I hereby give you permission to STOP trying to solve problems in your practice.
Actually, how’s this: I order you to stop solving problems! Of course, I can’t actually make you do anything. But that’s how strongly I feel about practice owners breaking out of the problem-solving trap that most of us live in 24/7.
Why do I want you to stop solving problems? Because 9 out of 10 times, the problem you’re solving ISN’T the problem that actually exists. All that work, stress, and mental energy is going to solve the wrong problem—which of course just creates more problems, and the cycle spins on and on.
(If you’re wondering about that 10th time, that’s for problems that are so small and obvious…like, refill the hand towels in the restroom, obvious.)
As clinicians, we’re hard-wired to solve problems. It’s what we do. And since nobody taught us how to run a business, when we become practice owners we take our clinical problem-solving superpowers and apply them directly to business operations, and to the management of people on our staff. We jump into the middle of everything, trying to fix issues as quickly as we can…because we’re so busy and everything needs our attention…or so we think.
Never mind that we haven’t taken the time to determine WHAT ISN’T WORKING. We’ve got the solution!
I spent years working like this as a practice owner. I was like a rat in a maze, racing around my practice trying to fix every issue–and constantly bumping head first into walls. Every time I got involved in fixing a problem, it only seemed to make everything worse. My staff was totally confused, not to mention frustrated and unmotivated, and my bottom-line numbers were either stuck in neutral or dropping.
I had to put a stop to it.
What was I missing? I was exhausted from working so hard to provide clarity with everyone on my team all day long. But clarity IS a fundamental goal and pillar of running a successful business, so I wasn’t wrong about that. So where was I going off the rails?
Then I had one of those moments. The big, earth-shifting-under-your-feet, “AH-HA” kind.
How could I provide clarity if I lacked understanding?
Suddenly, I saw my actions for what they really were.
I was inserting myself into the middle of real problems. Stuff like:
- Staff interpersonal drama (endless)
- Scheduling issues—cancellations and no-shows, chronic gaps in the schedule, patients not scheduling out their plans of care, and too many dropping out
- Reimbursement errors, and a host of other billing and A/R mistakes
- Internal communication breakdowns, including between clinical and admin teams
- Inconsistent and ineffective external communications, including marketing “plan” after “plan” that fizzled
I could see that all these problems existed in my lack of results. And because I could see the end-result errors, disappointments, inconsistencies, and failures, I assumed I understood everything that led to them.
Finally, it dawned on me. I had no understanding of the real root of any of these problems in my practice. I was helicoptering in to fix stuff, not bothering to get the information from the people on my team who were doing the work where the issues existed. Talk about flying blind.
You don’t get clarity without understanding. And to understand you must:
Go BIG: Begin in Gratitude. It’s the starting place for everything team-related.
STOP ASSUMING (you know what assumptions do to you and me, right?)
TAKE the TIME to sit down with employees and discuss what’s working well, and what can be done better or differently.
LISTEN, actively, generously, and carefully.
BE CURIOUS, ask questions, get a deeper understanding, and be ready to learn from the people who perhaps know their jobs better than you do.
SET ASIDE your own ego, in order to hear what your employees need to say, however they need to say it.
There’s a structure you can use for these conversations, one that removes the anxiety and guesswork. At PFU, we call these “clarity conversations,” and I’ll talk more about them soon.
You can’t move forward and build a better business without clarity. And you’ll only find clarity for yourself and your team when you STOP trying to solve your problems on the fly, without understanding their underlying WHY.
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By Jamey Schrier
PT, Founder & CEO, Practice Freedom U
July 23, 2020
6 minute read