by Louis Feurer

Here is a compilation of manager statements I have heard for the past 30 years:

  • "Who has interest in helping me as a manager?"
  • "I have audits to deal with, staff who cannot seem to get it correct more than once, and trucks that continually break down. Doesn't anyone ever check the tires?"
  • "I have no personal life. I am the first one in the store in the morning, I often have no time for lunch and am tired of being the only one who is able to handle a crisis."
  • "I get to hear all the bad government news about new audits before my staff even gets the news. I am always the messenger of bad things to come."
  • "I might as well just do it myself."
  • "Help I can't get up."

While authors and speakers base few articles or lectures upon directly helping the HME owner or manager, we can feel your pain. Many managers or supervisors were thrust into the role without any training, experience or help. We mistakenly assume management skills are some of those inherited traits. They are not. You may be working in the toughest and most challenging home care environment ever. Most managers are placed in front of staff and are expected to have the answers, all the while needing guidance, direction and support, and answers of their own. Just a few recommendations may be able to help you manage the pressure.

  1. Set priorities for everyone. Each staff member needs to know what needs to be done to ensure personal success and what is important in achieving the company mission. Do not assume anyone knows what is important to you. Does the delivery person actually walk around the truck each day just to make sure the all the tires have air in them? Is the billing/reimbursement director dedicating his time to the tasks that are most important to the success of the business? Whether you correct the priorities in the privacy of your office or in meetings with your staff, write them down, review and monitor them.
  2. Control the climate. If you act as if the world is caving in around you, that feeling will be reflected in the work of every employee. People are watching you. It is easy to tell staff not to worry about an audit but when the look on your face says the opposite, that's what they will remember. The expression on your face when you arrive to work in the morning is all being mentally recorded by your staff.
  3. Empower employees. If you can extend the power of each employee to make the right decision at the right time, you will certainly have much less pressure. Employees who are unable to act appropriately to make a customer happy will cost you. They need to be encouraged to make decisions on their own. They should know what they can do, what they can offer and what options they can present to the customer. Sometimes just taking back the item without a million questions can be prove to be the best public relations move.
  4. Review for costly time wasters. Are your meetings consumed with unimportant issues, such as the need for new desks or the condition of the office coffee room? An agenda may be in order. Are calls being transferred more than once when actually the first person picking up the phone can respond to more questions? Better assignments or routing may help. Offer incentives to employees who present time and money-saving suggestions.
  5. Breathe ethical behavior. You will feel less pressure knowing that regardless of what your staff is doing, saying to a customer or commenting to a referral source, they are doing so ethically. You will be less likely to worry about what is being said to others when you are not in the room, if you become an ethical business role model.

Being an HME manager is not easy, but there are ways to relieve the pressure. Share this advice with some of your management colleagues and you can all sleep better. The customer may appreciate you even more in the morning.