How do you stack up? Nearly 12 months after my original post on this topic, one of the biggest complaints I receive when working with an office staff is about “lazy office managers.” I hear all kinds of tales about “lazy office managers,” from staff, physicians, and sales representatives.
As a leader in the clinic, office managers can take a lot of flak; sometimes it is warranted, and other times it isn’t. Last June I discussed seven ways to improve your reputation as a practice manager, today let’s review those seven, and add a few more.
1. Don’t manage from your desk. Step outside of your office frequently. In order to ensure that your staff and clinic are functioning properly, you must move through the clinic and observe/interact several times a day. Interacting with the staff, physicians, and patients is vital to maintain a healthy practice environment, and the only way to know what is going on in your clinic. In clinics where there is room, the office manager should primarily do their work at a workstation outside of their office, and use their office for one-on-one meetings or employee counseling.
2. Answer phone calls and e-mails, and return messages. It really is just common courtesy, and shouldn’t need to be reminded, but all too often, there are complaints from staff members that they field calls all day that the manager hasn’t returned any calls.
3. Enforce no-gossip policies. Make no-gossip policies a formal policy addition to the employee handbook, and avoid adding to or stirring gossip up in the office.
4. Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty. The office manager should know how to perform every job in the office, and do it with some degree of efficiency and expertise. If you are short staffed or overloaded with patients or phone calls, you should be able to jump in and provide almost seamless help. If there are some tasks you aren’t trained on (for instance, taking blood pressure) ask your staff to train you; they will respect you for it.
5. Take some time to market your practice. There are numerous avenues for office managers to pursue networking opportunities with other office managers. Many areas have regional clubs and associations that span many specialties. Networking with other office managers allows you to market your physician services and practice to other offices and learn what is working for them. Often times these groups will also offer educational pieces for yourself and key people in your office.
6. Set a good example. Demonstrate respect, hard work, gratitude, kindness, professional dress, proper work ethic, and timeliness. Also, avoid unscheduled absences, and your staff will follow your example.
7. Meet with representatives. Not only meet with them but listen, and thoroughly review their proposal for your clinic with your physician(s). I know, shocking right? This is probably one of the most important aspects of your job as an office manager, and if you aren’t reviewing the opportunities that are brought to you, you are really doing your office a disservice. There are many lost opportunities (some to the tune of a half million dollars a year, with no investment) that are beneficial to patient care and your physicians practice that are never even looked at simply because an office manager is “too busy.” Part of your job as office manager is to find ways to increase revenue and help the physicians provide the best patient care possible. Try marking a single 20-minute slot on your calendar, three to five days a week for a representative to meet with you, and stick firmly to the allotted appointment time. If you find an opportunity, but the sales representative drives you crazy, call their corporate office and ask for a different person to handle your account.
8. Promote collaboration. Hold team and department meetings and encourage communication between staff members and departments, and also between you and the departments. Don’t shoot down ideas, promote problem solving, seek consensus about group decisions, and channel conflict towards positive outcomes.
9. Engage in perpetual, long-lasting personal growth. Practice reflection (any style you choose, such as meditation). Model core values of compassion, integrity, service, and learning to your team. Learn to better regulate your use of power and control.
10. Promote team building and group training. Group training as an entire office is as important as individual certifications and trainings. It helps build a team environment and can help your entire staff to better serve your patients.
11. Be proactive. In the words of Stephen Covey, author of “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,” between stimulus and response there is space, and that space represents a choice of how to deal with a situation, person, thought, or event.”
12. Treat your staff and patients right (to their face and behind their backs). The way you treat people is a reflection of your values, so make sure your treat everyone with the respect and caring they deserve. It is not only the right thing to do, it will set a good example for your staff and you will earn respect from them as well.
Often times a “lazy office manager” or a “bad office manager” is no more than an office manager in need of some solid leadership skills and training. Many times it is the perception of “what does she/he do in there all day?” that causes others to assume that a manager is lazy or inept. Implement these items in your office, and comment below to let me know what you think and how they worked for you. Go forth and lead!