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MANAGING THE OFFICE

18 great ideas to make you a better manager

Here are 18 good ideas that can be of value to any manager.

1 Reduce the interruptions. During busy times, move the chair around so your back is to the door. People hesitate to interrupt when they can’t make immediate eye contact with the manager. Stand up when people come in and stay standing. As long as the manager is standing, the visitor won’t start up a long conversation. Put a few books on the visitor’s chair so there’s no invitation to sit down. When a talker comes in, say, “I have to make a call in five minutes, but how can I help you?”

2 When a staffer makes a snide under-the-breath remark, don’t ignore it. Ask a question to bring it out in the open.

Suppose it’s, “Here comes the big boss. I guess she wants to see if we’re working.” Come back with, “What that statement says to me is that you don’t like working here. Is that true?” The answer will likely be, “I was just joking.”

That’s not easy to do. But unless remarks like this are ended fast and with strength, they will continue.

3 To increase doctor-staff appreciation, have one of the physicians come to a staff meeting to talk about the history of the practice and what the doctors want to achieve and also to answer questions.

In addition, bring in a physician speaker from time to time to explain the office’s most common diagnoses or procedures.

These meetings give staff recognition from the doctors. And for the doctors, they create staff loyalty and interest in the patients.

4 An easy way to end the complaints about who does what is to have staff explain their individual jobs to one another – what their responsibilities are, what problems they face, and so on.

That creates all-around respect for what everybody else does. It also explains the why of the things people complain about. And it encourages staff to work as a team instead of as individuals.

5 Don’t give too many compliments or criticisms at once. The more things that get mentioned, the less important the message.

To say, “You did a good job on A, and you handled B well, and I was impressed with C” says the manager hasn’t really noticed any one of those items. Similarly, to cite five transgressions makes the staffer see them all as on a level with the least offensive one.

6 Written warnings need to carry the staffer’s signature so there can be no question about the staffer’s having had adequate notice. Yet many staffers refuse to sign, saying they don’t agree with the statement.

To avoid that problem, include a notation under the signature line that reads, “My signature does not imply that I am in agreement but rather that I have read and understood the contents of this document.” Most employees will agree to sign that.

If the staffer still refuses, just write on the document,“I discussed this notice with Staffer A, but Staffer A refused to sign.” That’s documentation enough that the conversation took place.

7 When setting goals that will bring pay rewards, be sure the extra work doesn’t require overtime. That can happen, for example, if the goal is to increase the number of bills sent out each day and staff have to put in extra hours to achieve it. In that case, the office has just lost the full financial benefit of the goal.

8 There’s a lot of free mileage to be had from personal recognition. When somebody takes on an extra assignment and does the job well, compliment that staffer in front of the others, preferably with the doctors there, too. Done with enough fanfare, that can be just as appreciated as a cash bonus.

9 Get additional mileage from complimentary letters to staff that come from patients or the physicians. Set up a “wall of fame” bulletin board in the break room, and post whenever complimentary items come in.

Beside each item, put a picture of the staffer it mentions.

10 Put pictures of the staff in the reception area with their names and a description of what each person does.

Put the pictures on a wall, on a table, or in a book at the front desk.

That gives staff recognition and also builds a personal bond between the patients and the office.

11 When talking with a staffer about poor performance, almost always the response is excuses.

Don’t accept them. Say, “I’m hearing a lot of excuses, but I’m not hearing any valid reason why this work is being done poorly.”

Then go to what needs to be done: “Let’s talk about what we can do together to help you improve your performance.”

12 To get to the real truth during a job interview, ask about experiences such as, “Tell me about a time you solved a patient’s problem.” No candidate has a prepared answer for that type of question.

Then ask about whatever the answer is. If it’s ,“I did A,” come back with “How did you accomplish that?” If the candidate says, “By doing B,” ask, “And how did you accomplish B?”

That way, the applicant does all the talking, and the manager gets a good picture of what to expect from that person.

13 What’s the best way to talk with a doctor about a problem and still stay in the practice’s good graces?

Use a non-confrontational opener: “There is something I would like to discuss with you that is somewhat uncomfortable.” The doctor will want to know what that is.

Then explain the problem but in terms of how making a change will improve patient care or the bottom line. For example, if the problem is that the doctor yells whenever there’s a mistake, phrase it as, “When you yell, I am not able to give your patients enough attention or get your work done as well as I’d like to.”

14 When one staffer comes in with a complaint about another, make the staffer participate in the solution.

Ask, “What have you done to solve this?” And then, “What do you want to happen? What do you want me to do?”

Give a few choices: “You can discuss this yourself with Staffer A, or I can tell A that you complained, or I can talk with A and leave your name out of it, or I can even put A on probation.”

Then turn the table: “If you were in A’s shoes, what would you want to see happen?”

The response will likely be a logical one, perhaps that manager and staffer should together talk with the other person.

15 When a staffer asks for something, never pass the buck with, “Let me clear this with the doctors.” That shows the manager doesn’t have much authority and tells staff they are better off going to the doctors with requests.

Similarly, never answer a question with, “I don’t know. Let me ask the doctors.” That says the manager doesn’t know much more than the staff do.

The right answer is, “Let me see what I can do” or, “Let me look into that.” The manager may actually have to get the answer from the doctors, but staff don’t need to know that.

16 The best staff education is small, positive, and on the spot.

When a staffer is doing something the hard way, point it out. But instead of saying, “You’re doing that wrong!” say, “Let me show you an easier way to do that” or, “Did you know there’s a button you can push on that copier for such-and-such?”

Don’t look for serious things. Just stick to the small things that are time savers and step savers.

And to emphasize that the staffer is not at fault, say, “You may not have known about this.”

17 To organize the front desk or any shared area for best efficiency, ask the people who work there what to do: “If you could set up this area the way you wanted, what changes would you make?”

The answers will show where the work holdups are, perhaps that one chair needs to be moved closer to the computer terminal or that one area should be reserved for private conversations with patients. Staff will also come up with the most efficient ways to arrange the files, forms, and office equipment.

18 When a top staffer leaves, take advantage of what that employee has to say.

Ask, “Could we have prevented you from leaving? If so, how?”

The main reasons people quit are pay, job demands, and management, and the answer will identify where the office needs to make improvements. It might be, “I would have stayed if the salary had been higher” or, “if the workload had been lighter” or “if I hadn’t had to work for So-and-So.”

If it’s a problem that can easily be fixed, fix it. But don’t use it as a way to coax the staffer back. That’s an invitation for people to threaten to quit when they don’t like something.

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