You and your executive counterpart – the powerful leadership dyad

Episode 25: You and Your Executive Counterpart: The Powerful Leadership Dyad

You’ve done it! You’ve made the investment in an executive leader for your practice (or maybe you’ve had one for years) and now you’re ready to take that working relationship to the next level. What should it look like?

First of all, and most importantly, it must sit on a foundation of mutual trust and respect. This is a “you know it when you see it” situation, so ask yourself, “Do I trust and respect my executive leader?” If you pause, or your answer is “no,” or if your working partnership isn’t working – isn’t thriving – it’s time to get to work on it.

And, if after working on it, it’s still not working or you’re still not getting what you want and expect from your administrative partner, it’s time to make a change. Please refer to episode 23 where we explored firing staff and tune in for Episode 28 when we’ll talk more about exiting leaders who are no longer effective.

Assuming your dyad partnership is working, we highly recommend dedicated time to meet together – at a minimum weekly and sometimes more often if there’s a lot cookin.

You should strive to divide and conquer your workload, and constantly be asking each other, “Who’s on point for this?” There may be some things that are obvious – new clinical standards for the office are likely your domain, and seeking out better reimbursement from your insurance contracts is likely that of your dyad partner.

Be aware that some people on your team will attempt to divide the two of you by “answer shopping” if they don’t like the answer they get from one of you. Don’t get divided by others, and a great response is, “Let me check on that…”​ at which point you can add it to your agenda for your 1:1 meetings.

Above all: Communicate, communicate, communicate​! I cannot stress this enough – there almost cannot be too much communication between the two of you. You set the tone for the whole group, and when you two are powerfully communicating and completely in sync, the group can feel the positive effects of that dynamic. You are the example of the link between business and medicine – you model how to do things in partnership and the entire practice benefits from your example.

In a healthy dyad partnership, you both bring a lot to the table. Your dyad partner has a lot to learn from you about the clinical side of medicine, and he or she has a lot to share with you about the business of medicine. Resist the feeling that you need to know everything, as we said in our inaugural episode. You don’t need to know everything. You need to surround yourself with smart, committed people who can add to what you know. This is the foundation of a powerful team, and again, NOT what we teach you in medical school.

Now, even if you’ve been working together for a long time, I recommend you and your dyad partner do some learning about one another. There are several tools that can facilitate that – one of my favorites is the book Strengths Finder 2.0. It is available on Amazon, and we’ll include the link in the show notes. There is an envelope in the back of each book with a unique key code in it – you use it at their website to take a quick assessment, and if memory serves, it takes about 20 minutes. It will then give you your Top 5 Strengths as categorized by the Gallup research on human strengths.

The remainder of the book is devoted to descriptions of the 34 themes of strengths as they have been drawn from recurring patterns from talent-based interviews. We’ve used it with our entire Leadership Team over the years, and I find it very insightful. The book itself is low cost, and the output is very valuable. We have utilized one of their online tools, which is a grid that you can use to plot the results for every member on your team. This provides even more insights as coworkers get to see each other’s strengths. It’s fun to see the team’s reactions to learning more about one another, and it is a delightful way to focus on the positive.

One of my other favorite tools is called Personalysis, and it too, has an online assessment, which produces a colorful report that gives you insight into yourself and your colleagues about how you take in information and how you process it. You can then use their construct to improve performance and enhance your group’s culture. It’s a science-based approach, and we use it each time we have a new cohort in our physician leadership training program. It’s delightful to see the lightbulb moments that occur each time we review the tool and the meaning of its results.

Regardless of whether you use either of these tools, and any one of the many others on the market, I always encourage you to be a bit curious about yourself and your dyad partner and others in your group. A little self-reflection goes a long way to improving communication and working relationships, and will model that behavior for the rest of your group.

When you understand more about yourself and your colleagues, it’s easier to communicate, easier to work together and easier to express gratitude​. Expressing gratitude is one of the most important parts of leadership, and given the differences in staff we mentioned in episode 23, it’s important to get it right.

Frequently, when we’re focused and working hard, we can forget to pick our heads up and say, “thanks!” to the people on our team. Sometimes, when I’m tired, my internal monologue says, “well, they get a paycheck for being here, isn’t that thanks enough?” And my resounding answer to myself is, “no! Now get out there and express some gratitude!” I find this even more important given what we’ve all come through in the last many years of the pandemic.

And I’ve found that the simple expression of gratitude goes a long way. I do this with our team, and I do it when I’m out in the world. Anyone in a service position appreciates it when you look them in the eye and give them a simple and heartfelt thank you. I get the best responses when I thank staff for being here, and tell them how much our patients appreciate the fact that they came in to work today. Simple. Quick. Free. And, it gets you soooooo much in terms of dedication, loyalty, and hard work from your team. Everyone loves to be acknowledged!

Expressing thanks is one of those things that you and your dyad partner can do together. Perhaps this comes more naturally to one of you, and the other has to schedule it on the calendar. You can make plans together for how you will express gratitude to the team. Sometimes this is best done individually when someone on the team has truly gone above and beyond, and sometimes it is best done for the group as a whole, or for a team within the practice. You can work together to make sure your gratitude is distributed fairly, and that you’re expressing it in the most impactful way.

Some of your team will light up with a few accolades and words of praise. Others respond really well to getting a special privilege or an additional bit of time off. Some like a small bonus, as the material world speaks to them. Part of the learning as a leader is to understand what motivates your team, and to give it to them when they need to hear “thank you” from their leaders. Please note, this does not have to be a huge expense, AND it will pay huge dividends as your group grows.

Join me for our next episode, where we’ll talk about adding a new clinician to your group – is it recruiting, or is it dating?

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