Have you ever had a manager that seemed somewhat unapproachable? From one side of the morning huddle these individuals’ personalities may be tall and dominating, and their appearance a little coarse, like tree bark; however, such mentalities serve well in managerial roles.

Once you get an understanding of these individuals, their hard bark-like exterior gives way to the soft pulp of who they really are, which will also serve the team in unexpected ways over the long term. 

Going up to bat

These managers are trustworthy, loyal, and persistent, but they are rarely described as sweet and caring. Department leaders have the power to set the tone for the culture and the environment. The customers from the operating room, from the doctors to the nurses, have strong personalities that can clash when any one of the countless imperative details of a patient’s case doesn’t fall into place. Tensions run high when patient safety is on the line, and the department leader needs to be both diplomatic and a problem solver while keeping everything running smoothly.

A standout leader does not jump right to placing blame. Their first reaction is to research the facts, take the steps necessary to learn from the error, and implement corrective actions immediately. They are vital to keeping the shared goals and visions of the various coordinating departments united. Nothing is more detrimental to the team than departments competing against each other. These managers keep their eye on their team and provide them with necessary support.

Fair and accountable

These two traits can come off as harsh. It’s essential to take the rational approach to tough decisions and not allow emotions to cloud your judgment. A firm, fair, and honest approach to management makes actions and reactions predictable to employees. When decisions are made, the predictability of decisions is less likely to create confusion, resentment, and anger.

PDA is not your thing

Public displays of affection (PDA) are not their forte, but behind that tough exterior is a manager that is full of feeling. What you don’t see is that manager is full of accommodation when your relative passes away unexpectedly. They may not be sharing their emotions; however, they share their warmth by nurturing the strength of each employee.

These managers are respected because they show a genuine interest in the welfare of their employees. They will assign tasks according to strengths and weaknesses when time prohibits adequate fostering of growth and development. No one wants to be tossed onto ortho trays when they are a priority and your greatest weakness. An excellent manager will know and allow you to learn these when there is time to learn.

Rough but positive

While this manager may be rough around the edges, they are in no way intentionally overcritical or demeaning to employees—quite the opposite. Strong communication, motivational interaction, and encouragement will lead staff through long hours, staff shortages, broken-down washers, and other difficult times in your department. They bring their own radiant energy.

Have you noticed the need to wear sunglasses in the sterile processing department (SPD)? A servant manager will shine the spotlight firmly on their team, as they don’t want the attention solely on them. Strong leaders will naturally spread success and drive away fear.

Is the operating room having a particularly rough morning with the phone ringing off the hook with upset customers? A leader will help address the issues and deflect the heat. Additionally, in this situation, they will quickly direct the team to help resolve concerns. Creating collaborative workspaces where employees respect and encourage each other supports a teamwork mentality.

Building connections

Increased productivity and happiness are possible when a manager is focused on providing employees with direction and purpose in the work they perform. Can you say you feel a sense of human impact for your daily efforts in the SPD? While building connections to the surgical staff can be tricky, a leader will help staff recognize firsthand the impact their work makes on the lives of patients and the OR staff.

A manager might be addressing reports but put a human perspective behind those numbers. They remind you that each instrument and set you touch is improving the lives of mothers, fathers, children, and loved ones. The entire community benefits from the work you perform.

When you are surrounded by four walls and don’t see the patients and their families walking in for procedures, it is easy to forget your ultimate purpose and how each employee in sterile processing is an essential cog in the progress of your facility. A strong leader creates those connections throughout the day to ignite staff passion for their work and provide purpose.

Pressure makes diamonds

Life takes each of us down various paths that shape and mold our personalities. Trials and tribulations over time can often cause the exterior of an individual to be rough as a result of self-preservation. Beyond that rough exterior may be a tender, gentle soul that wants to improve the lives of those around them and those that look to them for leadership.

Such a position often comes with tough decisions and great responsibility. It is this individual who must navigate the turbulent waters of the workday to ensure their team is a success. As the old saying goes, don’t judge a book by its cover. Those rough exteriors can be hiding a diamond in the rough.