What’s your physician leadership style?

May 19, 2022

We ask a lot of our hard working clinic staff, and usually with that ask is an unspoken demand that they remain courteous and polite at all times.

Yet these expectations aren’t an accurate reflection of our own physician leadership style.

We can’t demand that our staff “be happier,” or enjoy their job more, when we rarely radiate such positivity on the job ourselves.

If we are irritable and rushed, we can’t expect our staff to be calm and cheerful.

It is up to leadership to set the pace and mood.

One simple yet effective way to shift negative thinking is to focus on a positive affirmation.

I like to remember the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi: “Be the change you want to see in the world.”

Today, I challenge you to come up with a leadership affirmation that when put into practice, will serve as a beacon for positive change.

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Put the “i” in team: Inclusivity

May 12, 2022

In order to feel a sense of belonging to a team, individuals often need to overcome an attitude of intolerance.

Some of the most successful physicians I know have spent years cultivating credibility through the consistent practice of professional competence, yet we all know another type of clinician earning a reputation for being aloof, conceited, arrogant—and at times too academic (there is more to life than charts, graphs, and p values).

For evidence-based science to truly impact our world, it must represent all of the people who live in our world.

In our medical world, this includes nurses, MOAs, receptionists, porters, custodians, ethicists, HR managers, health economists, and many more whom we often neglect to acknowledge as contributors to our success.

As physicians, we are well-trained in the science of medicine, but in order to embrace the “i” of artful inclusive team building, we must first move past the “I” thinking of indifference,...

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Good health has an expiry date—choose happiness right now

May 05, 2022

As busy physicians, our careers are defined by delayed gratification.

Years of my training were spent looking toward the next milestone.

Graduating med school turned into finishing residency, and all the while I was telling myself that “I’ll be happy when...”

Fast forward to present times, and here I am, advising practicing physicians on the verge of burnout on how to get to their next milestone: a stress-free retirement that is still decades away from their reach.

Life has to be better. And it has to be better now.

This outlook is what inspired my friend and his husband to reconsider the way they invested their sizable household income.

By relying on the certainties of compound growth to cushion their finances, my friends no longer have to worry about their financial interests.

There is no crystal ball to tell us how many years of good health we have left, but I can share two simple tips that helped my friends be instantly rewarded:

  1. Spend money and time on having...
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Team-building secret: Stop the revolving door

Apr 28, 2022

Have you seen places where workers get hired and fired so often it’s like a revolving door?

Worse yet, managers come and go every few months. Imagine the chaos!

Years ago, a certain US football team was stuck at the bottom of the league. The resident coach kept firing or trading off the players every season. Finally, the players had simply had it. They teamed up with the owners. The result? The coach was fired! The new coach slowly rebuilt the team’s morale, leading them to become top-notch again.

So, if you as the owner, chief, or superior have been getting rid of people for never performing up to par, maybe the next one to fire is the one in the mirror!

Seriously, regardless of background, personality or skill sets, your team members have so much to offer, especially if they starkly differ from you or are even your total opposite.

If no one’s ever “measured up” in your team consistently, it’s time for a check-up from the neck up:

  1. How would my...
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A self-care question for physicians

Apr 21, 2022

Previously, I asserted that physician wellness must go beyond simply managing burnout.

We should be striving for personal growth and happiness regardless of what life throws at us.

This can involve the “Doing More” activities such as sleep and exercise.

But “Doing Less” is even more crucial to thriving.

Fundamentally, physicians are overworked and stressed out—and our own survey data supports this.

So, “Doing Less” means reducing clinical and administrative hours.

And in our personal lives, this can include stepping back from volunteering or obligations to family and friends.

But this is extremely difficult in reality.

As a profession, we’re highly conscientious and put the needs of others ahead of ourselves.

So let me challenge you with this thought:

If you were your own patient, would you advise yourself to work less and focus on more self-care?

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Team-building tip: How to foster buy-in

Apr 14, 2022

Have you ever wondered why some teams are so cohesively gelled and dedicated, where everyone puts in 110% while working so seamlessly together?

And why are so many other teams (maybe even yours) so dysfunctional where everyone is demotivated, deflated, and disjointed?

The surprising fact is the high output team isn’t necessarily paid more or incentivized. What it means is the rewards have to be internal. Essentially, the entire team has bought in to their collective dream, goal or purpose.

It’s like the Dragon Boat Festival in Chinese culture. For the team to win, they must listen to the same drummer and row in unison. These team members have a full buy-in to the collective cause.

What are the prerequisites for this total buy-in to happen?

  • There must be a worthwhile collective cause, goal, or dream (vision)
  • Someone has to sell that vision
  • The vision needs to be sufficiently and effectively communicated to each and every team member
  • Each member must understand their...
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Practice: Balancing personal and professional goals

Apr 07, 2022

I recently supervised an outstanding junior resident and got to discussing intentional living as it relates to careers.

She shared how, at her current stage of training, she has little control over her time but expressed optimism about her post-residency life.

I cautioned her, however, that circumstances do not automatically improve without deliberate action.

I shared took two examples of how this plays out:

  1. Physicians who become captive to the achievement trap find themselves constantly pursuing new academic and administrative milestones. This leads to ceaseless emails, meetings, and other commitments. While they may rack up an impressive publication list or CV, they are not truly in control of their time (or their lives).
  2. A more common issue is that doctors simply get caught with ongoing personal expenses (like mortgages, vehicles, and consumer spending) that leaves them working extra hours to cover these. While nice homes and cars carry appeal, the extra hours worked don’t...
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“What’s in it for me?”: Understanding stakeholder motivation

Mar 31, 2022

Do you know what the most listened-to radio station in the entire world is?

WII FM.

What station is that?

What’s In it For Me?

This question is a primal one—subconscious, yet powerful.

Unlike Jerry Maguire’s “Show me the money!”, the currency here isn’t always monetary. What about time, effort, personal safety, respect, ideals, interest, amusement, fulfillment, integrity, ethics or worthwhileness?

This subliminal question permeates nearly every human decision and must be adequately answered before any true, wholehearted buy-in or conversion.

And not just in areas of sales and marketing, but also in highly relevant situations like patient compliance or clinical team throughput.

Every objection or resistance can be traced back to this very question.

So the next time you find yourself dealing with a skeptical patient, a hesitant surrogate decision-maker, an obstinate child (your own?), a doubting staff member, a confrontational colleague, or even a...

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Managing physician burnout with self-care

Mar 24, 2022

At Physician Empowerment, resiliency isn’t just about managing burnout.

We aim for a higher goal.

Over the course of our careers, we should be enjoying personal growth and more happiness irrespective of practice environment or pay.

One key strategy we explore in our small groups and conference events is the notion of “Doing More” activities.

These are the small, everyday actions we can take to bring mindfulness and joy into a typical day–regardless of how we feel.

There is obviously more here than we can discuss in a few lines… But essentially “doing more” means adding something to your day just for you.

It can be exercise, journaling, watching a favorite movie, laughing with friends, or (gasp!) sleeping.

The next time you’re feeling stressed during a busy week, make time to do something special just for yourself and then see what it does for your mood.

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Team-building secret: directionality

Mar 17, 2022

What do you call a group of people pulling as hard as they can in concert, but hardly going anywhere?

Tug-of-war.

Imagine five horses pulling one cart in full force, just to pull it apart (from pulling in 5 different directions).

Ever seen a clinical team with everyone trying so hard but achieving so little? Maybe your own team is kind of like that.

Guess what? Good intention and work ethics alone aren’t enough: there has to be directionality. Unfortunately, the failures of vision casting and value alignment have become the norm in far too many clinical settings.

Remember the good old physics concept called vector, which distinguishes displacement from distance, and velocity from speed?

In a clinical team, the leader has to be that vector providing not just orders but directionality.

The Bible says, “If a bugle doesn’t sound a clear call, who will get ready for battle?”

Today’s reflection:

  • In my clinical team, who acts as the vector?
  • Is there clear...
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