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Difference between Physician Managers and Leaders

Managers tend to run the day-to-day activities and leaders tend to run the year-to-year activities. As a physician, you may play more of a managerial role or a leadership role depending on your practice’s structure. Often times in a small practice you will play both roles. In a larger group, you will typically have non-physician managers dealing with the day-to-day tasks. As the physician, try not to become a micromanager (i.e., hovering over every task that you ask them to do). As the physician, I recommend your role is to set the direction of the practice and let your clinic manager implement your goals. This is an example of displaying leadership. Give your manager latitude to do their job. Provide them with the resources they need from an office to paying for courses to help them advance professionally.

What if you are in a smaller practice where you are both the manger and the leader? A manager delegates responsibility whereas a leader delegates authority. As a physician, you have been given a certain level of authority simply by having the title as physician. Now it’s time to equip yourself to become the most effective manager and leader by taking courses and learning from senior partners. As a leader, think beyond yourself to involve others in order for them to get some credit too. Identify one or two people in your practice that stand out as potential mangers and invest time and energy in mentoring them. Encourage others to run a meeting. The idea here is to give them authority to create something. Think of a great coach or mentor you had that was always promoting you. Leadership is about promoting others. As a physician, seek for opportunities to promote others. For example, give your staff an opportunity to create or improve something in your practice. Use their idea to make the improvement in the practice and credit them. This is an example of delegating responsibility. Delegating authority would be placing them in charge of a committee. You might say, my practice is too small for committees. Creating committees gives everyone an opportunity to call something their own. For example, assign one of your staff members as the Chair of the Benevolence committee where their role is to send sympathy cards to patients who just passed away and to read the obituaries frequently. Create a Birthday party committee. There are always one and sometimes two people who are the life of the party and love to have fun. When you meet initially with this individual, identify some ground rules that you have about parties and Holiday decorations. Give them a monthly budget and see how they impress you. This committee can go in many directions. For instance, if there are no expectations given on the front end, they could bring in green hats for everyone to wear on St. Patrick’s Day and you might not want that to be your impression of your practice to your patients. You would have to rain down on that person’s parade and potentially stifle their creative nature. Instead, lay out certain do’s and don’ts from the onset on what you prefer for your clinic and then let them explore their creativity to build morale for your clinic so you can focus mainly on patients.

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