielsen performed the procedure on herself the next day. The pictures I received a day later were impossible to interpret because the slides had been improperly stained; areas photographed had abundant red blood cells but no breast epithelial cells to evaluate. The team was understandably quite discouraged when they received our feedback. I sent them an email commending them on their efforts and further guiding them on:

  • Troubleshooting the staining process
  • Focus on the best areas to take pictures, using a breast cytopathology atlas as a visual aide

Their second attempt was much improved and allowed us to unequivocally establish a diagnosis of malignancy affecting Dr. Nielsen’s breast. Reaching a diagnosis was good; however, the tragic reality still remained that the patient had cancer and it was completely impossible to evacuate her from her current location.

The “home team” (anybody not based on the other end of the world) immediately started mobilizing resources from different areas of expertise to:

  • Get Dr. Nielsen the treatment she needed while stuck in Antarctica
  • Get Dr. Nielsen out of the South Pole as soon as meteorological conditions allowed

The following immediate priorities were then identified and acted upon:

  • Per the oncologists consulted, adequate chemotherapy could not be started in the absence of knowing the tumor’s biomarkers status
  • To establish this status, better tissue was needed for further immunohistochemical testing
  • Each medical specialty involved with the rescue effort made recommendations for the type of equipment and material that needed to be transported to the South Pole (including specialized medical atlases, ultrasound equipment, newer microscopes equipped with high resolution digital cameras, regular and immunohistochemical stains with appropriate easy to use instructions, various chemotherapy drugs for different treatment possibilities).

The equipment, with duplicate units of everything sent, was placed in crates and flown to the US Air Force base in New Zealand. Ace pilots volunteered to drop the equipment over the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station, despite terrible weather conditions, zero visibility over the drop zone, and no chance of landing or refueling during the mission. Ultimately, a couple of attempts were necessary to successfully drop the needed equipment over the area. The station personnel worked for hours in negative 85 degrees Fahrenheit temperatures and near zero visibility to collect the dropped material, much of it severely damaged, and transport the surviving equipment back to the base.

Treatment began, the tumor was stabilized, and Dr. Nielsen returned to the U.S., where she continued treatment as soon as weather allowed it. Unfortunately, she succumbed to her illness several months later.

What started as a “Dr. Sirgi, we need your help STAT … in Antarctica” developed into a medical rescue mission of monumental proportion. Ordinary people from different walks of life and medical expertise worked synergistically to develop on-the-fly life-saving solutions that had never been tried before. In the end:

  • A heroic doctor performed diagnostic procedures on herself and braved all kinds of challenges in an attempt to survive.
  • A staff of scientists with limited to no medical experience rose to the occasion to act as capable and devoted medical assistants.
  • Physicians and medical technologists from around the country, who were previously strangers, synergistically worked together to coordinate efforts to save a colleague who was trapped in some of the harshest conditions in the world.
  • Administrators of the Antarctic Support Associates (ASA) organization worked day and night to secure any and all expertise and needed equipment for the rescue mission.
  • Air Force pilots voluntarily risked their lives to rescue a fellow human being.

No one involved woke up on that first day thinking they would be called for such a noble endeavor. All parties involved were ordinary citizens, and every single one tapped into his or her infinite leadership potential to collaborate with colleagues in order to resolve an almost impossible situation. Although There were many links of uncertain strength in this effort due to lack of experience or expertise, the common resolve and demonstrated leadership of all players involved created an indestructible chain of potential and led ultimately to the mission’s resounding success.

 

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-Karim E. Sirgi, MD, MBA is board certified in anatomic and clinical Pathology, with additional board certification in cytopathology. He is active as an independent healthcare consultant, and is the current president of the CAP Foundation. Additional biographical information can be accessed at www.karimsirgimd.com

Time Mastery

One of my favorite song lyrics is from “When I Find Home” by Cody Chestnutt: “I only got time to think about the time I don’t have” I like this lyric, because when I get really busy I sometimes enter this “freeze” moment, where I am stuck thinking about all the things I have to do without being able to do any of them.

As our work continues to get busier and busier, it is becoming more critical to have good time management skills. However, to actually master time, people need more than To-Do lists. This course focuses on twelve different categories of time mastery and participants assess their skill level in each of these areas:

  1. Attitudes
  2. Goals
  3. Priorities
  4. Analyzing
  5. Planning
  6. Scheduling
  7. Interruptions
  8. Meetings
  9. Written Communication
  10. Delegation
  11. Procrastination
  12. Team Time

However, not all of the categories are equally important in a current position. I might have no direct reports, so even though I might score low in that category, it is not really important in my current job. Based on participants’ answers, the assessment automatically creates a Skills Gap Analysis, a table in which the categories are organized according to two axes: less important to important and less skill to more skills. These tables gives participants a quick overview of which categories they have marked as more important, but have less skill in. In other words, these are the areas of development.

Mastering time and moving away from thinking about the time that I do not have, has allowed me be more proactive about my time and schedule. My written communication and meetings are more productive and better organized; I am clearer in my delegation and define authority levels; I follow my yearly goals more closely and I take the time to analyze when and why I am interrupted or interrupting, to understand what could have been communicated better. Mastering time has allowed me to rarely experience stress while at the same time being more productive. I only got time to think about the time I do have.

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-Lotte Mulder earned her Master’s of Education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education in 2013, where she focused on Leadership and Group Development. She’s currently working toward a PhD in Organizational Leadership. At ASCP, Lotte designs and facilitates the ASCP Leadership Institute, an online leadership certificate program. She has also built ASCP’s first patient ambassador program, called Patient Champions, which leverages patient stories as they relate to the value of the lab.


 

When many of us are asked if we would be interested in learning more about improving our time management skills, our response, maybe “Yawn, I got this, after all, I am a busy professional.” What we often don’t realize is that getting to the goal, no matter how hurried or rushed, is not just often about you. Our work pace impacts others in the workplace and if we want to become a true leader, we need to master ourselves first. The first place to start on this is how we manage our time.

We have an expression in our family: “we’re always working for the farm.” When you are running a farm, you don’t get to choose your own timing or schedule in the projects that must be done. The seasons come and go and there is planting and harvesting to be done on nature’s time. There are animals to be fed and fences to be mended on nature’s time. Understanding some of these basics help us to realize that there is time in one’s schedule that we can control and time in one’s schedule that we don’t control.

As for the time you can control at work, you can select when to answer your emails, and when to have “that open door” for workplace issues, and when and how to prioritize your projects. In some cases, like the farm, you will not get to always control your own schedule and choose when important events or meetings happen. So to help with this, we can paraphrase Mark Twain: “Eat your frogs early.” This means doing your biggest and hardest task first thing every day so that you prevent procrastination and free up time in case other urgent situations emerge. For some, that may be a phone call dealing with a patient or employee complaint; for others, it may be tackling an unresolved operational issue that needs to be urgently addressed. Whatever it is, go at it first and efficiently and get the job done.

When we look to improve how we master time, we need to have an understanding of what is urgent and important and what is important, but not urgent. The best advice for time management is to work more on what is important, but not urgent, to prevent everything from becoming a last minute urgent need. If you are often focused on urgent issues every day, you are simply putting out the fires at work and never getting to the optimal operational efficiency in your area. You can begin to master this by simply blocking out a time every day that you will work on these important projects. This will soon become part of your habitual schedule and that job will get done over time by breaking these projects up into smaller blocks of time. The most productive writers often say that they sit down with their computer to write during a certain time of day, whether they feel like it or not, and much to their surprise they are able to make progress. Yes, this even works for the great story tellers of our time, such as Earnest Hemingway, who sat down every morning at the same time to write.

One of the best ways to become a time master is to understand your own biases, strengths and weakness about time management. Are you good at delegating tasks that can be performed by others? Do you lose track of time when you are interrupted in your office? There are tools that you can use to assess your time management skills, and help you work to develop better habits for improved productivity and better balance. As you begin to become more proficient in time management, you will find that your overall work place and life stress will also decrease, as you find more “time” to take on more of those projects that bring balance and joy into your work and life.

 

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-Dr. Deborah Sesok-Pizzini, MD, MBA is a Clinical Pathologist at the University of Pennsylvania, Perelman School of Medicine, who specializes in Blood Banking and Transfusion Medicine at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.  She has a strong interest in resident leadership development, patient safety and quality, and is currently serving as a member on the ASCP Fellow Council.  She is a graduate of the ASCP leadership institute certification program and has an MBA from Villanova University with a concentration in finance.  

Organization Savvy

Understanding culture is essential to fit in anywhere: when you are traveling, with your family, and where you work. Understanding and appreciating culture is important, because you do not want to unintentionally offend someone by over-explaining a task, asking about personal lives when it is not considered appropriate, or going straight to business and skipping informalities completely when it is expected to get to know each other before attending to tasks at hand. Understanding organizational culture is therefore important for every employee. However, creating a fostering a productive culture is the responsibility of the leaders.

There is a critical distinction between the culture and the climate of an organization. Culture refers to how employees feel they are expected to do things and behave. Climate is the causal factors of the culture. Another way of putting it is that culture reflects the shared values, beliefs, norms, and expectations; climate reflects the outcomes of the culture such as engagement, teamwork, and perceived quality of work. However, it is important to note that there are two levels of culture: the ideal culture, or what should be expected; and the current culture, or what is actually expected. If we compare the climate to the human body, climate is the pulse, temperature, and blood pressure. Culture would be the bigger medical issues such as flu or cancer. The ideal culture would be a cancer-free body, while the current culture might be a body with a cancerous tumor caused by the climate of smoking. This example shows that culture is harder to change than climate: it is easier to change someone’s blood pressure than to change their cancer status.

Climate can therefore also drive and change the culture. If you want to change something in the culture, you can start with changing the climate. Let’s take the following organization as an example in which the ideal culture is that team work is valued, but the current culture shows that competitiveness is valued. The causal climate factors are in the structure of performance reviews: only individual and competitive behavior is analyzed, but not team behavior. If we would thus change the structure of the performance review (climate) we could change the current culture (competitiveness) closer to the ideal culture (teamwork).

The Organizational Savvy course focuses on how you see the current culture of your organization. It organizes the culture in three different clusters: constructive, passive/defensive, and aggressive/defensive. Each of these clusters are then divided into four styles, allowing you to understand your culture in more detail. The course explains how to improve the culture of the organization based on the profile.

Understanding what is expected in your organization sets you up for professional success and allows you to be an active member of establishing effective organizational culture. Whether you are a leader, chair, employee, or staff member, taking proactive steps to understand and foster organizational success will set you and the rest of your team and organization up for prosperity.

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-Lotte Mulder earned her Master’s of Education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education in 2013, where she focused on Leadership and Group Development. She’s currently working toward a PhD in Organizational Leadership. At ASCP, Lotte designs and facilitates the ASCP Leadership Institute, an online leadership certificate program. She has also built ASCP’s first patient ambassador program, called Patient Champions, which leverages patient stories as they relate to the value of the lab.


 

Organization Savvy is the core of high-performing organizations. It is a mixture of staff’s emotional intelligence, interpersonal relations, skills, self-awareness, competencies, and optimized organizational culture. With my experience in centralized laboratory services, improving quality in thirty laboratories with a wide variety of organizational cultures was a big challenge. To enhance the best practices and empower quality improvement projects, organizational savvy is required. The best tools to achieve this were creating an organizational influence map, building relationships with different laboratory staff, influencing people by turning the organization into learning atmosphere, and the most important, avoid negative players.

With my journey towards excellence, I had to communicate with different leadership styles. I had great outcomes with constructive style leaders, as they are task- and people-oriented, collaborative, achievers, humanistic, and encouraging. I had some difficult times with aggressive/defensive leaders who have some insecurities. I had to assure them that our journey towards excellence is to build people before building the organization. In addition, they had to realize our organizational objectives were in full alignment with their core values and career goals. I worked on improving my personal power by using self-awareness assessments and improving emotional intelligence. My skills and knowledge in Quality of Laboratory Medicine were good enough to build credibility inside the organization. My future goal is to increase my circle of influence and reduce my circle of concerns to achieve organizational savvy and hence, the organizational vision towards excellence.

 

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-Dr. Rana Nabulsi has a PhD in Quality Management and a master’s degree in molecular genetics. She is currently the Head of Quality at Pathology and Genetics department at Dubai Health Authority and the Chair of Advisory Board at the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP) in UAE. She is doing her fellow at the American Collage of Healthcare Executives (ACHE). She is a Certified Professional in Healthcare Quality (CPHQ) by the National Association of Healthcare Quality (NAHQ)-US and certified for Green Belt -Six Sigma (SSGB) by the American Society of Quality (ASQ). Dr. Nabulsi has experience in leading more than twenty medical laboratories in achieving the College of American Pathologist (CAP), ISO 15189, and American Association of Blood Bank (AABB) accreditations. She is certified as lead auditor for ISO 9001, ISO 15189, ISO17025, and OHSAS 18001 management systems. Dr. Nabulsi is a certified EFQM Assessor, trainer and public speaker for local and International Healthcare conferences about healthcare quality, safety, and leadership.