As a clinician or an administrative worker in an O&P practice, your primary focus is on doing the work that comes across your desk or your table. You went to school or at least took classes to learn the basics of the job, and you have perfected your skills over time. As good as you may be in your role, though, the transition to management or leadership requires a totally different skill set. The transition can be less intimidating and stressful for all involved with a few simple ideas.
Vinod K. Sahney, PhD, a senior fellow at the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, compares becoming a leader to buying a house. He says, “When you buy a house, you do an assessment or walk-through. You have to do the same when you become a leader. You have to figure out the most important issues to tackle, and what new training, technology, and facilities are needed.”
I don’t have his credentials, but I like to think of the O&P practice as if it were a patient. You conduct an assessment using subjective and objective criteria to document the current condition. You then determine the patient’s goals. For a practice, those goals are documented in its mission statement. Once you have that information, you create a plan of care, or in this case, a business execution strategy. The tricky part, as in patient care, is executing the plan.
Clinicians had to gain clinical expertise to provide competent O&P care. It only makes sense that you would have to learn leadership skills to provide competent leadership. One of the biggest challenges people face when assuming a leadership position is the appropriate delegation of responsibility. So much of the work you did in the “worker” role was your own responsibility. Now you need to motivate others to be your hands. It can be difficult to let go of those things that you have always done. But if you don’t let them go, if you don’t delegate, you are not leading, and you are not helping others in the organization to grow professionally.
If you read back through my blogs, you will see a theme of competencies needed to effectively lead. Among them is emotional intelligence. It is the awareness of your own and other peoples’ emotions and the skill to effectively align the company’s goals with the emotional drivers of the people you work with. It is crucial to successful leadership. Having a strong self-awareness is another critical success factor in leadership. An understanding of your own strengths and weaknesses can help leaders avoid blind spots and find the appropriate people to assist them.
Along with those skills comes the need to influence people. To move others along in new directions, and to get others to carry out your decisions, leaders sometimes need to use influence rather than direct power. To cultivate influence, leaders need to understand that people represent different areas, interests, and opinions. They also need to be able to work through that complexity to reach a goal.
The last thing that can help O&P leaders succeed is a strong network to help throughout the transition and beyond. Just as clinicians seek consults from specialists, they benefit from consulting other subspecialties of management to help them execute their goals and be the best leader they can be. To be good at anything, you must have a fundamental understanding of the basics, and then you learn. Constantly. Having a strong peer network and mentors you can trust is critical. The biggest threat to your success is not what you know, but what you don’t know you don’t know. This is where your network can shine by giving you the perspectives of people who have experienced challenges you have not.