ASC Leadership Challenge: How to Become a More Effective Manager

By Stephanie Martin, CASC

Working in the surgery center environment can seem like a thankless task some days. The sheer volume of challenges and demands that come across the administrator’s desk can be overwhelming. You never know when you will need to confront a difficult patient, staff, or physician. Such situations can make even the most resilient individuals question their career choices.

Being a leader is not for the faint of heart; however, the rewards can be so worthwhile for those that choose to pursue it. To reap such rewards, one must know how to manage so many issues and people in an environment that, at times, can seem intent on destruction. Fortunately, what may seem daunting can be tamed and better controlled with some key strategies.

Taking care of yourself is a primary component in so many of the strategies recommended by individuals considered to be some of the best leadership gurus. It is difficult to give what you don’t have. Taking the time to recharge internal batteries (so to speak) provides energy to spot and address the many challenges that come along during any given day. Eat well, rest, exercise and spend time each day doing something you love (other than working), whether it is reading a book, watching the stars, walking the dog or being with family. Those moments provide meaningful respite that must not be overlooked.

Prioritizing can provide important focus on the critical tasks that make the most difference in your business. If your “to-do” list is so long that a month of peaceful days would still not see it completed, at least prioritizing the most critical items to accomplish will mean the ASC benefits from completion of the most impactful work.

But what about all the other duties that must be completed? That is where the next strategy comes into play.

So many leadership gurus talk about delegating duties to others, but doing so may be as difficult as prioritizing when one must first consider who is available to complete the task; when will they be able to get it done; do they have the skills, talents, or abilities to get it done — the list goes on. While taking the time to teach someone else to appropriately complete a task may take longer than just doing the job yourself, don’t let that stop you! The investment in the person learning to tackle the task can pay dividends in ways that aren’t always immediately known. These include sparking an interest in leadership or additional duties not recognized previously, expanding the individual’s knowledge so they better understand the center in ways that change their attitude about how work is done or uncovering a diamond in the rough who just needed a little mentoring to shine and elevate their work performance. Approaching the individual from the perspective of a mentoring relationship can mean the difference between moving the process from a task-oriented activity to building a relationship. This shift in approach helps the individual develop their own internal motivation and enthusiasm, not only for the center but also in recognizing their own individual potential.

Lastly, the value of continual learning should not be overlooked or underemphasized. The vast amounts of knowledge required to be a quality administrator span a wide depth and breadth of information. Focus on leadership in general or areas that continue to be a challenge: financials, human resources, life safety compliance, same-store growth or countless others. Commit to learning something new in the most challenging areas and set goals to demonstrate personal and professional growth. Celebrate achievements and keep adding them up. Reviewing what you have accomplished can be healthy. It will remind you how far you have come and can help motivate you to keep pushing yourself further.

The few takeaways highlighted in this column can serve as a place to start your efforts toward becoming a stronger leader and manager or represent an opportunity to enhance what you are already doing to better overcome the challenges of these roles. The key messages I hope you will come away with are to never give up, even when something doesn’t seem to work right away, and understand that methods for success will vary based upon individual strengths. Finding what works best for you is most important.

Stephanie Martin, CASC, is vice president of operations for Westchester, Illinois-based Regent Surgical Health. Write her at

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