Thursday, November 23, 2006

Waking up to great business advice on Thanksgiving Day...

One of the toughest parts of being "the boss" is learning how to manage employees. This is a constantly evolving art, and one that I admit I'm not very good at. I'm much better at being a doctor, but I'm learning everyday how to manage and motivate my employees to do a better job and really care about the service they are providing to other people. They are each as vital a part of my practice as I am. Without them, I could never deal with the endless requests for pre-authorization for medications or billing issues or medication refills, etc... On this day of giving thanks, I am thankful for my employees, even thought I may gripe about them from time to time (in private).

One of my favorite finance pages, Yahoo Finance, has an article today about creating a motivated work force -- Five Steps to Engaging Your Employees. Although it is written for the corporate world, the advice is general enough that it can be applied in any business setting. The gist is to remember to not lose your human touch on your employees. It's easy to forget. After all, everyday is very task-oriented, and medicine (probably more than any other field) has very little room for errors. But you can't let the focusing on each task cause your employees or yourself to lose the big picture of why you are there. You may also have to be the moderator of a fight between your employees, so managing a harmonious workplace is not just all about the boss-employee relationship.

One day I was attending to a patient in an exam room, and suddenly I hear two of my employees fighting, raising their voices at each other. I could not believe it! First of all, it is so not my personality. Feeling my skin curl and seeing the patient's eyes widen (thankfully she was a well-established patient of the practice that realized this was not usual behavior), I asked the patient to excuse me for a second. Sometimes immediate feedback at the moment of the incident is better than waiting for later. See The One Minute Manager. I reminded the medical assistants about what proper etiquette in our office is all about, then returned to my patient, knowing I would speak to each of my MA's individually as soon as I had a free moment that day. They both apologized later, and I merely asked them that it never happen again. But as the boss, I also provided them with a vision of what it means to work in our office -- that is, cooperation, a healing environment, resolution of disputes in a humane fashion (no yelling!). As the boss, you have to provide the big picture, to keep the ship steering in the right direction. If I had an office manager, that would be his/her job, but for now, being a small operation, I am the office manager.

For those bosses out there struggling to keep their employees in line, take the above advice to heart. I think you'll find the links very useful.

And Happy Thanksgiving to all!


Anonymous Abel Pharmboy said...

Not sure if you subscribe to Doug Farrago's Placebo Journal, but I think that you'd really appreciate his more serious doc/business-focused (and free!) Placebo Gazette.

He started the subscription journal pre-blogosphere but the Gazette is more bloggy and certainly talks about issues facing docs like you trying to fight every factor that keeps you from providing quality care for your pts. I'm not a physician but many of my physician family members and colleagues tell me that it rings true.

Happy Thanksgiving!

10:57 AM EST  
Blogger Medicine Man said...

Great referral. thanks abel pharmboy.
I particularly enjoyed Good News for HMOs in the most recent newsletter. See also my
about Aetna. They're really making sure that they maximize their profits.

11:49 AM EST  
Blogger Flea said...

Good advice.

I suck at managing (both) my employees.

Wait. My wife makes three. But I don't pay her. Does she still count?


word verification = "zipmvo", a truck you can pick up in a local parking lot to help you on moving day, so long as you return it at the end of the day.

6:15 AM EST  
Blogger The Independent Urologist said...

Human resources. Definitely one of the tough ones in solo practice, or any business for that matter. My dad had a periodontal practice for 35 years, and the only thing he ever complained about was staffing. Definitely a tough one. Keep plugging away.

3:15 PM EST  

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