Best Practice Management
Don't be Misled by Unsubstantiated Management Myths

I’ve worked in podiatry long enough to hear the arguments about why some doctors refuse to accept the many time-tested tools that help prevent a potential management catastrophe. Their argument usually begins with, “I really don’t need to (insert management strategy here).” And to that, I respond, “Ok…UNTIL YOU DO!” At some point, you WILL encounter employees who make their own rules, maybe even one who embezzles. You will have a patient in medical distress or a weather emergency. Why fumble your way through an incident when you can be proactively prepared instead? In the name of good business practices, I will share some commonly heard myths countered by their reality and explain why turning those naysayer shrugs into nods of sensibility can be a lifeline of a practice. Maybe YOUR practice!

Re: Employee Manuals

MYTH:I really don’t need an employee manual because I have a small staff and they all know what is expected of them.

REALITY: Small or large, the employee manual defines the philosophies of the practice, provides human resource and disciplinary guidelines. It also serves as a reference guide for policies, processes and protocols, outlines job expectations, clarifies employee AND employer expectations, reduces confusion and stress; diffuses conflict, improves communications, creates uniformity and fairness. It is your practice “Rulebook.” Making policies “on-the-spot” leaves too many questions unanswered and opens matters up for staff to set their own rules. Aren’t those reasons enough to have one?

Re: Job Descriptions for Staff 

MYTH: I really don’t like job descriptions because when I ask staff to do something outside of that description, they respond with ‘It’s not my job!’” 

REALITY: Not to worry. When creating the descriptions simply add “And any other duty required of me” at the end of the duties list. Ideally, a job description should be in place for each position before an employee steps into that role. Descriptions are reviewed with new hires during the interview process. Once proficient at this job, their duties will likely evolve and as they do, descriptions should be appended to reflect that work. Written job descriptions clarify responsibilities, wages, accountability, expectations, and decision-making skills. They are essential when conducting performance reviews.   

Re: Staff Performance Evaluations 

MYTH: I really don’t do these because they always end up with my staff expecting a raise!” 

REALITY: Staff want to know how they are doing. Observing and guiding their performance has many benefits to the practice including happy, productive employees who make every effort for better work outcomes as well as enhanced employee retention. It is important to communicate from day one that wage increases or bonus systems are always attached to performance, and… reviews do not always result in raises or bonuses. Be clear with this to avoid unrealistic and unmet expectations. 

Re: Staff Meetings 

MYTH: “We really don’t have staff meetings because nothing ever gets done. They’re a waste of time and time is money.” 

REALITY: I agree, time is money, and staff meetings often generate great time saving ideas. When staff meetings are viewed as unproductive, it is usually because they are not conducted properly. Some suggested rules for a successful meeting are: prepare an agenda and encourage everyone to contribute to it; remove all distractions (turn off phones/cellphones) and stay focused on agenda items; develop an action plan to monitor progress, ie, identify your goals, how will you accomplish them, who is in charge, and what is your deadline? Finally (the most important step), FOLLOW THROUGH by reviewing these action plans at the next meeting and hold everyone accountable for their pre-assigned responsibilities.

Re: Money Handling Policy 

MYTH: “I really don’t need to have a policy on how to handle the money. I trust my staff and haven’t seen any suspicious activity there.” 

REALITY: Trust but verify. Statistics show that longtime (read: most trusted) and “territorial” staff are the most likely to dip into the bucket. Prevent embezzlement opportunities (for their sakes and yours) by setting strict policies that include checks and balances. Do background checks on employees who handle money, always issue NCR receipts for cash payments to leave a paper trail, avoid a rubber stamp of doctor’s signature, have at least two people responsible for money handling, personally review statements and records for potential red flags, and have final approval on all write-offs. Sensible precautions.

Re: Emergency Training 

MYTH: “I really don’t think spending time on this makes sense. Our schedule is so busy and we’ve never had an emergency here.” 

REALITY: Just because you have not yet experienced an emergency, doesn’t mean you won’t. There is a reason we have fire drills from pre-school forward. If you’ve ever had an individual suffer a heart attack, an allergic reaction, or DIE in your office, you know what I mean. Write up plans/drills in the event of a medical emergency (including training staff in CPR), fire, destructive weather, accident, computer crash, belligerent patient, active shooter. In other words, plan for the unexpected. Then you can be thankful if it never happens.