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6 lessons to take away from the presidential race


Regardless of the outcome of the presidential race, there is much about practice management and leadership to be learned from mainstream media’s coverage of the two front-runners’ race to the White House.

Editor’s Note: Welcome to “Eye Catching: Let's Chat,” a blog series featuring contributions from members of the ophthalmic community. These blogs are an opportunity for ophthalmic bloggers to engage with readers with about a topic that is top of mind, whether it is practice management, experiences with patients, the industry, medicine in general, or healthcare reform. The series continues with this blog by Donna Suter, president of Suter Consulting Group. The views expressed in these blogs are those of their respective contributors and do not represent the views of Ophthalmology Times or UBM Medica.

Regardless of the outcome of the presidential race, there is much about practice management and leadership to be learned from mainstream media’s coverage of the two front-runners’ race to the White House.

1.     Recorded conversations

Have you ever said something that was taken out of context? Been overheard saying things a dignified doctor would regret? I recently shadowed all the providers in a busy practice and discovered that an individual sitting in the exam room’s visitor chair next to the wall adjoining another exam room could hear more than just muffled voices. This got me wondering about the wall between the procedure room and the doctors’ office. Yes, you guessed it. A waiting patient could clearly hear what the doctors were saying to each other in the privacy of their shared office.

Recent: Why the election will be decided by ophthalmologists

All the office is a stage during clinic hours. Patients waiting in the drop area can often overhear technicians as well as doctors talking in the halls. Setting aside the HIPPA reasons this might be of concern, think back to a time when someone in your office may have said something less than flattering about a patient. No one wants to be seen by the doctor who laughs at patients behind their backs.

GOAL: Demonstrate strong integrity – the transparent link connecting your healthy values and external behavior.




2.     Promises not kept

Have you ever over-promised and under-delivered? A common scenario is when hiring an employee. “If you take the job at $x-an-hour, I will give you a raise after y-months.” The fact that patient reimbursement is down or that the office manager embezzled $60,000 won’t matter to the employee not given a promised raise. He or she will simply remember you made a promise that you did not keep.

Related: Why Trump and Clinton would be difficult eye patients

GOAL: Model what you wish to see in your people – Sam Walton, founder of Wal-Mart, illustrated how this impacts customer service. If you want the people in the stores to take care of the customers, you have to make sure you’re taking care of the people in the stores. That’s the most important single ingredient of Wal-Mart’s success.”1


3.     Prevarication

All practices want employees to be 100% honest, 100% of the time. This means modeling transparency without over-sharing. For example, if you don’t want to speak with the rep at the front desk, do not ask the front desk to say you aren’t in the office. An honest word pattern is, “The doctor is unavailable to see you.” This statement is 100% truthful while communicating that you are 100% unavailable.

More: Is the world a better place because of your practice?

GOAL: Walk the talk -- Meaningful action from the doctor/owner impacts a practice culture more than any training protocol or policy manual.


4.     Passing the buck

I wrote this blog while waiting in a doctor’s office. I arrived 30 minutes early and he was running three hours behind schedule. Yep. I waited 3 ½ hours for my non-urgent, wellness visit. How many different excuses do you or your employees give patients for being late or missing a promise date? (For example, the fabrication of a patient’s eyewear takes weeks instead of days.) How did my provider handle the situation? He walked in the room, shook my hand and said with a most disarming smile, “Thank you for waiting. What can I say? I was having a bad hair day and you were caught up in it?” I admired his moxy and ability to move forward with the exam without excessively sharing TMI (too much information).

Recent: How your nonverbal cues may be choking your practice

GOAL: Control yourself masterfully – Inspire loyal employees by being accountable for your decisions and actions.


5.     Using authority wisely

Being in charge doesn’t mean being a bully. Link tasks to a mission statement. Happy employees feel like their workplace contributions matter. They smile more and are more helpful to patients. This type of office culture increases unsolicited positive reviews on social media. Simply put, it’s easier to grow your practice.

Blog: Are you a boss or a leader?

GOAL: Delegate appropriately to others -- Treating employees with politeness and kindness while helping them master a new skill builds a culture of service that benefits the patients.


6.     Showing respect

Regarding employees with respect and admiration goes beyond polite words. It includes unspoken signals like your expression, tone of voice, and body language. Never speak over, butt in, or cut off another person, especially in front of others.

Related: 3 habits for successful time management

GOAL: Embrace your position of leadership with a mature sense of service -- Kim Cameron and his colleagues at the University of Michigan discovered a way to improve performance that has nothing to do with dishing out benefits.

In a research article2 published in the Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, Cameron and his coauthors found that a workplace characterized by positive interpersonal behavior outperforms organizations not characterized by respect and kindness.


It has been said that relationships are the sandpaper of our lives. That’s certainly an accurate description of the tone of this year’s presidential race. In your office, some days you may leave feeling scraped and buffed in your dealings with abrasive patients and impossible circumstances.

Editorial: If you’re so smart, why aren’t you happy?

But just as sandpaper is often used to produce a smooth finish, office relationships can indeed be the change agent for polishing your leadership skills. Employees and colleagues, even the ones with selfish motives or irritating habits, teach us to look inside ourselves and improve the way we relate. I encourage you to care more about improving the way you come across to others and less about being right.

Money Matters: Pay off debt or invest my money: What is the right way to go?

Choose one goal to work on this week. You will enjoy increased productivity as you create a positive change in your practice’s culture.

Consider the ripple effect and its inevitable impact on practice growth and productivity. Like me, you will begin to see this year’s political rhetoric as a reminder of the importance of others-focused leadership.


1.     “Sam Walton: Made in America” by Sam Walton with John Huey

2.     Effects of Positive Practices on Organizational Effectiveness The Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, January 26, 2011



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