Editor’s intro: Dr. Albert (Ace) Goerig shows how taking a leadership role in your practice shows employees the vision and direction of your practice and results in a less stressful life and a more successful practice.
In a May 2017 interview with Charlie Rose, Warren Buffett was asked what gave him his greatest joy. “That I love going to the office,” said Buffett. “It has been my painting for over 50 years. I get to paint what I want, and I own the brush, and I own the canvas, and the canvas is unlimited. And that is a pretty nice game, and I get to do it every day with people I like. I don’t have to associate with anyone that causes my stomach to turn. If I were in politics, I’d have to smile at a lot of people I want to hit. I’ve got a really good deal, and I am hanging on to it.”
Most dentist-owners forget that they have the brush and the canvas, and that they can create their story any way they want. Sometimes it takes the insight of a coach to help them through the process. One client, with whom I have been working for years, ran a very profitable office. However, over the past year or so, there was a lot of drama building up in the practice, particularly between the front and back office. He realized that three of his employees were causing the problem. He became very clear as to what he needed to do and fired one of them to see if the others would change. As often happens in these cases, the other two quit. It was perfect. As a result, there were only two employees at the front and two brand-new assistants. The atmosphere and mood of the office changed immediately, and even though he was understaffed, his production jumped up two cases per day as the black cloud of drama disappeared.
He was a quiet doctor who liked to make everyone happy and tried to avoid conflict. But when we talked aftearwards, he realized that, over the past year, he had given up his leadership role to those demanding employees. When you are not leading and paying attention, there is likely to be much more drama within the team since a few employees may lose respect for you and control the narrative on how the practice should be run. When you begin to have drama in your office, you must become clear about your vision and step back into the leadership role. Great leaders must always be vigilant of not giving up their leadership role. When there is strong leadership in the office, all employees know that the vision and direction of the practice is coming from the doctor, even though they have been empowered with responsibility and the ability to manage their area. When the person who is causing the drama in the office is identified, you and your office manager must sit down with him/her and let he/she know that, if this issue is not resolved, he/she will no longer be in the practice. Be sure to document all issues with this employee. Many doctors hate confrontation, but it is the only way to create the life and practice that you want, surrounded by the people you enjoy working with.
I worked with another doctor who told me about an employee who was always causing him stress and a lot drama in the office. He had tolerated this employee for over a year. I told him to go back to the office and tell the owner of the practice to fire the employee that day. Then I reminded him that he was the owner.
When you face your fears of confrontation and conflict, you can have the practice that you want now. Go for it. It’s not about making a living. It is about making a life worth living.
-Dr. Albert (Ace) Goerig
Read more about Dr. Ace Goerig’s philosophy and how taking a leadership role can lead to a successful, fulfilled and debt-free life here.