What makes a medical practice exceptionally good at what it does? How does it stand out from the competition and attract top talent? Great clinical care, solid strategic plans, and exceptional employees all make a difference, but what top notch medical practices have that mediocre practices lack is a culture of excellence – beliefs and behaviors demonstrated day in and day out that enable and inspire everyone in the practice to do their very best. It all starts with Physician Leadership.
Culture is generally defined as a set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an organization. Culture is not a goal to be mandated, but rather the outcome of a collective set of behaviors. Physician Leadership can influence those behaviors in several ways and, in so doing, shape the culture of their medical practice. As your staff looks to you for leadership, follow (3) steps daily to enable a new culture to be ingrained into your practice:
- Convey your vision of a winning culture. Define your aspirations, what will be different, and how these changes make a difference for the success of your medical practice;
- Demonstrate how new cultural behaviors advance your practice. Nothing reinforces new behaviors more than success. Once you define these behaviors, work with your staff to apply them to a project that needs improvement.
- Reinforce the new culture by integrating it into personnel management processes.Staff tend to focus on what’s measured and rewarded. The third step for building a new culture is to use the desired behaviors as criteria for hiring, promoting, rewarding and disciplining staff.
Even in this uncertain time of healthcare reform, the winning medical practices that I work with know they should invest in their people. When leadership is committed to a strong workplace culture, medical practices tend to perform very well.
As the owner of your medical practice, when was the last time you made the effort to understand, really understand, what the people you work with are thinking and how they’re feeling about their job? How are they feeling about your performance guiding the practice? There are many successful leaders who do one simple thing: they frequently ask their employees how they feel about their job and what could be done differently or better to make them happier. When this dialogue takes place, they receive priceless information that helps them retain their best employees and optimize their productivity.
Throughout my career, I have gained an understanding of the value of employee feedback. I’m talking about a sincere, consistent effort to make your staff’s workplace is the best it can be. Ask employees how happy they are at work and what you can do to make them happier. These two questions indicate to your staff that your care about them and that they have your support. Furthermore, these discussions will provide you with a clear understanding of their concerns so you can provide your staff with meaningful direction. By knowing what motivates your staff, you can boost their performanceand their satisfaction at work. These discussions also serve a purpose by allowing you to proactively get ahead off issues before they become larger problems.
Desired Qualities of a Leader …
- Resilience. There are always going to be challenges with growing your medical practice. Resilience must go hand-in-hand with passion for your work, because when challenges come, both that passion and the resilience you’ve developed will keep you moving forward. Change the way you think about change. People naturally resist change because they don’t like discomfort.
Get comfortable with being uncomfortable so you are willing to change, to take risks, and to try new things. This is why passion is important. You become willing to go through the periods of discomfort because you are passionate about the outcome to be gained. Work to turn your obstacles into opportunities. Don’t let obstacles stop you.
- Self-awareness. This is the ability to see oneself objectively. Self-awareness encompasses both knowing what you do well and areas that could use improvement. Ask for feedback and really listen. Ask what they see as your strengths and weaknesses. What could you do better? Don’t get defensive or people won’t be honest the next time you ask.
- Coachability. Self-awareness and coachability go hand in hand. Once your efforts at being more self-aware have helped you pinpoint your challenges, you can get proactive about developing yourself. Hire people who challenge you. Make sure they know your door is open. Employees can be great sources of insight. They can very often see solutions that you can’t. Just make sure you are open to hearing them and that you make a sincere effort to take their feedback seriously. When you hear things you don’t agree with, don’t react immediately, take some time to think it over. If you still think the person is wrong or unfair, it’s okay to address it, but not immediately. This will give you a chance to think it over and understand their motivation. You are much more likely to handle it in a way you can be proud of and that invites more honesty into the relationship. The best action is often to pause.
When you focus on being resilient, self-aware, and coachable, a lot of other leadership traits will take care of themselves. We will never reach perfection, but if we give our attention to these three traits, we will get a little better every day.