What’s the most valuable asset a practice or office manager could possess—number of years in the industry, an impressive resume, a wall of certificates? None of these hold a candle to the one tool you can’t afford to lack—a positive, constructive attitude.
It’s not what you do, but how you do it. In Churchill’s words: “Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.”
And, yes, no mistake about it, attitude is a choice. First and last, day in and day out, you choose the attitude from which you’ll respond to your staff, your patients, and the challenges in your medical practice. The results of your leadership hinge almost entirely on this decision—one decision made at breakneck speed countless times throughout your day.
Are you aware of your attitude and its fluctuations? Can you identify when your leadership style aligns with a positive attitude and when it transgresses into negative territory? Have you given thought to the infectious nature of attitude? How about its deceptive powers?
We’ll look at these questions and offer some guidance to inspire strong attitude choices that will help you empower your staff to achieve both your leadership and your organizational goals. First, though, let’s back up and start at the beginning.
What Is Attitude?
Simple question, right? You’d be surprised how easy it is to lose sight of the answer when the pressure’s on—and that where attitude really counts. It’s easy to be positive when things are going well. It’s not so easy when things go wrong.
You could say that attitude is a superpower. Viewing it as such underscores its potential for harm or for good when you consider the attitude effects of a person in a position of power, as any practice manager or organizational leader is.
In one sense, by virtue of your role, your attitude has a bullhorn affect capable of reaching every person in your practice. In another sense, by virtue of your role, your attitude can go unchecked until you’re forced to face the fallout of a poor decision on your part.
Performance Versus Person
Which is more important—the well-being of your staff or the work your staff is responsible for?
The trouble with this question is, first, that many office managers don’t realize they make it. In their management of staff, as they address employee errors or inadequate performance, they often choose the office objectives over the individual. In doing so, by focusing on the error, they’re focusing on what they want and don’t have. This is a recipe for an attitude disaster.
But the chief problem with the question above is the question itself. These two concerns—the well-being of your staff and the work of your staff—aren’t mutually exclusive. You can’t separate work from workforce. Your focus, as the practice manager, must always include both. Only then can you temper your emotions, choose the right attitude, and effectively equip your staff to succeed.
Keep in mind: We’re talking about attitude, not mood. Life happens, and we occasionally have bad days. If you consistently demonstrate a positive, well-balanced attitude, your staff will understand when you’re “not quite yourself”.
Count the Costs
Responding to a member of your staff with a poor attitude might resolve an issue. In fact, you might get instantaneous results and deduce that heavy-handed, fear tactics serve you well. Be aware, though, of reverberations. Keep your eye on the big picture. How might your reaction have affected this individual? Is this an employee you depend on and would like to keep? Did you jeopardize his or her commitment to your organization? How will your reaction affect your team?
Good Job, Good Life
In healthcare, we’re accustomed to thinking in terms of quality of life for our patients. We don’t always make the connection, though, between employment and quality of life. Staff retention relies greatly on the employment experience. After all, your employees spend the bulk of their waking hours in your office under your supervision. Their employment experience needs to be on your radar.
A recent study focused on hospital nurses reported a measurable effect on the morale and job satisfaction of employees who perceive their managers as supportive and caring. Furthermore, the study defined a supportive manager as possessing the following traits:
How does the power differential play out in your office? Does it preserve or prevent open dialogue? Can your staff talk with you, especially when things go wrong, when ideas conflict, when they’re feeling overwhelmed or overworked? Do they walk away feeling listened to and respected?
Take a moment to consider your interactions with staff and how your attitude influences your team. In the table below, see the top ten effects on staff for both negative and positive leadership attitudes. Do you recognize traits from either column that possibly reflect on you?
|Effects of Negative PM Attitude||Effects of Positive PM Attitude|
|· Negative attitude/poor outlook||· Positive attitude/improved morale|
|· Burnout||· Heightened motivation and increased productivity|
|· Communication breakdown||· Awareness of issues and better responsiveness|
|· Decreased collaboration||· Increased cohesiveness and teamwork|
|· Anxiety/propensity for errors||· Confident in role and ability to self-correct|
|· Sporadic effort||· Pride in performance and heightened investment|
|· Decline in quality of work||· Greater initiative, creativity, and innovation|
|· Negative inertia||· Ability to adapt to change and demands|
|· Poor patient engagement||· Optimal engagement with patients|
|· High employee turnover||· Increased employment longevity/talent retention|
You may have heard the business colloquialism, Speed of the leader, speed of the team. It’s basically saying that your team is only as good as you are. Your attitude choices factor into their performance, and a good attitude on your part recognizes the scope of your responsibilities. It thus enables you to correct issues with a supportive investment rather than with destructive criticism and blame.
Never forget that you’re dealing with people. We all have need of comradery and self-esteem. Value your staff, and they’ll value their jobs. Forgive easily. Don’t be above saying you’re sorry. Be an advocate for mutual respect. It all boils down to one choice—made again and again and again.
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Tsai, Yafang. Relationship between Organizational Culture, Leadership Behavior and Job Satisfaction. BMC Health Services Research; 2011. Available from: https://bmchealthservres.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1472-6963-11-98