Article Date: 2/1/2006

staffing solutions
Check Your Expectations|
Let's look at the saddest mistake of practice management.

Perhaps the saddest mistake of practice management, one that causes endless frustration and stress, is having unrealistic expectations. Here are some of the more common ones I've encountered that create a blueprint for disappointment and frustration.

You can find or develop the "perfect" employee.

REALITY CHECK: Do you expect your employees to be as dedicated, hard-working, energetic and vitally interested in your patients and the success of your practice as you are? High expectations are fine. Studies show that employees tend to live up to their employers' expectations. It's called the Pygmalion Effect. But unrealistic expectations are, by definition, unattainable.

If you have unrealistic expectations about employees, you'll be frustrated by what you perceive as unmotivated employees. They'll forever disappoint you.

Your employees in turn, will be frustrated because it will seem as if nothing they do is good enough to earn your approval and appreciation. The result? Resentment and stress — on both sides.

SOLUTION: Your expectations of employees may be unrealistic. You may not have hired the right people for your practice. They may not be doing the things they do best or like doing. It may be your management style that's at fault. A one-on-one performance review may pin point the problem.

You can change other people.

REALITY CHECK: Do you believe that if you are persuasive and persistent enough, you can change, really change another person? Do you think, for example, you can get a partner or associate to work harder, faster or take more of an entrepreneurial interest in the practice? Trying to change other people's beliefs to conform to yours, assumes their priorities and motivations are the same as yours. That's possible, but again unlikely.

SOLUTION: Accept that you can change people — but not very much.

There are several alternatives: One is to keep trying, but perhaps with a different approach. Another is to negotiate your differences: reach a win/win compromise. If necessary, adopt a "what is, is" philosophy and learn to live with the situation.

Severing the relationship is another option if you're in a position to do it. Following a recent seminar I gave on the topic of expectations, an optometrist wrote me: "When I returned to the office, I split with my partner of 13 years. It was the hardest — but best— thing I ever did."

You can please every patient, every time.

REALITY CHECK: Do you truly believe you can please every patient who comes to your office? Do you take it personally when you don't or can't? The fact is some patients are impossible to please and drift from one practice to another, yours included. Others are more cost-conscious or demanding than your office policies allow.

SOLUTION: Unless the numbers are getting out of hand, don't be too hard on yourself over lost patients. Turnover goes with the territory. Take the advice of famous editor/journalist, Herbert Bayard Swope, who said: "I can' t give you a sure-fire formula for success. But I can give you a formula for failure: Try to please everybody all the time."

Keep it real

As the poet said, a man's reach should exceed his grasp. But have goals that are realistic and attainable and with which you're comfortable. Most importantly, have expectations that will enable you to enjoy your patients, colleagues, staff and your own impressive achievements.


Optometric Management, Issue: February 2006