Doctor’s Orders Are Not Enough


Physicians generally enter management roles in their forties or fifties. Our management skills are compared with non-physician managers of the same age, but physicians haven’t had two decades to make management mistakes. We’ve been too busy learning medicine and seeing patients. We make the same mistakes non-physicians make early in their careers. We’re developmentally delayed. What we’ve been taught in medical school and residency is 180 degrees from many of the skills needed to be an effective manager. For example, as practicing physicians we tend to be risk averse. Making a mistake as a clinician could cause someone to get sicker or even die. Our role as healers depends upon our being The Expert. On the other hand, taking risks is inherent in management and leadership.

Likewise, listening to alternate views is a critical leadership skill. Unfortunately, many physicians become so vested in their careers, in diagnosing illness and being healers that they find it difficult to listen to alternate views. As I was, many of my physician clients are proud of the fact that they are straightforward, pull no punches, and ask directly for what they want. Managers and leaders need to be collaborative communicators. Some of those strengths we have as solo clinicians can keep us from developing other skills we need as managers and leaders. As an executive and leadership coach for physicians, I hold a mirror in front of them and ask questions to guide them in developing their own solutions.