Agility, Nimbleness and Resilience: How This Director of Infection Control Leads Her Team

Sponsored by Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center

Tania Bubb

Photo courtesy of the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

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“You can be a leader right where you are,” says Tania Bubb, the Director of Infection Control at Memorial Sloan Kettering (MSK) Cancer Center in New York City. “Leadership, in my opinion, is not only defined by positions or titles that gives one certain authority, but also by one’s attitude, willingness to learn and grow” she explains.

As part of this outlook, Bubb aims to inspire her team to be leaders themselves. She views her approach to leadership as “aspiring transformational” — she’s still learning and growing as a leader herself and hopes to describe herself as a transformational leader one day.

In this article, Bubb describes her path to her current role, her approach to managing employees, her top advice for leaders and more.

Tell us about your job.

I lead a talented team of professionals and specialists to prevent and control infectious agents in patients and employees at MSK. I’ve worked at MSK for nearly three years and was previously in the same role at another major academic medical center in NYC.

My professional training is as a registered nurse. I worked as an RN for five years before going into infection prevention and control, where I’ve dedicated most of my career.

How has your work changed since you went into leadership at your company?

My overall approach to work is staying organized. I create lots of lists and am constantly prioritizing. In my line of work, prioritization can rapidly change depending on what is going on. Being agile, nimble and resilient is important in this profession.

What’s one management strategy you’ve used that’s been particularly effective? 

Clear communication and setting expectations of responsibilities, work output and deadlines. I’ve found that most people appreciate structure and operate best when communication is open and clear, transparent and without hidden agendas.

What is your best advice for other women who are moving into or want to move into leadership?

  1. You can do it! Don’t be afraid to be your authentic self. 

  2. Find role models and mentors. It doesn’t have to be one person; one person doesn’t usually embody all qualities. Choose the things you like about your role model(s), and emulate, improve on and make those qualities your own. It’s important to have a mentor(s) to generate ideas and help you hone in on your career goals, your particular skillset and areas of opportunity.

  3. Read or take classes about leadership. And remember: be open to recognizing your blind spots — those things you may miss because of preconceived notions or lack of awareness.

What are the top things you hope your direct reports are getting out of working with you?

I hope they feel they can relate to me, that they are understood and that they are inspired to grow in the ways they value as employees and professionals. 

How do you ensure your direct reports feel well-supported in their lives both in and out of the office?

It’s important that your employees know that you care about them as whole people. While it might be impossible for you to support them in their personal lives, leaders can recognize that the impact on their staff’s personal lives is consequential and affects their work and professional lives. Being attentive to your employees is one way leaders can support and empower their staff. 

While at this company, you’ve built a team that you’re now leading. How did you approach this?

My predecessor was well known, liked and a strong leader. She left a legacy. I view that as a positive. There was already a solid foundation in place that I could build from. I worked to determine the priorities of the department and organization, as well as what worked well in the past and what didn’t. 

Once I had a firm understanding of the team dynamics, I made sure to include my team in the decision-making about certain changes. Including employees in that process, when possible, removes barriers related to change management and gains buy-in for smoother transitions — sometimes, no strategy is ever foolproof, so modify when needed).

What do you believe managers must do when onboarding new employees? 

There are three things that I believe managers must do when onboarding new employees:

  1. Touch base frequently.

  2. Have a prescriptive onboarding and orientation plan.

  3. Facilitate introductions to key stakeholders.

New employees especially need structure and an organized approach to onboarding. It’s such a chaotic and confusing time for them..

Acceptance and patience with their learning and adaptive needs are critical to retention and job satisfaction.

While building your team, what did you learn that surprised you most?

What you do and say as a leader matters a lot. Negative perspectives and emotions are both seen and felt, and they trickle down.

What’s been your most valuable career mistake?

  • I thought I had to do it all myself — this is thought distortion, and rarely, if ever, true. You have colleagues to partner with and help get things done! 

  • I didn’t effectively communicate what I needed to be supported and successful. In any facet of life, professional or personal, you have to communicate your needs; don’t assume others automatically know or are thinking about your specific challenges.

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