No Good Deed Goes Unpunished
We all know the old adage "under-promise and over-deliver." It's cited as one of the keys to success, in that doing the opposite is sure to create ire.
However, sometimes it pays to be a bit of a contrarian.
Now, I'm not suggesting that you over-promise and under-deliver, which is, indeed, the road to destroying credibility.
Rather, I advise that physician groups need to be extremely careful when they enter into some types of contractual promises and then later over-deliver.
|Don't Let Your Job Get In The Way Of Your Career|
| Pick two or three members of your group, partners or not, and ask them the following question: "What is it that we do?"
Chances are that the replies will be something similar to, "We attend to patients' medical care," modified to take into account your particular medical specialty.
Although that type of response is correct, it's true only to a certain, limited extent: It addresses the "job" of being a physician in your specialty, but not the career.
Job-related thinking necessarily is short term and repetitive: Take care of this patient. Move on to the next. When you think about it, this task-by-task mentality is really no different from that of the average plumber or electrician.
It is essential to the growth and success of your medical group that your colleagues, both shareholders or partners and employees or subcontractors, and you, abandon "job-think" and adopt strong "career-think" attitudes.
No matter how good a physician is at her job, simply focusing on doing the job better will not move her, or her medical group, dramatically forward as a business entity. All it will do is make the physician better at the repeated task, at least up until some point where further improvement isn't possible. The reality is that a physician's attending to the succession of patients who will present over the course of thirty-plus years does little to positively impact the group, or even his or her own practice.
Please don't misunderstand; I am not advocating that your group's physicians shouldn't strive to be the best that they can in terms of the science, skills, and art of practicing medicine. Rather, what I am telling you is that medical excellence it is not enough to assure your group's success, or to assure your group's physicians successful careers.
Those stuck in job-think have their careers shaped for them by external factors. Like mountains whittled down into canyons by the force of wind and water, job-think physicians have their carriers shaped by other physicians, hospitals and the ever-present "conventional wisdom" crowd - those who say that "this," and not "that," is what physicians in your specialty do.
Take, for example, the radiology group with an exclusive hospital contract whose physicians excel in the broad range of radiological subspecialties. Although each of the radiologists is in putting in twelve hour shifts and doing far more than the average number of interpretations or interventional procedures per day, they spend no time focusing on the group's business strategy or the political aspects of the medical staff and relations with hospital administration. As a result, they're blindsided when the interventional cardiologists talk the hospital CEO into carving out all coronary computed tomography angiograms from the radiologists' grant of exclusivity.
Career-based thinking includes the subset of job-related factors but then extends well beyond them. A career-based thinker understands that involvement in activities that do not immediately result in billed charges is just as necessary as billing is to his or her long term financial success, as well as to his or her job satisfaction.
Similarly, in terms of medical groups, the career shaping factors, not the job related ones, have the greatest impact on the group and its long term prospects for success.
Career-think places value on involvement in group leadership, in developing new referral sources, in participation on medical staff committees, in developing new work sites, in community activities that have an effect on the public's feelings about the group's physicians, and other such efforts.
Put another way, being excellent doctors just gets you in the door, it's the minimum requirement. This is often a difficult concept for academically high performers to understand. Simply getting an "A" in "practice" is not enough to get even a "C" in "career." It is not enough to get the group an exclusive contract, it is not enough to grow the group's business geometrically, it is not enough to get millions of dollars in stipend support, it is not enough to expand to multiple sites, and it is not enough to recruit highly qualified new physicians.
The challenge, then, for group leaders is to develop a climate within the group that impacts the mode of its members' thinking, that morphs it from job-think to career-think, and that transforms the relationship from a collection of individuals each seeking to maximize only their own goals, to a team that understands that maximizing their individual goals is fostered by maximizing the goals of the group.
Among the ways that groups foster career-think are aligning group structure to provide the necessary incentives and opportunities, focusing on job enrichment for both owner and non-owner physicians, and adopting a compensation plan that rewards for administrative and future-focused activities in addition to rewarding for job-think, patient treatment tasks.
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