OFFICE MANAGERS CAN MAKE OR BREAK YOUR PRACTICE
By Jeffrey Miller
How important are your office managers? Important in any business, they are particularly valuable in healthcare. In fact, they can single handedly make the difference between your practice’s success and failure. An excerpt from the book “All In” drives this message home:
Recently, we worked with a healthcare system in the San Francisco area that had embarked on an experiment to investigate this long-standing business dilemma of the effect of a manager on performance. The organization started by classifying each department within their hospitals as green, yellow, or red. Green departments were terrific places to work. They had not only higher-than-normal team productivity and profitability, but also great employee engagement scores and better-than-average employee retention. They were the kind of work groups we all want to be a part of, so workers came and stayed. In contrast, yellow departments had average employee survey scores. They weren’t bad teams, but they weren’t great. As you might imagine, red departments were poor on every metric, especially employee turnover. It seemed workers couldn’t get out of the red work groups fast enough. Then the organization conducted an interesting experiment. They moved quite a number of managers of green departments to red departments, and managers of red work groups were asked to lead green workplaces. They imagined that this shuffle would show whether leadership really mattered. What happened? The head of HR shook her head and said, “In every single case—every case—no matter the background or expertise of the manager, within a year the red departments were green and green departments had turned red. It was the manager who made the difference.
With the case for a “green level” office manager made, how do we attract, screen, interview and make a competitive offer to such a candidate? Equally important, what are the most important qualities this person should possess? Is there a single core competency that trumps the rest?
These are all questions you must ask yourself prior to attracting this superstar and are beyond the scope of this article. Often overlooked by business owners and physicians is the most important first step. Know what you are looking for! This starts with a well thought out job description. And better than the typical job description, you will be well served to create a “scorecard,” or “job profile.”
Before you sit down to pen this document, consider the business reasons for the position and what results should be achieved to be successful. In other words, make a list of everything you think the person will be responsible for on a daily and weekly basis. Also, write down all the reasons you believe the position is justifiable from an economic standpoint. You need to make sure you will get a return on your investment. Maybe this isn’t the time for you to hire? Also, is this a new position or replacement? If you had an office manager that left, what factors led to their success or lack thereof?
Think about the typical job description that includes “must work well with others,” “good interpersonal skills” or other fillers like “provide excellent customer service.” You would never include “will consider people who occasionally are extremely difficult to work with.” Your scorecard will get you beyond the mundane to that next level.
There are several differences between the typical bland job description and a scorecard. While a job description typically describes duties and expectations, scorecards go a step further and describe the mission for the position, outcomes that must be accomplished, and competencies that fit both the culture of the company and the role.
A job description is passive while a scorecard is active.
CREATING A SCORECARD
- MISSION: Develop a short statement of one to five sentences that describes why a role exists.
- OUTCOMES: Develop three to eight specific, objective outcomes that a person must accomplish to represent a great manager. These outcomes must also contain a date in which they must be completed.
- COMPETENCIES: Identify as many role-based competencies as you think appropriate to describe the behaviors someone must demonstrate to achieve the outcomes. Next, identify five to eight competencies that describe your culture and place those on every scorecard. This is the hard part. There are many excellent resources (books, blogs and podcasts) available to find such competencies. Take your time figuring this out. Read on to discover what might be the most important core competency.
- ENSURE ALIGNMENT AND COMMUNICATE: Pressure-test your scorecard by comparing it with your business plan and scorecards of the people who will interface with the office manager. Ensure that there is consistency and alignment. Then share the scorecard with relevant parties, including coworkers and recruiters if you are using them.
THE KEY CORE COMPETENCY
While you are creating your scorecard, keep in mind that there is one core competency that will likely help your organization more than others. Perhaps you are thinking that strong decision making, strategic thinking or communication skills would be at the very top of the list?
While those are all important, if you want to build and maintain a strong company and strong culture, think about humility. Why? Think about the opposite of humble leadership … I’m sure you have met a self-indulgent leader in the past. You probably have noticed that they suck the soul out of their direct reports!
To hire more humble leaders, some businesses now ask questions specific to measuring humility during the hiring process – either through personality tests, prescreen surveys or interview questions. These questions might include, “Do you appreciate teammates’ feedback at work?” or “As a leader, do you think you’re entitled to more recognition than the rest of your team?”
Recent studies have found that leading with humility can result in stronger teamwork, increased employee engagement, decrease turnover and continuous learning and improvement.
Humble leaders appreciate their employees’ strengths and trust them to do effective work to help move the company forward. In other words, they are more likely to delegate. This habit is a win-win, as it will make your business more productive and encourage your manager’s direct reports to work together toward common goals.
Compare that to leaders who are invested in their own self-interest. They tend to take on more work than they can handle – rather than delegating tasks – and often think their opinions are more important than their teammates’ feedback. This is poison to your company.
Humble leaders also constantly seek feedback to improve processes, company culture and other areas of the business. Conversely, the self-indulgent, know-it-all-leader wants everything done their way. They are unlikely to search for the frontline feedback often necessary to create positive change.
According to Aon’s 2018 Trends in Global Employee Engagement report, public recognition is one of the top factors that will improve employee engagement.
Humble leaders aren’t threatened by their team’s talent and are quick to offer their direct reports recognition where recognition is due, instead of taking credit for the team’s work. It should come as no surprise that Gallop’s famous Q12 Employee Engagement Survey includes the following questions:
- In the last seven days, have you received recognition or praise for doing good
- Does your supervisor, or someone at work, seem to care about you as a person?
- Is there someone at work who encourages your development?
- At work, do your opinions seem to count?
If employees don’t receive any feedback or recognition for their work – or, worse, if a leader takes credit for their work – this can make employees frustrated enough to leave the company. In fact, the number one reason employees leave a company is based on their manager. The humble-leader who respects and recognizes employees, will retain their direct reports.
Learning from mistakes is a trademark of a humble person. The humble leader has a strong understanding of their strengths and weaknesses, and as a result is always on the lookout on how to improve themselves and the company. Conversely, leaders who lack humility are likely hesitant to recognize their own weaknesses, which poses a risk for these leaders growing stagnant in their roles and can have a negative effect on the company’s growth.
Study after study has revealed that employees don’t usually leave companies due to their feelings about the company. Rather, they most likely depart because of their manager. With this in mind, take your time and hire this humble superstar. Don’t forget to know what you are looking for by creating a strong scorecard. VTN
Jeffrey H. Miller, MD, is the founder and CEO of Miller Vein, with six locations in Southeast Michigan. Dr. Miller has received numerous awards and honors in his field, including being named one of Hour Detroit Magazine’s “Top Docs.” His multi-site company has received numerous accolades including Coolest Place to Work by Crain’s Business Detroit, Novi Chamber of Commerce’s Customer Service Excellence Award and several Corp! Michigan’s Economic Bright Spots Awards.
- This 1 Leadership Quality Will Motivate Your Employees to Do Great Work Blog November 2, 2018, Adam Robinson
- All In: How the Best Managers Create a Culture of Belief and Drive by Adrian Gostic and Chester Elton
- Who: The A Method for Hiring by Geoff Smart and Randy Street
- The Best Team Wins, Build Your Business Through Predictive Hiring by Adam Robinson