Episode 38: Delegating Like a Boss
Delegation is more than just a buzzword. It’s a vital skill that allows you to work at the top of your license and utilizing your full skillset, while entrusting certain tasks to the least cost, most competent person in your office. It’s about efficiency, effectiveness, and empowerment.
The modern medical practice is filled with complexity. As a physician, you went to medical school to heal and care for patients, not to drown in paperwork or administrative tasks. Delegating these responsibilities is not just a convenience, it’s a necessity.
Delegation enables you to work at the top of your license. It means focusing on what only you can do and finding the right person to handle other tasks. If you’re spending hours on billing or referrals, are you truly using your education, training, and unique skills to their fullest potential?
Delegation is not about handing off tasks to just anyone. It’s about identifying the least cost, most competent person to do the work. This could be a well-trained nurse, a skilled administrator, or a virtual assistant for more routine tasks. We’ve talked in previous episodes about how to make your practice a destination workplace. And while this involves a lot of things like compensation that is at a living wage level and a comprehensive benefits package, it is also vital to trust your staff and involve them at increasing levels of responsibility and authority so they can develop a sense of purpose in their work.
Delegation is not always smooth sailing, and it’s crucial to recognize this fact. It’s an art that requires practice, understanding, and sometimes a little patience. Let’s dive into some of the common challenges and their solutions:
First, you might have Quality Control Concerns – one of the biggest fears when delegating is the loss of quality. How do you ensure that the person handling the task maintains the standards you’ve set? Regular training and clear guidelines can go a long way. Encourage an open line of communication where questions can be asked and be sure to provide constructive feedback to ensure consistent quality.
There are frequently trust issues – as a responsible professional, trusting someone else with important tasks can be difficult. Will they handle it with the same care and attention as you would? It’s important to understand that trust is built over time. Start with smaller tasks and gradually increase responsibilities as trust grows. Regular check-ins and transparent communication also go a long way to fostering trust.
Sometimes finding the right match seems challenging. Identifying the least cost, most competent person to perform a task might not be straightforward. It is critical to clearly define the skills and competencies needed for each task and then match them with the team members’ capabilities. Provide training if needed and don’t hesitate to revisit and reassess the match as the practice evolves. In some cases, you’ll be surprised at what people on your team will be willing to take on if you give them some support. They will rise to the occasion!
As you get started delegating more, one of the risks is over-delegation. As it becomes easier, it can be tempting to hand off too much, leading to overwhelm for the person receiving the new tasks. I encourage you to keep an eye on workloads and regularly check in with team members to ensure that they are not overloaded. A balanced delegation approach keeps everyone working at their best.
For some physicians, delegation can feel like giving away control over aspects of their practice, which is scary. Understand that delegation is not about losing control but about optimizing it. Setting clear expectations, maintaining regular communication, and establishing strong reporting lines allows you to retain oversight while freeing up your time. Lean into this a bit. It will take time, and you will reap the benefits!
Sometimes your team might resist taking on new tasks or roles. This is a great place to be curious. See if you can explore their reticence to discover where it stems from. Open communication about the reasoning behind delegation, as well as involving them in the process can create buy-in. It’s also essential to ensure that compensation and recognition align with new responsibilities. No one likes to feel that they’re being “dumped on” and that their time is not valued.
As a leader, one thought that frequently crosses my minds is, “it’ll be faster if I do it myself.” It’s a natural reaction, especially when under pressure or when the task at hand seems simple enough. But this mindset can become a trap, leading to burnout and an overburdened schedule.
The immediate thought that handling a task yourself will save time ignores the cumulative effect. If you repeatedly take on tasks that others could handle, it adds up, consuming precious time that you could dedicate to more complex and impactful activities. Moving beyond this mindset requires an investment of time. It may take more time initially to train someone else to complete a task or to establish clear protocols. But think of this as planting a seed. By nurturing and investing time upfront, you’re laying the foundation for a more productive and efficient workflow in the long run.
So, now you may be saying, “All right, I’m ready to begin delegating more. Where do I start?”
First, identify repeatable tasks: If it’s something you find yourself doing regularly, it’s likely a candidate for delegation. Perhaps you could hand off responding to prescription refills or sending out routine lab results. Please make the distinction – you DO need to review them in the context of patient care and render a decision, but you do NOT need to do all of the legwork that follows. Figure out some shorthand, efficient way to place these tasks in the hands of your team.
You’ll need to provide clear instructions and training. Investing time in training and creating guidelines ensures that the task can be carried out successfully by someone else. You might check in with a colleague or one of your partners whom you perceive has delegated tasks effectively to a nurse, medical assistant, or other team member.
The next step is to monitor progress without micromanaging. There is a balance to be struck here – have regular check-ins and provide feedback and support without having to control every detail.
Be sure to celebrate successes and learn from mistakes. Any mistake should be made into a teachable moment, without blame or shame. Recognize and reward successful delegation and learn from any mishaps to refine the process.
By acknowledging that “I can do it myself” thinking and taking deliberate steps to delegate, you’re not only freeing yourself to work at the top of your license, but you’re also empowering others within your practice to grow and excel. It’s an investment that pays dividends in time saved, increased team capabilities, and a more joyful practice experience.
From time tracking tools to specialized training programs, there are resources available to help physicians and their teams develop strong delegation skills.
Navigating these challenges might seem daunting, but remember, the benefits of effective delegation far outweigh the hurdles. Delegation is not just about offloading tasks; it’s about empowering everyone in the medical practice to thrive. It’s about fostering a culture where everyone in the practice can excel and support each other, which allows you to do what you do best. It’s a journey worth taking, leading to a more efficient, joyful, and financially viable medical practice.
Thank you for joining us on Medical Money Matters. If you found this episode valuable, please share it with a colleague or friend. And don’t forget to follow or subscribe for more insights and strategies. Please join me for our next episode, where we’ll cover appropriate appreciation for your staff, partners, and patients.