They say an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. I’m not sure that metric is spot on, but I do know that preventing potential problems is always better than solving actual ones. In my 30 years of management and leadership I would say that is the thing that really sticks out about great managers: they prevent more problems than you realize. By their active involvement with their teams, their relationship building skills, their listening skills, their humble demeanor, and their genuine care and concern for others, they create departments that generally have fewer people problems than others.
Great managers are like that apple which keeps the doctor away. They prevent bad things from happening. Often their departments have less drama, fewer conflicts, and more success. The very presence of a good manager has a stabilizing effect on the team. They lead by example, treating others with the same respect and kindness that they would want to be treated with, and this tends to rub off on those around them.
Others Have Seen This Too
Others have also recognized that great managers prevent problems. They identify the issue before it really becomes a monster to deal with. Shin Odake, COO of Uniqlo USA once put it this way, “Discovering problems when they are still minor is a vital skill in today’s fast-moving business environment.” I think he is right. The art of great management is to see early warning signs of an issue before it grows larger and gets out of control.
This concept of addressing a problem while it is still in the infancy stage is behind the book “Know What You Don’t Know” by Michael Roberto. Listen to a few words from an opening chapter: “Accident investigators in fields such as commercial aviation, the military, and medicine have shown that a chain of events and errors typically leads to a particular disaster. Thus, minor failures may signal big trouble ahead; treated appropriately, they can serve as early warning signs. Many large-scale failures have long incubation periods, meaning that managers have ample time to intervene when small problems arise, thereby avoiding a catastrophic outcome.”
I find this concept to be personally both challenging and insightful. It is challenging, because it clearly requires a management style that is very engaged with the workforce and workflows of a unit, department or team. That means it takes time. And creating time is the hard part of leadership.
But this fact is also insightful. It explains and puts words to something that I think we all know to be true, but haven’t taken the time to really embrace and employ. It may take some time for me to really hardwire this way of thinking into my day to day work, but I believe the effort would pay off.
Do you want to be a good manager? A great manager? Then think problem prevention, not just problem solving. Get out of the office. Get feedback from the front line. Ask for their insights. Listen. Listen. Then take the appropriate steps needed to correct course early on, before you find yourself and your team heading in the completely wrong direction.
For more on management, check out 10 Tips for New Pharmacy Managers
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Last modified: May 23, 2023