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Staff Secretly Takes Assertiveness Training. This Doctor Has a Problem.

By Stewart Gandolf, Chief Executive Officer

Woman with worried expression holding fists up to cover mouthFirst in a two-part series about intelligent individuals that allow their personality or attitudes to block their potential for success. (How to spot the problem and what to do.)

This is the true tale of two doctors.

We’re not going to mention any names, but you’ll probably recognize the personality types. And please excuse our candor…consider it constructive criticism.

It’s unfortunate, but some doctors step on their own toes when it comes to marketing advice and decision-making. If you spot either one of these, you’ve definitely got a problem.

Here’s the first of these two “red flag” examples. (Watch for the second part of this series later this week.)

The Iron Man: The boss in this office is so strong-willed that he/she is determined to have his/her own way at nearly every turn. (We're talking about a doctor in this situation, but we’ve seen other practices where the unbendable kingpin is the administrator, the office manager or other decision-maker.)

The boss—an excellent clinician by the way—would not listen to the competent people inside and outside the practice that he/she had hired. They know their jobs and are more than competent in marketing, advertising or office operational matters. The dominating personality in this true story is, in most respects, a nice person and quite well-intended about the workings of the practice. Leadership is one thing, but rapid-fire, arbitrary decisions (and an overwhelming style) is nearly self-destructive.

The Red Flag Warning: At least one key staff person was secretly taking assertiveness training in a valiant effort to improve working with “the boss” and to help other members of the (largely disenchanted) staff. It was a bit of desperate move, and a clear signal that there’s a big internal problem eating away at this practice.

The Down Side: Medical offices need effective leadership, but being strong-willed-to-a-fault was robbing this practice of team synergy and it’s collective potential to grow. Experienced advice and new ideas were being pushed aside, staff was demoralized, employee turnover was frequent, and office operation was close to dysfunctional. Worse yet, an unhappy office environment always impacts the patient experience. Patient satisfaction is an uphill struggle, and professional reputation is at risk.

The Solution: As an outside voice of reason we provide an independent perspective. Frankly, it isn’t an easy fix, and we’re still working on this one. But good progress is underway by bringing the problem into the light (with a bit of our own assertiveness) and providing awareness of the negative (or potentially positive) financial impact to the business.

Left untreated, this toxic office situation was bound to get worse. Fortunately this “Iron Man” was open to change. (Not an easy thing as you might imagine.) But by winning acceptance of the problem, the practitioner had something to learn and much to gain by leading—and empowering—a high-functioning team. Intelligence won out.

Watch for the second part in this series later this week. And for related reading, see our previous post: Physician Marketing Lessons from Moneyball.

Lonnie Hirsch

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