By: Stephanie Jean
When thinking about “leadership” and “management,” it can be daunting to consider all of the responsibilities and tasks that come to mind. This is exactly how I felt during the beginning of my food service management rotation. My introduction to management took place during my first week when my partner and I were lined up with meetings from various leaders within the hospital. I was intrigued by the number of times that managers were scheduled to meet throughout the week to discuss important topics that impacted hospital staff and patients. During these meetings, I began to see how there was a considerable amount of planning and discussion; these meetings are where goals are planned, achievements are administered, and success is fostered.
Throughout the ebbs and flows of the internship, I have been impacted by advice from leaders in what seems to be given at the exact time in which I needed it. One of our meetings was with the Regional Manager of Clinical Nutrition and Wellness, where our discussion outlined her roles in management as a Registered Dietitian (RD). While meeting, I mentioned my personal concern regarding limited leadership opportunities for clinical dietitians. The ability to grow and expand my role throughout my career is one of my top priorities. Since I perceived leadership opportunities in the clinical setting were sparse, I had been drifting away from a clinical career path. She informed me that my concern was common, but that there were so many opportunities to practice leadership in the clinical setting, even as an entry-level dietitian. As a leader, she recognizes the importance of fostering leadership and growth opportunities for her employees, which is what I consider a core principle in leadership. Our time spent reassured me that there will always be an opportunity to practice leadership as a dietitian; no matter what career path I choose.
Leadership takes many different forms and can vary from day to day, especially in the food service industry. One moment you may be managing budget and payroll records, then suddenly you are executing a plan to quickly fix an unexpected leakage in the kitchen. It is a role that requires many hats, and I have learned from the Manager of Food and Nutrition that you must always provide exemplary behavior to your staff so they can follow suit. If they do not see their own leaders practicing various skill sets in the workplace, then what are the odds that they will be willing to have the same attitude?
I had the pleasure of meeting with the General Manager of the Environmental Service Department (EVS), and he shared similar advice concerning the varying levels of leadership as well. As we were conversing about his role, I was led to ask how he felt about the “I’ll just do it myself” style of leadership that many leaders can fall victim of. Simply put, he stated, “If you are always working a step down you can never work a step up.” This resonated with me and I believe it is relevant for leaders in all industries. In order to build your team and allow them to grow, you must be willing to see them fail at times, even if it pains you to do so. What matters is the recovery, and the time it took to fix the mistakes. I heard the mantra, “try fast, recover fast”, and I will always consider these words of wisdom from the EVS General Manager.
During my time in my food service rotation, I have witnessed the impact of leaders being in sync with one another, and how this ultimately determines the outcomes of goals, achievements, and success in the hospital. True leadership mean that there is no one leader that takes the cake for doing the best or achieving the most. It truly is a team effort that is strengthened when leaders from every department approach one another with respect and dignity. Now as I walk by closed conference room doors in the hospital, I think of leaders coming together to provide solutions and drive organizational results. One day I may be on the other side of those doors, but for now I am building the confidence to grow into leadership. With the proper guidance it is possible, and I am glad to know that I learned by example from the leaders that surrounded me at in my food service management rotation.