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Make these your 2 top goals for 2019

Goal No. 1: Win the doctors’ respect

Everyone knows communication is key and, when it comes to managing a medical office, communicating poorly with the doctors can sabotage your ability to do your job well.

Here are a few rules for communicating in a way that generates respect, establishes your credibility, and demonstrates that you can be trusted to manage their practice.

Rule 1. Set the ground rules for communicating.

Many a manager starts out on the wrong foot by failing to ask doctors how they prefer to communicate.

Every doctor is different. Some don’t mind interruptions, while others expect managers to make an appointment and provide advance information about what is to be discussed. Others prefer email or a phone call.

The only way to find out who likes what is to ask, “What’s the best way for me to communicate with you?”

Ask each doctor if they would like an agenda beforehand and if they expect a written summary after the meeting. Also inquire as to the best time to meet: at the end of the day or in the morning.

It’s also important to determine what issues warrant an interruption. What seems like a crisis to you may not even qualify as a problem to the doctor you work with.

Rule 2: Tell the doctors about serious issues as they arise. Don’t wait until a situation is out of control.

While it’s true that doctors want the manager to deal with the majority of office problems, it’s important you bring serious issues to their attention immediately, especially if they affect revenue. The last thing you want is for the doctors to think you’re trying to hide things from them.

Rule 3: Own up to mistakes.

Some managers take no responsibility for their mistakes and like to shift the blame by pointing out what everybody else did wrong.

To shift the blame without accepting any responsibility looks suspiciously like the manager is omitting facts or even lying about what’s going on. When this happens the manager’s credibility goes right out the window.

There’s no need to be self-flogging, but admit to the mistake and outline how you will rectify the situation. By doing this you acknowledge that you are human and like everyone, make mistakes. A solution to every problem

Rule 4: Don’t present a problem without suggesting a solution.

Doctors pay the manager to take care of problems they don’t want to worry about. If a manager is constantly running to them for help then they aren’t getting their money’s worth – and they know it.

So limit problems you bring to them to ones you truly need input on. Then, when discussing a problem, give them the full picture, outline the issue, list the options, and explain the potential impact of each one.

Rule 5. Never stretch the truth. Don’t exaggerate a problem or inflate the numbers to persuade the doctors to do something.

Don’t, for example, try to embellish the benefits of a new technology in order to convince them to buy it. Similarly, don’t exaggerate the consequences of not buying it.

Getting caught stretching the truth on even the smallest of facts will damage your credibility. As soon as the doctors catch you in a lie, they will question everything you say.

Rule 6: Keep emotions out of the job.

Don’t put personal feelings ahead of what’s best for the practice.

Suppose the doctors decide to trim the budget and lay off an employee who just happens to be your friend. Although it’s natural to want to save your friend’s job, it’s important to keep emotions out of business and out of a decision that is not yours to make.

If you have valid reasons to protect your friend’s job then go ahead and make a business argument for why he or she should not be laid off. If not, leave the decision to the doctors.

Recognize that part of your job is making decisions because they are right for the office and carrying through with those decisions even when personal sacrifice is involved.

Similarly, don’t run to the boss during times of frustration and frayed nerves when you may speak emotionally rather than sticking to the facts. Don’t approach the boss without facts and don’t make suggestions that aren’t right for the business.

A few final tips

  • Be on time. If the agreement is to meet at 10 a.m., be there at 10 a.m.
  • Come in knowing what is to be discussed. Have it written out if necessary. Outline the matter clearly, crisply, and quickly. Fumble around with papers and the doctors will see the meeting as a waste of their good time.
  • Don’t get side tracked. It’s not uncommon for a discussion to start out with one topic that gets abandoned when other issues come up. As a manager, it’s your job to ensure the conversation returns to the initial topic.
  • Don’t throw in an extra topic unexpectedly. If you want to bring up a topic that’s not on the agenda, introduce it after initial discussions are complete and be clear that it is an item that was not on the original agenda. Ask the doctors if they can make time for the extra item or would prefer to add it to the next meeting’s agenda.

Goal No. 2: Get a better salary

Raises have to be earned. And getting them requires finding out what the doctors expect, doing work beyond what is asked, and demonstrating to the doctors that they are getting more than their money’s worth.

It’s a long process, but it will pay off in the end.

A year in the making

A good raise starts with preparation a year in advance.

Start by meeting with the doctors and asking what their expectations are and how those expectations will be measured and rewarded.

Open the discussion with something like this: “I want to do a great job. What is it that you expect me to accomplish in the next six months or year?”

Show a sincere effort to provide exemplary service. Ask questions such as, “What elements are necessary for me to exceed your expectations?” or say, “I am ambitious. I want to give you top service, but I also want to earn the best compensation I possibly can,” or “I want to make myself more valuable to you.”

Whatever it is the doctors want – setting up a new computer system, increasing revenues, or cutting overhead – make those items your priority for the coming year. If you don’t ask, you may spend your time working on projects they don’t even care about.

Now that you know what’s wanted, it’s time to talk about money. But again, use tact. Ask what the ground rules will be for setting next year’s raise and if it will be based on performance, the office’s financial performance, or a combination of the two. Once you have an answer, summarize the agreement and send it to the doctors.

A six-month check-in

At six months, it’s time to check in.

Send the doctors a summary of what has been accomplished since the meeting. Begin by saying you’d like to provide them with a six-month summary of areas previously discussed.

Then cover each goal and the progress you’ve made.

Explain what’s going well and where things may have gotten off track. If a change has occurred that affects your ability to complete a goal, explain it. For example, if the office has decided to relocate, organizing the move is likely to have pushed some goals onto the back burner.

Gather some money info

Now conduct some research to determine how much the raise should be.

Some professional organizations publish salary surveys, but those can be costly. Instead, talk with other managers in the area. Call one or several and ask if they’d like to have lunch and exchange information about everything from what the job entails to compensation.

People respond well to flattery so preface the invitation with, “I’ve seen your work, and you are excellent in what you do. I wanted to know if we could meet for lunch.”

You could also send out a survey to managers in the area asking them to report their salary information anonymously in exchange for access to the survey results.

Choose the participants carefully. Survey managers you know are well respected and well compensated.

At last! The review!

Now for the review.

Set aside a time and ask the doctors for a meeting to discuss your performance.

At the meeting, provide a summary of how each goal has been met and an overview of other achievements accomplished during that period.

Present the summary as bulleted points and then fill in the details orally. Keep the summary to one page.

State everything in terms of facts, numbers, and days. This makes it easy for the doctors to see the value you bring to the practice.

Provide a financial outcome wherever possible. If the goal was to cut expenses, show how much was cut and what percentage that represents. If the goal was to collect bills 60 days past due, show what additional money was generated as a result. If it was to reduce turnover, show the costs savings in terms of a reduction in advertising and training.

The essential point is to illustrate how the manager has affected the bottom line. That’s what the doctors want to see.

At the end of the summary, state your raise expectation and back it up with the research on salaries you’ve gathered. If your raise was to be tied to performance then be specific about how your contributions have impacted the financial bottom line.

Consider phrasing it like this: “Based on my performance and the results it has produced and also on the office’s financial picture, the expectation I have for a salary increase is X.”

Make your request, answer their questions, and then leave the doctors to make a decision.

No raise for you!

What if your performance supports a raise but none is given?

Again with tact, tell the doctors there was an expectation of a raise, but leave it at that and say no more.

You may want to say: “This is disappointing. We have been following a plan and had agreed to some terms. I’m surprised to hear what you are saying but it is your decision.”

About all there is to do at this point is to take a second look at the job and think about moving on.

The all-around best

You can increase your value and earning potential by doing three things:

  • Never turn away from any task or challenge because it’s not in your job description.

The doctors need a manager who can do and fix anything. The more you do, the more indispensable you become. Imagine the doctors have decided to introduce a new system and have given you the option of hiring a consultant or learning the system and training staff yourself. A manager who wants to earn the big bucks will learn the system inside out.

  • Do more than the job requires.

People often do the minimum and claim that’s all they’re being paid to do. Their argument is that they’d do a better job if they got a bigger check and had more responsibility.

A successful person does a better job before looking for the bigger check.

  • Be irreplaceable.

A manager who can easily be replaced is of low value to the doctors. The more and varied service you provide, the less likely the doctors will be able to find a comparable replacement. At that point, your value increases and so too – hopefully – does your salary.

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