I had my baby last week. I'm tired. But not too tired to recognize management issues during labor. There were three management styles among the people who were in the delivery room:
1. The micromanager
That was me, ordering my husband around, even when the contractions were so strong that I couldn't stand up. I'm sure he wanted to tell me to shut up, but no sane man snaps at his wife when she's in labor.
One of the more harsh insurance company rules is that when you are in labor you have to call to get permission to go to the hospital. So my husband started dialing the phone. I said, “You are not going to be on the phone when I'm having the baby. Put down the phone.”
My husband said we wouldn't be covered and we would have the most expensive baby in New York City.
But no one at the insurance company was answering the phone, so I started troubleshooting: “Dial zero. Say you’re a doctor.”
My husband said, “I think I can handle calling the insurance company. You just worry about the baby.”
At some point I stopped harassing my husband, but not by choice, only because the contractions were too strong.
2. The coach
About half way through labor I asked for an epidural. At that point, I was in severe pain. For those of you who have not had an epidural, it is a totally magic infusion of drugs that numbs the body from the insane pain of pregnancy without knocking you out. The epidural is not small peanuts. It’s a shot into the spine. I had to sit very still, while coping with sharp pains, and I had to sign a form that acknowledged the risk of death.
Meanwhile, I was at a teaching hospital, so the attending physician (read: real doctor) was coaching the resident (read: still-learning-to-be-a-doctor doctor). Behind my back, literally, I heard the attending using the Socratic method: “How much are you going to use?” and “Why would you go up there when you already found a spot down here?” This coaching is not what you want to hear when it’s your spine, but I see how it’s preferable to say, me screaming at my husband about how to navigate a phone tree. And, frankly, the attending did a fine job because the pain ended.
3. The trusting, encouraging manager
When its time to actually push the baby out, the doctor finally comes in, ready to go. The doctor and nurse together were watching what looked to be about six machines simultaneously. And they were watching me, and the baby, whose head was visible by now. The doctor was definitely in charge, but she almost never gave orders. There was a clear and strong trust between the doctor and nurse that each person knew what the other was doing and that they were each doing a fine job. There was a calmness and efficiency that I wish I had throughout my life.
Which is what made me think, initially, about management. When I saw the doctor and nurse trusting each other, I trusted them. I didn’t trust the resident, but the attending was so respectful of the resident that I trusted that the attending would guide the resident to a good job.
And then there was me, micromanaging. In hindsight I see that managing someone so closely that they want to strangle you is in fact sign of weakness; because either you are meddling where you needn’t, or you are surrounded by incompetence. In either case, it’s a statement about yourself. Competent people are not surrounded by incompetence. Rather, incompetence attracts incompetence.
I think about that and I think of course my husband can function without me meddling. He is smart and capable. And this is how we should feel about people we work with, too. Or we should wonder why we are attracting incompetence. There is never one crazy person in a marriage and there’s never one crazy worker.
My excuse was that I was in labor. But you probably don’t have such a good excuse. So if you don’t trust the people you work with, ask yourself why. You need to either trust them to do their job, or trust them to improve with respectful coaching. If you can’t do either then adjust their job so that they will succeed. Or else you will not succeed.
Sidenote: It was a boy. We are thrilled.