Editor’s Note: Welcome to “Eye Catching: Let's Chat,” a blog series featuring contributions from members of the ophthalmic community. These blogs are an opportunity for ophthalmic bloggers to engage with readers with about a topic that is top of mind, whether it is practice management, experiences with patients, the industry, medicine in general, or healthcare reform. The series continues with this blog by Donna Suter, president of Suter Consulting Group. The views expressed in these blogs are those of their respective contributors and do not represent the views of Ophthalmology Times or UBM Medica.
When Martin Luther King said, “I have a dream,” he had a vision for people, not a program. Visionary leaders have the ability to communicate values and ideas in a way that connects. In your practice, they bring certainty into the uncertain world of reimbursement rates and rapid change.
What is your capacity to bring vision and direction into times of uncertainty? If there is one thing that sets a practice apart from the crowd, it is the leadership ability of the owner/doctor/administrator. Any one of these positions may be where a truly visionary leader is found. Why do people reluctantly comply with one leader, while passionately following another to the end of the earth?
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The answer lies in the focus of the individual. He or she seems to have an uncanny ability to infuse every department and employee with a clearly articulated vision of where the practice is going. A visionary is a leader that sets the tone in the workplace and insists that patients be treated with respect, excellence, and has revenue-generating ideas for the future.
Offices that have an “I CAN” attitude when it comes to excellence in patient care and collaborative teamwork are often ran by leaders with vision. On a daily basis, the emphasis is on quick, pleasant patient interactions and fast, accurate treatment.
The cultures of today’s practices are so diverse. How does a leader even know which model to pick? And then it’s a question of how to communicate it day-after-day to employees and eyecare practitioners alike.
Despite all of the images, signals, forecasts, alternatives, and hypothetical possibilities they must consider, the best leaders are able to formulate a comprehensive goal based on a myriad of influencing factors, and then achieve it in a manner that supports the earning power and net worth of the practice.
Leadership can be developed. Sure, natural leaders excel quicker, but leadership can and should be developed (or recruited) by all practice owners.
Improve your leadership abilities by developing vision at these seven ‘focal points.’
The ability to judge how their visions or goals will fit into their practice’s evolving mission and environment. A positive process is dependent to a great extent on the quality of the leader’s dialogue with his or her team. Employees must be able to raise issues that may be sensitive and to give and receive feedback.
Everyone in the practice should be clear on the goals of the practice. Take time to discuss department goals and individual tactics that support the practice’s overall goal.
Leaders take their practice’s history and traditions into consideration, so their goals and visions won’t contradict their practice culture. On one level, this means collecting the data and producing metrics but not being so busy crunching the numbers that employees feel neglected.
The ongoing shortage of qualified workers means an ever-growing need to retain the good ones. According to countless workforce polls, people connect and commit themselves to a practice when they feel respected. They stay when they are fulfilling their skills and when they find meaning in their workday community.
A leader with clear hindsight knows the importance of giving employee feedback. He or she is a leader that allows the harsh cold light of facts to illuminate performance and highlight training needs.
3. A worldview
This is essential when analyzing and interpreting new developments and trends. Look outward so you can make the best decisions possible. A worldview means knowing which services will next be impacted by third party payors as well as the demographics of your community.
What is changing? Are you changing with it? What are you doing about the changes that you see? A visionary has a plan for the worst possible outcomes.
How is your understanding of not just marketing but advertising and public relations? Because it is new, there is a lot of chatter about online marketing. Yes, controlling your online image is important, but so is the impact the practice has on the community in which you practice.
How good are you at looking within the practice and using your insight to identify internal conflict and facilitate communication and resolution? Dynamic practices encourage everyone to share what they learn in the course of performing their jobs. This often means visionaries listen more than they talk at staff meetings.
One must be silent to truly listen. This means silencing your thoughts, questions, and preconceived notions to begin to understand what the other person is trying to say. Listening, almost by itself, can eliminate misunderstanding and give you greater insight.
5. Depth perception
Leaders know how to keep things in perspective; therefore, they must view the entire picture, and see things in appropriate detail. Describing all the details for effectively managing your patient flow would fill several large books. On a scale of 1 to 10, everything isn’t a 10. The practice won’t go broke if you insist that all lanes are equipped with the same instrumentation and drops. The doctor isn’t going to die if the patient isn’t worked up properly. The lead tech shouldn’t be able to bully you into giving her a raise.
Make expectations about communication, problem-solving, and conflict resolution part of your new-employee orientation program.
Depth perception also means recognizing a ringing phone and a complaining patient as an opportunity rather than an annoyance. Train and empower everyone with patient contact to resolve conflict before it escalates.
And the ringing phone? The phone tree should not be seen as an excuse to not answer the phone. Everyone with patient phone contact should know how to schedule appointments.
6. Peripheral vision
Visionary leaders must keep a watchful eye on their competitors and stakeholders. Be an active member in at least one professional organization and one local civic organization or charity.
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When was the last time you paid someone to mystery shop your competition? Reimburse a friend for an eye exam and complete pair of eyewear from the private practice that your former patients seem to prefer. The insights you gain point the way towards staff training and process improvement.
Stakeholders are there to help you. A conference is the perfect opportunity to build stronger relationships. Spend at least a day in the exhibit hall. Reach out to vendors to schedule a time to view new products. If you don’t have time to wait, schedule a time to chat well in advance of the event.
Leaders must be able to open-mindedly review and revise their goals, opinions, attitudes, and direction so they can act and react in the most effective, efficient manner possible.
How is your vision? Do you see clearly at all seven focal points? Now that you are really looking at your practice, you may not like what you see. Does it increase your resolve to improve your practice or are you depressed?
Proceed as if success is inevitable. Believe in yourself and let other people see your self-confidence. What needs your focused attention? It could be financial, adverse work hours, patient mix, or toxic internal politics. Break the issues down to their component parts. Work with the doctors and senior staff to come up with an action plan that puts you back on track. In just a matter of months, you’ll enjoy the view!
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