By Anthony Record
April 3, 2019
Many times, practice owners and managers wonder why they don’t enjoy the respect they feel they deserve from employees, and often feel frustrated by the day-to-day management and administrative challenges that face every practice leader.
Relax. You are not alone. Successful practice leaders are the ones who realize early on that effective leadership is a completely separate skill set. Being the best technical optometrist, for example, has very little do with being an effective leader in the eyes of your staff.
And just as you learned to be an effective eyecare professional, you can learn to be an effective leader.
Lack of leadership leads to employees doing just their individual tasks, rather than working together to build a successful practice. In addition to the practice owner, strong leadership is needed from staff leaders, such as the office manager.
I have consulted to many practices where poor leadership led to a decline in efficiency, motivation and profitability, and have noticed the difference strong leadership makes in my own business, an independently owned optical shop.
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What follows is a list of 10 things you can do to begin to acquire the mindset and image of an actual leader. In future articles I will delve deeper into most of these topics. And while embracing some (or even all) of these things is no guarantee of success, one thing I can guarantee you is this: If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.
Networking with Experienced Leaders You Admire. Opportunities to do so are all around you. For example, maybe there is a well-established optometric practice in your town that is the envy of all.
The practice leader has a 30-year career, and everyone looks up to her, and admires her success. Here’s something that might surprise you: Even though her practice is technically in competition with yours, if you called her up and asked to meet her for lunch, she would probably agree. She would also likely be more than willing to share with you some of the ideas that have made her successful. It’s called the Abundance Theory.
Read & Listen to Books. While there are conflicting studies, conservative estimates find that more than 40 percent of college graduates never read another book after graduation. Not the successful ones. “Who has time to read?” you might ask.
Here’s an idea: Turn your car into a classroom. If you have an hour commute to and from work every day, in a year’s time you spend more than 350 hours driving to and from work every day. A little less of that mindless morning show and a little more expert advice might just pay off.
Attend Seminars, Training Events and Webinars. There are many organizations that present one-day and two-day workshops on topics such as leadership, management, team-building, communication, interviewing, change implementation, and more. SkillPath, National Seminars and Fred Pryor are three of the most reputable companies in the seminar business. They offer seminars on all those topics that are never taught in optometry school, but are critical in leadership success. Visit one or more of their web sites today.
Join Trade Associations and Industry Meetings and Events. Not only are these functions a way to keep up with the latest technical advances in our industry, they are also a great way to network, find mentors, develop relationships and meet prospective employees.
Benchmark with Managers and Leaders Outside of Your Industry. If you always hang out with other optometrists, you will tend to develop a tunnel-vision approach to running your business. It’s a sure-fire way of thinking “well…that’s just the way we do things….” You must realize that the guy who supervises a team of factory workers, or the woman who manages the housekeeping crew at the Holiday Inn, both face the same challenges you face trying to run a successful optometric practice.
Why? Because all three of you manage and lead the same thing – people. Expanding your circle of acquaintances to include as many diverse professions as you can will expose you to new and creative ways to meet your day-to-day challenges.
Find Yourself a Mentor. If you have a mentoring influence (in terms of management and leadership) in your life, count yourself lucky; count yourself blessed. If you don’t have a mentoring influence in your life, I have three suggestions to obtain one:
a. Resources from the organization SCORE. Find more information at www.score.org.
b. Sometimes in the absence of a flesh-and-blood person, an author can be a highly mentoring influence. While there are dozens of options, I unconditionally recommend the now-classic work, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by the late Dr. Stephen Covey. Find used copies on eBay for five dollars or less. Read it (or re-read it) with an open mind.
c. Ask someone to be your mentor. (see #1 above).
Find a Good Reference Tool. Just like a doctor needs the Physicians’ Desk Reference, a good manager needs similar references. Again, dozens of choices. Some of my favorites: “Think Like a Manager” by Roger Fritz, “Good to Great” by Jim Collins and “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team” by Patrick Lencioni. All are probably available in audio form (see #2 above).
Make a Plan. Although he said it in many different ways, our 34th president, Dwight Eisenhower, once said, “Having a plan will not ensure your success, but without a plan you’re sure to fail.” Plan to do things differently if you want to have different (and better) results.
Work on Your Communication Skills. This will not only help you as a manager and leader, but as a practitioner as well. We communicate by reading, speaking, listening and writing. In future articles I will tackle each of those four dynamics individually, but for now, my recommendation is to start explaining to your staff members and patients a little more of the why you want them to do something.
Don’t assume they know why. Don’t assume they’ll do it just because the boss or doctor told them to. Once reasonable people truly know why they should do something, they’ll usually do it.
Create a Compelling Scoreboard. That means a physical something to keep track of your team’s most important goals and the actions being taken to achieve them. Again, this is an in-depth topic for another column, but for all of you over-achievers who want to get a jump on things, check out “The 4 Disciplines of Execution” by Chris McChesney.
Being unaware of the knowledge and wisdom in this book is why some of my early businesses failed miserably. Being aware of the knowledge and wisdom in this book has brought success and contentment in all my current endeavors.