the business of contact lenses
Great Leadership Brings Success
BY GARY GERBER, OD
Lack of leadership is often at the core of why many practices fail to reach their potential. While the owners' heads and hearts are in the right place and their business building ideas are sound, not being able to lead their office team causes these great plans to fall miserably short of their mark.
Four Steps to Success
Here are four basic principles to help improve leadership skills.
1. Don't keep your aspirations a secret. Let every member of your staff know, repeatedly, what your plans and goals are and why you aspire to them. This includes every member of your office, not just those you might favor or be impressed with.
2. Stay focused and honed in on long-term goals and strategies. Yes, the day-to-day operations of the practice are certainly important, and you need to tend to those. But if you don't stay focused on the big picture at the same time, who will?
3. Establish concrete, recorded, actionable and attainable goals for every person in your practice. Staff can't be led if it's not clear exactly what they should do and why they should do it.
4. Measure results at regular intervals and modify plans as necessary, all while keeping your long-term goals in mind.
Applying the Principles
Here's how we can use the above four points and learn from a great army general.
When General Patton was about to lead his troops into battle, he was clear about his aspirations. He wanted victory. When you start your day, month, quarter or year, your staff needs to know your aspirations. "We will become the area's premier contact lens practice," or, "This quarter we will increase the percentage of patients who wear daily disposable lenses." While nowhere near the same as doing battle during war time, your staff must hear — and you must clearly articulate — what you expect.
Next, when one of Patton's tanks broke down, he didn't lose site of his objective. Similarly, getting stressed over what a managed care plan will (or won't) reimburse you for a tough keratoconic fit shouldn't derail your broader perspective of what you want from your practice nor make you abandon your game plan.
Similarly, a staff member calling in sick can surely wreak havoc in a practice, particularly a smaller one. But, consider how the rest of your staff will respond when you start the day by announcing, "We have a tough day ahead of us. Nancy called in sick and we have 127 patients scheduled in the next six hours. But let's not lose site of why we're here and how we are going to help our patients." Perhaps in this (admittedly extreme to illustrate the point) example, you might change this to, "Because she's sick and we want to stay focused on our goal of helping our patients, I have decided to reschedule 31 of the 127 patients. I hate to do that, but it's the right thing to do given the situation and our long-term goals."
Patton's troops knew exactly what was expected of them. For example, "Move 28 miles per day for the next five days." Your staff needs equally defined and clear direction. "During the next three months, we will increase our revenues from corneal reshaping by 11 percent. We will do it by implementing X, Y and Z."
Finally, if after three days Patton saw that the weather was affecting his ability to move 28 miles per day, he would communicate, "Due to bad weather we are changing our plans. We will now redirect you to move to the northwest for the next 17 miles."
If you aren't hitting your reshaping goal after the first six weeks, find out why and modify your plans. Do so under the umbrella of the first three points. Tell your staff, "We are falling short of our 11-percent goal. So, instead of using X, Y and Z, let's just use X. This will allow us to stay focused on our mission of being the area's premier contact lens provider." CLS
Dr. Gerber is the president of the Power Practice – a company offering consulting, seminars and software solutions for optometrists. You can reach him at (800) 867-9303 or DrGerber@PowerPractice.com.