A common problem Silkin Management Group runs into with practice owners, particularly with those whose practices have grown, is that one day they’re running the practice and the next day the practice is running them. This creates a lot of stress for the executive for a number of reasons. I will address just a few of them:
- Practice owners can’t get to everything on their plates and so issues get neglected. And if there is just enough complexity to an issue (e.g., a staff member whom you must correct delicately, or a project that requires research before you can tackle it), then that matter tends to remain on the to-do list week after week. The issue made it onto the list because there was a problem. Ignoring the problem doesn’t make it go away; it exacerbates it.
Let’s say that your staff has asked for a bonus system to be implemented. You would certainly want to thoroughly research this before you commit to it financially. But you don’t know where to begin, so you put it off for another day. “Another day” turns into weeks and then months. In the meantime, your staff is becoming increasingly frustrated because you aren’t addressing their request. At the very least, staff morale drops. At worst, they quit to find better paying jobs.
Here’s another example: Let’s say there is a staff member who needs to be corrected as he/she is making mistakes with scheduling. You know you need to address this matter, but you also know it’s going to require a long, drawn-out conversation. Unable to confront that, you put it off. And of course, the uncorrected staff member continues to make the mistakes. This leads to other staff getting frustrated as they have to deal with the ramifications of those scheduling errors, which likewise lowers morale. And the ongoing mistakes start creating a negative effect on the patient/client base as they tire of showing up only to wait, or finding their appointment time has been cut short, and so on.
In other words, problems left uncorrected lead to more problems, which put a further demand on your time as an executive.
- The cumulative weight of incomplete projects: college studies have been done that point to negative effects caused by not addressing and completing projects. Closer to home, though, executive stress seems to increase as the number of projects not done on the to-do list mount. The negative consequences of not completing projects are not the only source of stress. The sheer number of projects cause stress. As the list mounts, the morale of the executive drops. And this, of course, becomes cyclical. That is, as morale drops, the executive will have less energy to focus on the projects; consequently, the list of incomplete projects mounts, which in turn deflates the executive’s morale and energy even more. And so, it continues.
- Adding more hours to your workday in order to be able to get everything done takes away time you would prefer to spend with your family and to work on your personal goals, leaving you, the executive, feeling even more like the practice is running you.
Alright, so what causes this problem and what can be done to solve it?
First, let’s look at what causes the problem. The following is not an exhaustive list by any means, but it does address some of the more common issues that are continually revealed in practice analyses.
- Wearing Too Many Hats
In sorting out a time availability problem, one of the questions I always ask of executives is whether they have things on their plate they could delegate, whether administrative or clinical. Almost universally, the answer is yes. I then probe to find out why those hats never get delegated. The following are most of the reasons:
- The executives are not sure which items on their plates they should hang on to and which items they should delegate. Unknown to most people, there is an actual analysis that can be done to determine this. Most executives, though, have never been trained on this process. By the way, this training is crucial for all executives, not just so that they can free up their own time, but so that they can sort out staff members who have similar problems with managing their time. It is imperative that one learns that skill. Otherwise, holding onto work that one should delegate, or incorrectly passing on functions one should retain, creates big problems for the practice in either event.
- Having determined what to delegate, the next issue, of course, is to identify who should be delegated the hat. That decision is too often arbitrarily made, usually giving it to someone who is capable and who, the executive trusts, will do it correctly. That creates the problem of key staff getting bits and pieces of different hats assigned to them with no regard to whether or not it truly belongs in their area. Again, fortunately, there is an analysis that can be done to determine who should be delegated this hat.
- Sometimes executives are loath to delegate a task for fear the person to whom they are delegating it is already overloaded. And while this reluctance is understandable, it conceals a more fundamental problem: Why is the executive allowing an overloaded area to continue to be overloaded? As discussed in our webinars, there is a specific way to evaluate staff and areas to determine if they can be better organized or if it is truly time to bring on additional personnel.
- The fourth issue that makes it difficult for the executive to delegate is the time it takes to train the person. Not being able to carve out sufficient time, executives make this age-old mistake: they just keep doing it themselves. An examination of the training methodology of thousands and thousands of practices has revealed that the clear majority of practices simply do a very poor job of training. The good news is that training does not need to be difficult or time consuming, if done correctly. Thus, it is imperative that the executive be able to train effectively and swiftly.
- The fifth concern is the executive’s uncertainty that the job is being done to the desired and necessary standard. Having no way to objectively determine if the job is being done correctly, the executive then holds on to the job rather than risk it being done poorly. And this, of course, then contributes to the executive feeling there is too much on his/her plate.
So, one reason the executive has little time for anything is that he or she is still doing tasks that should have been passed on to the staff long ago. But there are other factors in play.
- Another very common and insidious problem is staff members going to the executive with problems they should be solving themselves. The obvious imminent issue is that the executive has to stop what he/she is doing to solve the problem for the staff member. This alone is a time killer. But the problem goes far beyond that.
When staff members are explaining the problem to the executive, they rarely give him/her all the necessary data. The executive, then, is forced to come up with solutions based on insufficient information. Thus, there is a great likelihood that his/her solution will be flawed; and, of course, applying a flawed solution to a problem will inevitably create another problem. The staff will then go to the executive with this new problem, again only giving partial information that, in turn, will lead to another poor solution. And as this cycle perpetuates, the executive wastes more and more of his/her time.
Also, when staff gets word that the executive is willing to solve problems for them, they will increasingly rely on the executive to do so. What was once a simple question about a problem snowballs into a never-ending river of questions.
- The other very common way the executive’s time gets wasted is having to redo tasks that staff have already been trained to do. A slightly different version of this is the executive doing a task because the staff member is overloaded and can’t get to it. The former is fundamentally a correction or training issue; and, as noted above, it is vital for the executive to have a very effective training method. The latter is solved, again, by being able to analyze overloaded areas.
So, today we have discussed three very common reasons why executives never seem to have enough time: (1) hanging on to tasks they should delegate, (2) solving problems staff bring to them and (3) redoing tasks that staff do incorrectly or doing tasks that they can’t get to at all.
As previously discussed, this is not the full list. But it does encompass the more common issues. To resolve them, executives must:
- Be able to differentiate tasks they should keep from those they should delegate.
- Determine who is the correct person or area to receive the task.
- Have the ability to correctly analyze whether or not an area is truly overloaded, which is crucial if there are concerns that the area to which new responsibilities are being passed is overloaded.
- Have a fast training system and an understanding of how to free up time to train staff.
- Have an objective way to determine whether or not the staff is productive.
- Know how to develop staff members to the point where they can solve their own problems.
An executive who has the above skill set is a very successful executive and one who has time to spare.
If you have any questions about how to be a better executive, feel free to give us a call at 1(877)386-0388 or fill out the form on this webpage, and we would be happy to assist you.