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Find your Leadership Compass and reclaim your authority to lead


Have you lost your practice’s core values-that spark that made you excited to come to work every day? A lot of managers have lost their leadership compass-their core values-and aren’t making strategic decisions.

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.

Many practices have a Lost and Found where things that have been lost are kept until they are claimed. Lost and Found items accumulate because either people who have lost things don’t know they are missing or because people who have lost something don’t think that the thing lost has much value, so they don’t come and claim them.

The result is that things go for inordinate amounts of time before being claimed. Therefore, utems lost that way remain unused.

Have you lost your practice’s core values-that spark that made you excited to come to work every day? A lot of managers have lost their leadership compass-their core values-and aren’t making strategic decisions.

In a sense, the practice is making knee-jerk decisions based on cash flow, internal challenges, or people. Leadership isn’t thinking about aligning actions with the practice’s mission statement and core values. In a sense, leadership has left the building. The writings of Sun Tzu would say that you don’t really know yourself.

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”

― Sun Tzu, The Art of War

Foundational values, often called core values, are a leader’s compass. These values and the practice’s mission statement strategically point the way towards meaningful goals. They are the foundation by which all tactical decisions are to be made. They are meant to resonate and give leadership confidence. A mission statement and core values give leadership the confidence to know which course of action to take.

Have you lost your way?


Have you lost your way?

When leadership loses his or her identity, day-to-day decisions are messy. That’s understandable if the practice’s compass has been lost. If things go badly, it’s because the decision was made without thinking about core values. If the direction the practice is heading leads to a dead-end, it’s because the decision to move forward was made with no regard to the practice’s mission statement.

Losing one’s compass often means that sticky situations are ignored and problems go unaddressed. Take patient care, for example. You all have nice patients. Some of your practices are filled with nice patients who never complain, no matter what kind of service he or she gets.

Nice patients are the kind of people that check in and sit quietly while the technicians and front desk finish their breakfast and gossip. They are the people who never bother to tell you how they waited 30 minutes to be taken back to empty lanes. Nice patients don’t complain. They just wait.

Your nice patients go to the optical because you recommend it. Even if in your optical, they wait and wait. Nice people wait to buy without complaining as the optician avoids eye contact. They politely wait while the optician enters yesterday’s sales into an online portal.

Nice patients don’t throw their weight around. If a snooty optician gets upset when a nice patient looks at dozens of frames before buying one the vision plan covers, he is polite. He doesn’t believe in rudeness.

Polite patients that visit a practice that has lost its leadership compass never kick up a fuss. They never criticize. And they wouldn’t dream of calling the practice manager and making a scene. They are too nice for that.

Unfortunately, these are the patients who never come back. These are the patients that leave the practice and cause the ratio of established patients to new patients to fall far short of the published metric of 80/20 – 80% established and 20% new.

Practices that make decisions based on filling the empty chair or putting out fires blame it on managed care, the economy, the telephone handler, or bad weather.

These practices have lost their way. Management is busy putting out fires and has no sense of who they are and what the practice stands for. Practice metrics head south fast.

Is your mission statement service-oriented?


Are your mission statement and core values service-oriented?

Having a service-oriented mission statement and core values does not mean that every single practice business decision can and should be made with the patient’s benefit absolutely foremost. What it does mean is that leadership reflects on its core values and seeks a course direction that balances the needs of all.

Leaders use who they are-the practice’s mission statement and core values-to set course direction. A direction that maintains the financial viability of the practice while respecting the rights of patients, work conditions of employees and managers, as well as agreements with employee doctors and doctor-owners.

So who are you? What does your practice represent? Find your mission statement and core values. Today’s environment is too difficult to maneuver without really knowing who you are. Here is an example of each:


To prevent preventable blindness and treat eye disease in such a manner that clear vision is maintained.

To provide spectacle lenses and contact lenses to all patients with less than perfect acuity so that they see clearly in all manner of lighting and life’s most challenging circumstances.

To do both in an ethical manner that maintains the financial viability of the partner/owners investment.







According to TARP,1 businesses having low service quality average only a 1% return on sales and lose market share at the rate of 2% per year. Businesses with high service quality average a 12% return on sales, gain market share at the rate of 6% per year and charge significantly higher prices.

Creating positive economic impact in social media–fueled world


Especially in today’s hyperconnected, social media–fueled world, successfully creating an economic impact through happy patients can occur with breathtaking speed. How you blow their minds and win their hearts is ultimately up to you, but employing the concepts of increasing advocacy will surely put you in a leading position.This can only be done by finding what you have lost and setting direction by knowing who you are, using your Leadership Compass.

Find your values. Remember where you were when you last knew what your mission statement meant. Mentally retrace your steps and claim what has been lost. Every practice needs management that knows themselves and consistently looks at its Leadership Compass. Your employees and management team are looking to you to provide strategic leadership based on a mission statement and core values. Find it and all your battles will be easier to win.



1. John Goodman and his fledgling company, the Technical Assistance Research Program (TARP), oversaw studies in 1978 on consumer complaint behavior and customer service for the White House Office of Consumer Affairs. This groundbreaking research on consumer habits continues to be validated by almost 40 years of service-industry research.

2. Adapted from  Hug Your Haters: How to Embrace Complaints and Keep Your Customersby Jay Baer. Portfolio (March 1, 2016)

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