Tips on How to Do Well While Working with Other Doctors

NOVEMBER 17, 2016
Jeff Brown, MD
Lifestyle, Columns, Practice Management, Groups, Meetings, Committees

Now that most docs are associated with some group, it behooves us to learn how to flourish in this new environment. And, like so many other subjects covered here on Physician’s Money Digest (PMD), there is little or nothing in our professional training to guide us.

If you are just joining such a group, do as much homework as you can about the structure, finances, and actual governance before you start. Then volunteer for everything. You want to see how things are really done and valued, the culture, in other words, and you want to know who the opinion makers are. Your keenness to pitch in will also get you off to a good start in other’s eyes. You can always gracefully withdraw from activities or committees once you have learned what’s what and where you want to focus your interest.

Next, you do not want to be seen as going around or above your supervisor, but you should get to know the important people in your organization. Perhaps ask the top person if you could come to him/her occasionally with ideas or in-the-trench feedback that they might not otherwise hear. Establish a mentor-like relationship in other words.

On the subject of committees, David D’Alessandro, the former CEO of John Hancock wrote a book, Career Warfare, in which he states that committees “Are nothing but little battles.” Perhaps a bit over the top, but do not see them as a waste of time. They exist to pass information, gain buy-in and sometimes even to be creative. Some research has said that the optimum size is seven, but there is considerable variance for all sorts of reasons.

D’Alessandro says that if criticized in a committee you should always defend your brand/image but avoid the easy put-down come-back. Long-term you should at least try to extend the olive branch. Wasn’t it Machiavelli who said “Keep your friends close but your enemies closer”?

In any event, do not let yourself become isolated. The old “I just see my patients and don’t worry about the rest” is naïve and can hurt both your standing in the organization as well as the ability to do the best for your patients. Which is presumably the reason we are in this profession.

Being relatively “out of the loop” also can lead to some psychological misperceptions which will not help your equanimity or job satisfaction. Folks who find themselves without much influence or power are particularly prone to hyper vigilance and anxiety. Just one more reason to stay involved.

The last main point is the value of giving and getting appropriate and timely feedback in maintaining on-going work relationships. Be curious, ask questions, signal understanding, avoid defensiveness, focus on behavior not traits, thank the other person, and know when to stop. Remember too, practice makes perfect, or better, anyway. It pays in many ways to make a study of what’s going on and how you may fit in best. Groupiness is here to stay, so you might as well make a virtue of it and succeed.

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