If you’ve attended one of my lectures at a meeting or trade show, chances are you’ve probably also seen me do magic—specifically, a type known as mentalism. Instead of pulling a rabbit out of a hat, mentalists use whatever is in the imagination of their audiences to complete their illusions. Mentalism is essentially magic of the mind and frequently deals with predictions about the future. So, here’s a prediction I’ll make for everyone reading this article and, since you’re reading it for the first time and I’m not standing in front of you, there is no possible way I could have set this up in advance!  

My prediction is that the practice-building challenge you encounter most frequently is—wait for it—staff management. How’d I do? (Email me, I’d love to know!) And, the number one reason why so many doctors struggle with staff management is because they aren’t mentalists. In other words, they haven’t figured out how to predict the future! But what’s the connection between understanding the future and staff management?

While it’s likely most of us do not know what our personal futures hold, chances are many of us have a good idea regarding the future of our practice. And, we have an obligation as practice leaders and CEOs to communicate this future to our staff. Great staff management and leadership involves understanding the long view and communicating that view to your staff—something that isn’t always easy.

Avoid Myopic Leadership
Due to the stresses and day-to-day pressures of running a practice, many of us succumb to “leadership myopia” and are only able to focus on what is directly in front of us at a given moment. As with all behaviors, staff members see your acute laser focus on the “here and now” and assume that if it’s important to you, it should be important to them too. The problem with this thought process is that big-picture goals, practice values and your very reason for being a practice can get lost in this short-term view. People are people, and patients are patients.  You’ll always have acute patient management issues to deal with. Unless you routinely set aside uninterrupted time to discuss with your staff why you are doing what you do with each patient on a day-to-day basis, they will never adopt your long-term view (i.e., your mentalist’s prediction, if you will) of the future.

Here’s an example: Mr. Late runs into the office out of breath and says, “I ran out of contact lenses and I’m on my way to work. Can I have one more pair to hold me over?” As instructed at your last staff meeting, your staff correctly checks his record and sees that his last examination was 16 months ago. Your clinical recommendation is once per year. So, the staff member says, “I’m sorry, you’re overdue for your examination, so we can’t give you any more lenses.”

Volumes have already been written about what may or may not happen next, and putting 10 of us in a room to discuss the best course of action would make for a nice fireside chat—or perhaps a barroom brawl. However, what is rarely discussed is how to put your own view of how this situation should be handled into the minds of your staff. 

What is your long-term, futuristic macro goal for your practice and the micro short-term goal for this particular patient? The policy to deal with this individual patient is already known to every practice (i.e., either give the patient lenses or don’t, with any necessary explanations or caveats) but the reason for doing so, in the context of your big picture practice vision, is rarely articulated to staff. In other words, “Give or don’t give the lenses because our practice philosophy and long-term goals are…” is not usually discussed. This way, your staff members are able to better adhere to these long-term goals in the face of such situations.

So, hone your mentalist skills and start communicating your goals and aspirations to your staff. Your day-to-day operations will run much smoother.