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5 mistakes managers often make


One of the hardest parts of being a manager is the stage on which we stand when we make mistakes!

Putting It In View

“I never make stupid mistakes. Only very, very clever ones.”

John Peel

One of the hardest parts of being a manager is the stage on which we stand when we make mistakes!

Similar to being on Broadway on opening night, a manager’s mistakes are often on public display for all to see. The blunders are not hidden in the wings, barely out of sight of the audience. No…they are there, under the spotlight, for the whole world to see.

While staff and patients are “human,” and therefore we expect the slips, errors, gaffs, and prat falls, a manager’s errors are well performed and choreographed – one might even say – they are created in a saga of missteps and ignorance throwing off the flow of the play.

These mistakes are easy to see coming, like a bad punch line of a joke, but you still do it! Some say that it is not such a bad thing to make mistakes, because that is how you learn, but I would say that it becomes a bad thing if you do not learn from your mistakes and only continue to enact them over and over.

So what are the five most common mistakes managers make?


1. Assuming you know how your doctors “think” about a given topic

After working with doctors for a number of years, managers get a “feeling” of how their doctors will react to given situations. This allows us to anticipate their reactions to issues, problems, or even successes they are involved in.

Managers often use this intuition to go ahead and make decisions, and plans, without truly talking with the doctors – because we “know” how they will react.

When you reach this point in the relationship, it is the very time to realize that you have NO idea how they will react unless you discuss with them the issues at hand.

The last thing you need to is under, or over, estimate their response and then overstep your decision making ability and responsibility. You must always remember: this is NOT your practice – you are simply the caregiver of the practice. If you think of the practice as an estate, you have a room in the estate – but your name is not on the title.

Think of it this way: When I was getting ready to move to college, my father came upstairs to see if he could help me pack. When he asked what I was going to use for a bed – I advised him I was taking “mine” from my room. He laughed long and hard and then said: “My bed…. in my house.” Instead of taking my spacious Queen bed with me, we went and bought a single bed that a seven-year old child would sleep in! And it was all mine for four years of college!


2. “If I want your opinion – I will ask for it.” Then, tread gently when you speak it!

As a manager, your job is to provide information (when asked for) that is understandable, straight forward, innuendo-free, and opinion-free. It is best to remember the famous words of Jack Webb from Dragnet: “Just the facts, ma’am.”

Throwing in your two cents is not always a wise endeavor to embark on because it is not usually germane to what is being asked. In most cases, opinions are not always easy to be backed up but will be taken as gospel by the person hearing it. It is best to leave your opinions and personal feelings regarding a topic out of the discussion to prevent confusing the issues.

Also, remember that while you are talking to the doctor, they are usually thinking about five other things and will hear the condensed version of what you are saying. This can cause them to continue to revisit points you thought were very clearly being made, or focusing on one sentence that they thought you said, thereby derailing the entire discussion. Be concise and to the point to prevent them from drifting off topic and becoming confused with your “point of the story.” There is no “point,” just the information they want.


3. No one is irreplaceable – including you

All managers, administrators and CEO’s have a shelf life. Your position is no more secure than anyone else’s – regardless of position or title.

Do your job, and make sure that you walk the same line you ask of your staff and others around you.

Keep your challenges and difficulties to yourself … sharing office challenges involving personnel, schedules, and day-to-day office workings is not always a good thing.

When those difficulties become overwhelming, and interfere with the task at hand, present them in a business, not a personal, manner. It’s not personal – and personal issues do not belong in the work place.

Stay professional, up front, and honest, and do your job. Keep your opinions to yourself lest they backfire on you.

Here’s another example: A friend of mine had a new boss. He pulled her into the room, sat her down, and then said: “Betty, I have been told that you are straight shooter, and I need to ask you some questions. I hear there is a prevalent issue of negativity in this department, and I need to know who you think are some of the more negative people. I would like your opinion.” Betty, feeling safe, and protected as the manager, discussed freely her feelings toward a number of people in the department that were a drag on the group. Some of the information fact, but mostly opinion. Forty minutes later, the new boss thanked her and sent her along her way. Betty felt good with the meeting and since her opinion had been asked for - she did not disappoint.

Her new boss walked out of the office and advised his administrative secretary that Betty was the most negative person he had met and to draw up her termination papers! She was gone at the end of the week!


4. There's a difference between being friends and being friendly

Never forget that your doctor is your boss, not your friend. It’s a dangerous line to cross. While you may be tennis partners and golf friends on the weekends, during the workday he or she is the boss and you are the employee – and the twain shall never meet.

Mark Twain wrote about “the twain shall never meet”. When this was uttered he was talking about two “things” that were so different that they had absolutely no opportunity to unite. This is the relationship that occurs when “bosses are friends”. There will always be an elephant in the room.”

Go golfing, play tennis, but from nine to five, it’s business. Keep it that way and feelings won’t tend to get so hurt.


5. Going through life with blinders

“Most of us go through life with blinders on. Knowing only that little station to which we were born. But you, madam, have had the rare privilege of escaping your bonds for just a spell. To see life from an entirely new perspective. How you choose to use that information is entirely up to you."

Roddy McDowall – Overboard

As a manager, you have been given a privilege to see your staff, clinic, and the doctors in a different light than the everyday employee.

You must always remember that while you are on the management level, you have a “place” in life that you have achieved, and have been allowed to grow into, but you were not “born” into that position.

As a manager, you have power in the practice, but you do not have voting power; you will never be a partner and you do not have the last word in any decisions.

Where managers run astray is when they begin to believe that they are peers with the doctors, and step out of that place they have been granted.

While being a manager, our roles are wide, varied, and exciting as we are enabled to make changes and work for the good of the group. Always keeping in mind – our goal is group orientated. When it becomes an individual event, then the lines blur and the problems begin.

So … keep your eyes open, your chin up, and your head on straight. Don’t create problems by blurring those lines and remember the immortal words of Jack Sparrow:

“The problem is not the problem. The problem is your attitude about the problem. Do you understand?”

Remember the rules – no problems!

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