The conditions of any workplace start from the top down rather than from the bottom up. With this in mind, it is extremely important to review your strengths not only as a medical professional but as a practice leader as well. Although there are many different leadership styles, there are certain attributes that owners and managers must possess to effectively guide their teams.
Be Innovative. When your staff sees that you are not afraid to shift the paradigm or implement new ideas, they will respect you as a leader in your field. When they see how new products, services, promotions and revenue streams can increase the profitability of their employer, they will go out on the limb with you to help improve your practice and increase the level of security of their employment.
Always look to your staff members for innovative ideas and new ways to inspire loyalty. Motivate and reward those team members who share ideas and support you through new endeavors. Acknowledge that you appreciate staff members sharing their concerns and different points of view, and that all ideas will be considered. Never discount an idea from an employee, no matter how trivial it may appear. It was important enough for them to bring it up to you. Many times, praise goes a long way in encouraging employees to share feedback and new opportunities for practice growth, and the feeling of appreciation is paramount.
Communicate With All Members of Your Team. Effective leaders consistently encourage dialogue between staff and management. In a medical practice, this is extremely important, as your employees regularly hear patients’ suggestions and complaints. Shutting down the lines of communication from an employee can stop future dialogue resulting in a loss of wonderful and positive ideas.
Your communication should include clear, concise and consistent training for each and every level of personnel in your organization. If conducted on a scheduled basis, it becomes part of the organization’s culture.
The best way to communicate with team members is to schedule one-on-one time with each of your key personnel. In order to effectively delegate your time, you must stop the "You gotta minute?" scenarios. Set aside specific times each week to discuss new endeavors, gain feedback on departmental concerns and listen to input from team members. Depending on how many departments you manage, you may want to have your department heads meet with their own departments on a regular basis to formulate an agenda prior to your meeting. Each department head should also conduct regular staff meetings to allow their team members to vent their frustrations and share ideas.
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Analyze Your Own Leadership Style and Ability. Are your current leadership qualities helping or hindering you from moving forward? We all have deficiencies, and reality checks play an important role in effective leadership. Seek the advice of other leaders in your facility or industry, and try not to be defensive.
Since your style and ideas may differ from those of previous management, it is a good idea to solicit feedback from key personnel. This allows owners and managers to effectively measure what may or may not be working, and solicit ideas on how they can modify or encourage others to adapt to the best practices of leadership. Some of these include providing performance reviews for all team members, encouraging employees of the clinical and administrative departments to delegate responsibilities, and allowing other employees choose their own team leaders.
Always Have a Positive Attitude. The power of positive thinking and a good attitude play an important role in leadership. When your staff sees you behaving in a negative way, they will follow your lead. Your staff sees more than you think, and they depend on you to culture the positive and cure the negative situations. In show business, the adage is "never let them see you sweat." The same holds true in your practice. Strong leaders always refer to problems as opportunities, and you should not allow your employees to speak negatively of your patients. Patients are not an interruption to your business; they are your business.
Negative behavior is extremely contagious. By practicing—and insisting on—the power of positive thinking, it becomes a normal way of life in time.
Practice Time Management. Always try to be on time. As previously stated, leadership starts from the top. Even though you may have the liberty and freedom to be late, it may not be acceptable to the staff, even though they understand the pecking order.
Employees are often left to bear the brunt of their managers’ ineffective time management skills, and—most importantly—it sets a poor example. When projects need to be completed on time, your subordinates are counting on you to get your part of the task done so they can carry on with their jobs.
Delegate Effectively. A poor leader believes that a task will not be done correctly unless he does it himself. In the end, it is impossible for any practice owner or manager to do it all. The best leaders have good team members who will take on the responsibilities they are given and report back with their respective results. In terms of employee morale, staff members want to feel as if they have some liberty and authority to handle situations related to their direct responsibilities. Micromanaging and constantly having a watchful eye on employees makes them feel as if they aren’t trusted to have your business’ best interests at heart.
Many times we feel that if we want something done right, we need to do it ourselves. This is the number one route to failure. The most successful people are those who know how to delegate their responsibilities to others. Take the time to train your staff and your supervisors. Create a system that clearly outlines how and when they need to report back to you with specific tasks that you have assigned them. Remember, what gets measured gets managed, and what gets managed, gets measured.
Successful delegation is a constant work in progress, and it takes a strong leader to master it. You have what it takes, so let go of the minutiae and work on the important things.
Offer Rewards and Recognition. This is one of the most important aspects of great leadership. You never want your employees to feel as if they are not appreciated, while you receive all the praise, glory and financial rewards for their efforts. Each person in your organization plays an essential role, and when you succeed, they should as well.
There are many types of rewards, including verbal praise, written letters of appreciation, certificates, personal time off, group dinners, plaques and, of course, good old cash. I have always found praise of an employee in front of his or her peers to be very effective. Staff will respect your leadership style if they regularly see you recognizing the accomplishments of their fellow team members.
Be Honest. Always tell the story like it needs to be told. Don’t sugarcoat anything in your business. You don’t want to leave anything to the imagination, especially if it relates to lay-offs, financial concerns or new projects. Imaginations run wild and then rumors take hold. Most people want to do business with and work for people they trust; honesty is paramount in effective leadership.
Know the People You Lead. Get to know something about the people that work for you. The personal connection you share with others goes a long way. There is a trust factor that builds when your staff feels that you like them and want to learn more about them beyond their daily duties. If you don’t know anything about your staff members’ interests, families or future goals, make some time to visit with them and learn more about them.
Be Organized. How many times have you walked into someone’s office and you can’t even see through the clutter? If this is your office, your staff likely views you as disorganized and unable to grasp a practice issue at a moment’s notice. Proper files, orderly piles and a clean workspace show effective leadership. Imagine how you would feel if your practice was in shambles when your patients arrived. How do you think the patient would feel? No one wants to walk into any type of medical facility that is dirty, disorganized and looks as if no one is paying attention to the details. If you show organization and insist this is a condition of employment, it then becomes a part of the culture and will always be a positive motivator for employees.
Whether you are a practice owner, team leader or manager, you expect your staff members to perform to the best of their abilities. This starts by having leaders in the organization who are focused on performing to the best of their abilities, while encouraging their staff to take ownership of their duties and the future growth of the practice.
Jay A. Shorr, BA, CMBM, CAC I-XIV and Mara Shorr, BS, CAC II-XIV are partners in Shorr Solutions, a medical practice consulting firm specializing in the operational, administrative, staff training and financial health of cosmetic, aesthetic and plastic surgery medical practices. Contact this father-daughter team at www.ShorrSolutions.com or Info@ShorrSolutions.com.