Best Practice Management
I Got a New Atti-tude

There is always so much talk as we start a new year on making change. Starting fresh. We sing “Auld Lang Syne”, that famous Scottish folk song that revisits times gone by and the importance of new beginnings, like we mean it. And in the spirit of reformation, with a heart full of promise, the all-too popular New Year’s Resolution is born. Well, now that this year has reached its halfway mark, how are those commitments you made to yourself back in January working out for you? Are you living that envisioned healthier life with a new diet, regular exercise, and more sleep? Have you met your goal to employ more structured systems in your office so that you have more time to spend with family/friends?  

OR…maybe you decided this was the year you needed to get a new attitude? Yes, of course you already have a sparkling attitude! So why change? Attitude is defined as a settled way of thinking or feeling about someone or something, typically one that is reflected in a person's behavior. And if we’re being totally honest, there isn’t a one of us who couldn’t use at least a little adjustment in this area.  

What I find amusing is that it is apparently okay to choose a word, any word and add a ‘tude suffix to create a whole new made up word! “Cattattude”, “Mamatude”, “Wag-a-tude”, “Bikertude”, “Militude” (Military) or even “Nude-tude” (not what you think…it refers to eyeshadow) would never exist, but for this pretend “rule.” Yet, they do. By these measures, if wagatude is a thing, physicians can claim to have “Healatude” or better yet, in Podiatry? ”Heelatude”. And why not?  

All kidding aside, striving to have a more tolerant, accepting, and open-minded attitude is super beneficial. It can not only improve the way we treat other people; it can reduce unwanted self-aggravation and stress. So, just because half the year is over, doesn’t mean we can’t start the adjustment process now. It’s never too late to develop a new ‘tude. Here are some suggestions on how to do just that: 

  1. Start thinking “can do”. In other words, believe that anything is possible. There are things you absolutely “can do” to boost even the most successful practice; none of which ever start with a “do I have to?” mindset. Analyze what changes need to occur. Is it improving patient flow, utilizing consistent management techniques, revising a tired marketing program, reducing your Account Receivables, a bona fide staff training program? Jot down five of them, enlist the help of staff, and tackle one at a time. As the improvements stimulate new surroundings, new surroundings will stimulate everyone involved.
  2. Cut back on time-wasted steps. I have found that poor office practices are mostly habit, born of the mantra, “It’s the way we’ve always done it!” It’s easy to get stuck doing something the same way over and over again without really taking into consideration that a change of attitude has the ability to open eyes, allow one to take a step outside of routine, and help discover a better way. Use of a flow chart to identify and streamline your most tedious, time-consuming office procedure (ie, scheduling hospital surgeries or collection protocol) can help. Follow the activity, step by step. Then separate out those steps which are redundant, inefficient and time-wasted from those which actually contribute to your preferred outcome and simply stop doing them. You’ll wonder why you didn’t do this sooner!
  3. Shake things up. There is a lot to be said for routine, unless it no longer serves a purpose. If you insist on doing the same thing, in the same way, in the same place, without variation, it could lead to stagnation and boredom. When you get bored or fall into a rut, your work no longer feels gratifying and as a result you become less ambitious, less happy, and frankly, less enjoyable to be around. If monotonous attitude sets in to the point where sanity is at risk, think of what you can do to alter your workplace environment. Make it different. Lighten up and do the unexpected. Don’t be afraid to insert a little (appropriate) humor into your day. Make people smile just by smiling more yourself. Encourage a more positive work culture by using genuine praise, appreciation, and an open-door policy of communication every day. Engage your patients and your staff in office events or challenges. Finally, don’t be afraid to brighten up the scenery and upgrade the office décor. Change is refreshing.
  4. Know when to get help. Recently, I asked a client (on the verge of burnout) if she had an office manager to help offload some management responsibilities. She replied, “Yes, I do; however, I still do most of the (management) tasks myself.” Do doctors always have the time to manage patient care and effectively run a practice at the same time? No. If you find yourself struggling to do both and maintain a DIY (Do It Yourself) attitude, it might be prudent to reexamine your job description and cease doing jobs that lesser paid staff are hired to do. Micromanagement has harmful consequences on so many levels. My favorite analogy…the pilot doesn’t serve beverages, load luggage, or fuel the aircraft. You are the pilot.

    Make no mistake. Staff need and they want someone to take charge, guide them, listen to their concerns, give necessary orders, set and enforce policy, and offer solutions for emerging problems. Without this leadership, something usually gives – loss of control, frequent staff turnover, or declining profits. Sometimes, all three. Management cannot be ignored. If it becomes obvious that you don’t have the time to do this, someone else needs to. It’s very possible that a skilled office manager (key word: skilled) would be an asset that can add to your job satisfaction and quality of life. Can you afford to hire a manager? After assessing pros and cons, the better question might be, can you afford NOT to?

Feeling overwhelmed? Don’t let the magnitude of any task you undertake get you down. Allow yourself some latitude, proceed with renewed fortitude, utilize aptitude to reach new altitude, and never forget the well-deserved gratitude for your accomplishments. How’s that for platitudes?

Patti Labelle said it best back in ‘84: 

I'm feelin' good from my head to my shoes
Know where I'm goin' and I know what to do
I tidied up my point of view…I got a new attitude

Ms Homisak, President of SOS Healthcare Management Solutions, has a Certificate in Human Resource Studies from Cornell University School of Industry and Labor Relations. She is the 2010 recipient of Podiatry Management’s Lifetime Achievement Award and inducted into the PM Hall of Fame. She has also recently been named as an Editorial Advisor for Podiatry Management Magazine and is recognized nationwide as a speaker, writer and expert in staff and human resource management.