My background is in medicine; not business, management or leadership, but as a medical director, I need to continue to get educated in these areas. Fortunately, I love to read and there’s a lot we can learn from experts outside of medicine that will make us more successful at our jobs. So, whether it’s one last trip to the beach or it’s your flight out to ACEP next month, consider a little self-education to help you improve an area of weakness or continue to build upon a strength to become a better leader and manger.
Harvard Business Review
I’ve never been let down by a book put out by HBR, but this year I’m recommending The Definitive Management Ideas of the Year for 2018 from the HBR’s 10 Must Reads series. Each chapter expands on a long-term issue or discusses an “emerging phenomena.” Chapters range from Customer Loyalty is Overrated to Right Tech, Wrong Time. The chapter titled “The Edison of Medicine” about an MIT chemical engineering professor who runs one of the “most productive research facilities in the world” is not only fascinating, but had me applying his research approach (such as focus on high impact problems) to ED flow and other projects I want to work on in my own world.
I’m going to stay on the HBR bandwagon. Poor communication is the root cause of so many of the issues I deal with as a medical director. Although I wish everyone in our department could learn more about their own emotional intelligence (EQ), often it’s the director who ends up counseling people and trying to impart some pearls of wisdom during the session. There’s a lot written on EQ, but as a trusted colleague and physician executive told me, HBRs 10 Must Reads On Emotional Intelligence is a great way to wade into the world of EQ and walk out with a workable understanding of the topic.
Speaking of providing feedback, this remains one of the most challenging tasks of management for most of us. Wouldn’t it be great if there was a step by step guide for those of us thrust into the world of management who didn’t go to management school? Well, there is and I highly recommend this book by Ross Blake. Whether it’s real time feedback when we see people showing up late, providers surfing the internet or it’s a provider who needs a performance improvement plan, it’s good to know there is a guide we can utilize that will get us through the conversation. Much of management is driving the bus, but sometimes, we need to make sure the people on the bus want to go where the bus is heading and this book can help with those difficult conversations.
I feel like I have about a half dozen direct bosses (not including my wife), between my company and my hospital. I meet with most of them regularly and receive feedback on a regular basis as well. While most of us like a little feedback, particularly if it’s positive, most feedback we receive hits directly at the intersection of “thanks for the advice so I improve professionally, but I think I’m good and don’t need to hear the truth all the time.” Stone and Heen are the best-selling authors of Difficult Conversations (which is also a must read for improving your skill set to provide feedback to staff), and this book helps one process the feedback so we can be better in our own job.
I’m a big fan of best-selling author Timothy Ferris and I’ve previously highlighted his book The 4 Hour Work Week. I think everyone will find something worthwhile in this book based on hundreds of in-depth interview of world-class performers. From former attorney and endurance athlete Amelia Boone to actor Kevin Costner, the book includes recommendations to increase productivity to books the interviewees recommend to similarities among them (80% practice mindfulness or meditation). Just a few minutes a day can help you become more productive in your life.
My son asked me if he could download a new game for the iPad. While his chances were slim, he asked while I was moving clothes from the washer to the dryer. Maybe he thought he could catch me while I was distracted. His chances went from slim to zero at that moment (and for the next week). I had a similar timing issue many years ago in a meeting with a CNO. Our meeting times varied from month to month and this time we were meeting on a Friday at 3 p.m. I had a few items that needed answers. We had a great time talking for 45 minutes, but didn’t cover any of my agenda. I debriefed with my nurse manager afterwards and she said she wasn’t surprised because the CNO was “spent” by the end of the week. That was my last Friday afternoon meeting with her.
Timing can be everything and if we’re going to ask our CEO to fund a new project, we better be sure to time it for the perfect moment. As emergency physicians we have almost no control over our day. Our shifts change and patient volume vary by time of day but can also be impacted by things such as a change in the weather. Since our administrative time can be very limited, we need to make the most of it. This makes it more important than ever to understand the science of when we’re most productive each day, when to start a new project and how to manage our routine days.
I like research-based books and I also like biographies, so I wasn’t surprised that I enjoyed this book. Author Morten Hansen, a management professor at University of California, Berkeley, spent five years studying 5,000 managers and employees and organizes the book by the seven practices that the best of them share. I know medical directors who grind out hours and are always at the hospital. And while there is true value in having a presence around the hospital, working smarter and more productively can lead to more availability to grab coffee in the doctors lounge and build relationships with physicians from other departments. The book is divided into three sections that each of us can relate to (mastering your own work, mastering working with others and mastering your work-life). Finally, each chapter has thought provoking questions to help you reflect on your own strengths and weaknesses.
So many of us went into emergency medicine because we enjoyed being in a team environment (go back and read your personal statement for residency). And one of the most common things I hear from interviewees is that they’re looking for a “great group” or a team or family environment. Yet, the reality is that while some EDs have that culture, in many EDs, there is an “us (emergency physicians) versus them” (nurses, hospitalists, anyone not an ED doc) mentality. Author Daniel Coyle uses examples from the Navy Seals and San Antonio Spurs, among others, to discuss how people from diverse backgrounds can come together and function as a single unit. As leaders, part of our job usually involves a cultural transformation and this book can help get you there.
My wife works for a large organization in the male-dominated field of aerospace engineering. She has had excellent mentors throughout her career and has been a role model for the type of leader I strive to be. Although there are more female emergency physicians than aerospace engineers, there still appears to be a pay gap in our field and leadership positions are heavily dominated by males. This book came recommended to me by one of my wife’s colleagues who read it in their women’s group at work, but it’s equally beneficial for men and women to read. Mentorship is critical to developing our next generation of leaders and there are some obstacles that need to be overcome by both genders. But ultimately, organizations that promote diversity and have strong mentorship programs will do a better job of retaining talent and be more successful.
Over the last few years, I’ve watched several friends leave medicine/healthcare to pursue other passions. I’ve looked at them with awe and jealousy combined with feeling that they must be crazy. After all, how do you walk away from a near-decade of training that likely cost a small fortune? I realize that burn-out is real and many of us wake up wondering what else we could be doing to make a living. Changing careers is nothing new to author Mike Lewis who quit his corporate job to pursue his dream of becoming a professional squash player and in the process, studied others who had made the jump to a new career. This book may be just the info you need to understand the questions to consider or what it may feel like if you’re in a few career.
As a medical leader, you may spend up to 50% of your time on leadership, management and administrative tasks. But we often have limited time and funding available for continuing education in these areas. After all, there seems to be an increasing burden on our required CME. But that doesn’t mean we should neglect our management responsibilities. The above books offer an affordable and hopefully entertaining way to continue to improve as a leader and manager.