As humans, we have an uncanny ability to justify and explain situations in ways that benefit us. For example…
When we observe a father shouting, tugging or being overpowering towards their child, we raise an eyebrow and pass judgement on that parent’s poor parenting skills.
If we lose our temper with our kids, we justify it by blaming the circumstances. We’ll say, “if you knew how challenging my children are, you would understand.”
In a medical practice environment, it may go something like this.
Julie: Nancy is late again.
Michelle: That’s the way she is. She’s so disorganized.
Julie: I know. And she doesn’t take her job seriously.
Michelle: Bill has given her so many opportunities, but she seems not to get the message in that thick head of hers.
Let’s look at it from another viewpoint.
Julie: I’m sorry I’m late. It’s just that my car has been acting up. And with my husband being out of town, I have to get the 3-kids ready, drop them off at my mother-in-law’s house – you know she is still upset about that thing – and just as my luck will have it, there was a fender bender on Route 95 and traffic was backed up all the way to the freeway.
CHARACTER VS CIRCUMSTANCES
Medical practice managers and administrators tend to make similar judgements.
When we have an under-performing staff member, we question their work ethic, make claims about their lack of motivation, engagement or lack of interest. Simply put, we tend to judge their character.
When we fall short, we don’t dare blame our work ethic, lack of motivation or lack of interest. Instead we blame the circumstances.
For example, we’ll blame our underperforming employees, unreasonable parents, the healthcare system, insurance companies, the printer, the network, being overworked and our boss. She’s too demanding and has unrealistic expectations.
What if we reverse the tendency to blame circumstances when we fall short and blame people’s character faults when they make a mistake or underperform? What would it look like if you looked at your character when employees in your practice fall short?
To help you put all of this into perspective, think about a time in the practice when an employee was underperforming. Using that situation in mind, read and think about the four questions I’ve listed below.
1.- Am I measuring a fish by its ability to walk?
Everybody has their strengths, but if you place someone in an environment that is counter to their strengths, they will undoubtedly fail.
Before rushing to judgement, ask this question first. Have I done a disservice to the employee by placing them in a position that they are not naturally good at doing?
2.- Am I telling them instead of leading them?
The best leaders are not the best because of their title. The best leaders are remarkable because they have distinctive character traits. Thus, asking employees to think and see the way you think and see things is often unfair.
Instead of saying, why can’t they just… (they being employees) ask, have I led them?
Consider putting more efforts towards helping them understand – leading them – rather than expecting them to know.
3. – Am I assuming employees remember?
Just because you said it once, doesn’t mean it was heard or retained.
If an employee keeps overlooking necessary task for example, take pause and consider if the reason is that you have not made clear the importance of the tasks.
One important distinction to have present when reminding employees. It is more important to tell employees why their jobs matter than remind them how to do their jobs.
4. – What am I doing about it?
Some hires simply are not a good fit. Others don’t work out. You know that. The entire staff also knows that.
Keeping an employee around that doesn’t fit well into the culture, is disruptive, consistently underperforms, and makes mistakes despite coaching, is a failure of leadership.
In other words, an employee that is out of line is not necessarily your fault, but it is on you if they remain an employee of the practice.
As practice managers and administrators of both large and small practices, we are wired not to see our failures but instead see the shortfall of our employees and attempt to correct them. Nothing wrong with that. It’s part of management.
But let me challenge you on this one. The next time you have difficulties with an employee, take a moment and reflect how you are interpreting the issue using the questions above. Consider where you are placing the blame. On people’s character or the circumstances?