Introduction To Managing The Mirrors
Clinical skills only get you so far. Running a successful medical practice requires more than just being a talented physician. As a practitioner, you also must develop your capabilities as an effective manager and leader to bring out the best in the people with whom you work. Otherwise, your practice will never come close to reaching its fullest potential.
The good news is that this does not have to be a Herculean task. The first step to developing your management skills is a rather simple one: just look in the mirror.
I learned this simple lesson the hard way – by taking a hard look in the mirror when I was not meeting performance expectations. Relatively early in my career, I managed a group of pediatricians at one of 38 general pediatric outpatient locations operated by one of the premier children’s hospitals in Texas. When my initial performance did not meet expectations, I found myself facing a performance improvement plan that provided a last-ditch effort for me to step up to the responsibilities of the job I was hired to do.
Taking that look in the mirror was tough. It was painful to admit that I had failed at being an effective manager, but the clarity I gained from admitting it helped me realize that I had a choice to make. I could have chosen to explain away the reasons for my poor performance. I could have taken advantage of the friendships I had developed with the physicians and others to whom I reported. However, I knew that would not have been fair to them. They needed someone to manage the practice and help them to thrive. So, instead, I decided to follow their plan for improvement. In the process, I proved to myself and those around me that I was capable and committed to succeeding. As a result of my hard work to improve, I was later selected to be part of the team that provided administrative services for more than 200 general pediatricians across 38 locations.
The most beneficial part of the performance improvement plan was not the actual steps in the process but the self-reflection I undertook to recognize my own shortcomings. The people to whom I reported held up a mirror that provided feedback on my performance, set clear expectations for improvement, and then gave me the space to recognize what I needed to do to become an effective leader. Looking in the mirror of that performance improvement plan and managing what I learned about myself from the reflection that I saw there were essential steps for me to learn, grow, and demonstrate that I was now ready and able to contribute in a positive way.
In the decade since then, I have carried the experience of growing professionally from the feedback of others and my own journey of self-reflection into my consulting work with dozens of medical practices around the country. I now work daily with physicians and medical practice managers to improve their financial and operational performance. Invariably, this involves helping them to look in their own mirrors, to assess where they can improve, and to develop the leadership insights and management skills needed for their employees and their practices to thrive.