Effective Medical Practice Leadership

September 6, 2012

You may be a good leader at your medical practice, but becoming great requires good instincts, experience, and hard work.

It would be great if everyone in a leadership position woke up one morning and discovered they had become a great leader, but, of course, that's not reality. You may be a good leader, but becoming great requires good instincts, experience, and hard work. Combine these with dedication and motivation, and you can become one of the best. Here are a few steps to get you started on your journey to effective leadership:

1. Indentify the strengths of highly effective leaders. Jim Collins, author of "Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap ... and Others Don't," says, "Level five leaders are disciplined in actions and thought, building enduring greatness through a paradoxical blend of humility and professional will."

Great leaders produce superb results; combining an unwavering resolve, personal humility, and the ability to channel their ambition into the practice, not themselves. This is quite magical, and, as one might imagine, results in attracting people that share similar values and work ethics. These are the traits that inspire high performance and drive organizational transformation. Leaders that possess this insight are remarkable in their ability to diligently drive success and ignite enthusiasm in their subordinates.

2. Determine who will be on your team. Who are the right people? Are you capable of clearly recognizing the character traits and the innate capabilities required to do what needs to be done? It is important to remember that positive character traits will trump specific knowledge, background, and skills. Without the right people doing the right job, impressive results will elude you.

Be rigorous in this selection process - if in doubt it is better to not bring the person on to your team. Keep looking. Once you've rigorously gone through the process of selection, you can build an environment based on competence, commitment, and respect, the ingredients essential to creating a winning team.

3. Decide what your practice goals are - no minor task. This involves conducting some basic research to understand your practice's financial position. Fortunately today, because of advanced technology, practices are able to gather data using business intelligence software. The purpose of using business intelligence tools is to help you analyze your practice's performance and market position so that you and your team can make better business decisions - thus improving clinical outcomes, profitability, customer satisfaction, and staff morale.

Many practices hire consultants to guide the business intelligence process through an objective analysis, which includes:

• Situation awareness;
• Risk assessment; and
• Decision support.

4. Set a plan. Once this has been accomplished, you and your senior team must confront the facts revealed by this analysis. By understanding the strengths and weaknesses of your practice, you will be able to build on your practice's strengths and identify opportunities that can reduce potential threats and weakness. This means developing a clear plan that makes the best use of practice resources in the most efficient and advantageous way possible - focusing on both the clinical and business aspects of the practice.

5. Achieving breakthrough is the final stage of effective leadership. Accomplishing "breakthrough" is seeing what is essential and ignoring the rest. It is best explained with these simple but powerful steps:

• Determine what you (the leaders) are passionate about;
• Clarify what you (the practice) can be best at; and
• Understand what drives the entire practice's economic engine.

This final stage of becoming an effective leader will likely be the driving force that leads you to be the best you can be. Your practice is a business: You must focus on what the practice does best, clearly understand the economic engine that drives your business, and discover what you - the leader - feel passionate about. Keeping this flame ignited will ensure you continue to move in the right direction, creating a culture of discipline that can bring impressive results.

The best of leaders are determined, rely on inspired standards, and channel their ambitions into what is right for the practice - not themselves or their personal ambitious. They are driven by the greater success achieved by a dedicated team of people working together. They are good listeners and give support and recognition to the people who work with them. They know that, although each ship needs a captain, without a crew the ship never leaves the dock.  

Judy Capko is a healthcare consultant and author of the popular books "Secrets of the Best Run Practices,"2nd edition, and "Take Back Time." Based in Thousand Oaks, Calif., she is a national speaker on healthcare topics. She can be reached at judy@capko.com.