Cure This Staff Infection
With trust and training, you can use each staffer to the best of their ability.
RICHARD S. KATTOUF, O.D., D.O.S.
Q: My long-time office manager, Jan, has reached a level of stress that is affecting her health. I’m a solo practitioner with seven staff members. It seems like every duty and responsibility falls on Jan and myself. If Jan leaves, I truly don’t think I can manage this practice. Dr. T.L. Klug Via E-mail
A: It appears you and your office manager have taken on too many duties and enabled this situation to occur. It’s very common for a doctor to develop such a deep relationship and trust with an administrator that they both fail to delegate responsibilities to other employees. I have observed countless examples of this behavior.
Mom knows best
A staff manager of a practice for which I consulted had a terrific personality and work ethic, and she was paid $19.00 an hour plus benefits. She was the administrator for a staff of twelve other employees. During my consulting visit, I noticed this whirl-wind manager was changing light bulbs, running errands to pick-up office supplies, etc. It was evident that this employee, earning in excess of $40,000 per year, was performing tasks that should have been delegated to ancillary personnel. In this situation, the owner and other employees stepped back and watched the dynamo manager go.
The problem: The practice owner failed to delegate duties throughout the work family. The manager, in this case, became the “mother” who enabled her “children” (the other employees) to be helpless. In this case, the administrator really enjoyed all these tasks. Nevertheless, she was so busy with menial tasks, she was neglecting her true managerial duties of overseeing staff and practice financial goals. I redefined — on paper — exactly what duties were the responsibilities of the manager and delegated the minimal duties to other staffers.
The result: My client is now paying top wages to a real staff manager and giving other employees an opportunity to take on added responsibility and grow as employees. It also became evident to my client that there was a lot more talent within the family that the old behavior suppressed.
Can you repeat that?
A solo practice with a manager and four additional employees indicated major issues with problem solving and patient flow. Every time a question arose, the staff members would consult the manager for a solution.
This included telephone questions as well as patient situations in the clinic, optical and contact lens departments. This meant the manager couldn’t focus on her managerial duties. In fact, employees became so used to turning to the manager, that they would come to her with the same questions, often during the same workweek. This office also lacked scheduled training.
I instituted a daily meeting for staff training. We explained that when an employee asked the manager a question, she would be asked to present her own solution or answer to the situation. In a few months, our manager was no longer the human dictionary. Proper training and higher levels of delegation solved the patient- flow and problem-solving issues.
I work with O.D.s and M.D.s who tell me they pay people a lot of money to manage their practices so that they can be “managementfree.” As a doctor in the ophthalmic field, you own a clinic and retail optical. You must sharpen your skills and prevent these types of situations before they occur.
DR. KATTOUF IS PRESIDENT AND FOUNDER OF TWO MANAGEMENT AND CONSULTING COMPANIES. FOR INFORMATION, CALL (800) 745-EYES, OR E-MAIL HIM AT ADVANCEDEYECARE@HOTMAIL.COM. THE INFORMATION IN THIS COLUMN IS BASED ON ACTUAL CONSULTING FILES.
Optometric Management, Issue: March 2007