When managers and supervisors go on process walks, the trust they have established (or failed to establish) among employees is crucial. T.J. Cosgrove, Community Health Services Division Director, and Sarah Hopkins, Acting Regional Health Administrator, have worked hard to establish trust among the staff they work with at the many County health clinics they supervise.
The trust and mutual respect allows them to have frank conversations when they go on process walks. They learn what is working for the employees they support. Employees feel comfortable pointing out things that could be improved without worry that they will be blamed.
From Right to Left: TJ Cosgrove, Sara Hopkins, Rosy Bernal, Tracy Donovan, and Kerren Buchanan.
Consider the question “and this makes sense to you?” Cosgrove asked that question to Kerren Buchanan during a process walk at North Clinic.
Without context, it might be the sort of loaded, reprimanding question that implies something doesn’t make sense to the manager and that staff got it wrong. Or it might be a kind of trick question, making staff feel like they have to defend their decisions about why something “makes sense.”
But in an environment where supervisors have demonstrated that they trust and respect their employees, “This makes sense to you?” takes on an entirely different meaning. It becomes a sincere question and employees know that the supervisor is only asking to see if staff need support in changing something that doesn’t make sense to them, the staff.
As in, “This makes sense to you? If so, great. If not, what can I do to help you change it.”
So when Kerren Buchanan answered “yes” to Cosgrove’s question, there were no followup questions. Cosgrove trusted that if it made sense to her, that was what mattered. It showed Buchanan that she was empowered to identify and solve problems in her work, but also supported (if and when she needed it).