Collect the Good Eggs that Cross My Professional Path

August 9, 2013

Rather than maintain my list of bad eggs, I've decided to focus on the good ones - the trustworthy, capable colleagues that go above and beyond.

I have been known to maintain a List. A sort of mental rogues' gallery, keeping track of individuals, groups, and business entities which have, in my eyes, behaved badly enough to remember.

It serves purposes; not only is there satisfaction from condemning someone to the List when they have done you wrong ("That's it - you just made the List!"), but it can save you from wrongly trusting them in the future, lest they repeat the offense.

Such lists can be maintained for other than personal affronts. For instance, in a profession wherein one's performance and/or that of one's team is tracked as easy fodder for future sanction (or, too rarely, reward), one might be wary of recruiting or retaining deadweight. Without keeping a list of known bad eggs, they might more easily sneak on board.

A problem with this approach is that, as they say, good help is hard to find, and even worthwhile folks can seem less-than on occasion. Keeping a list, one tends to be on the lookout for those to add to it, and the list can become awfully populous - to the point that it might be easier to keep track of those not on it.

Which could have been a reason why I altered my focus. Around the time I was doing my fellowship, it became increasingly clear to me that there was an awful lot of mediocrity out there, even in the supposedly rarified air of the competitive subspecialty physician world. One need not be a superstar to shine in it.

So I started taking note of the good eggs when they crossed my path. "Collecting" them, as it were, not for any immediate plans but for the unknown point in the future when I would want to have a go-to roster of known contacts who had already proven themselves to be people with whom I would want to work. Trustworthy, capable sorts. Agreeable folks, with work ethics and codes of honorable behavior.

You hopefully know a few - colleagues who always make themselves available for a consultation when you have a tricky case, or juggle schedules with you when you have need. Technologists who get you that extra bit of patient history that the referring clinician didn't relay, or who recognize that the patient moved and redo the key portion of the study. Office staff who think on their feet and solve small problems before they become big ones.

It creates a nicer frame of mind to be on the lookout for who's going to impress you next, rather than who's going to throw you the next curve ball that derails your workday. It's also more adaptive - when I'm in the position of assembling my next team, I know who's going to be on it, rather than just a list of blackballed names who need not apply.