If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around, does it make a sound? It’s a question that’s been debated for centuries and there is no definitive answer.
If we revisit the questions and ask: “If a practice manager is accomplished and productive, but the owner is unaware of his/her impact on and contributions to the practice, will that manager feel supported and recognized? The simple answer is, in most cases, no, s/he will not! To guard against feeling underappreciated by owners and unmotivated to carry out their job responsibilities with pride and enthusiasm, managers should take inventory of how effectively they are advocating for themselves in their practices.
Managers are busy, owners are stressed and practices are bustling. Getting the owner’s ear under these conditions can be difficult, but Meg Oliver, CVPM, suggests that it is appropriate, and even necessary, for managers to advocate for themselves by taking the lead and arranging meetings and bring their skills and accomplishments to the manager’s attention.
In the practice Oliver manages, the owner seldom intervenes---and Oliver enjoys the autonomy—therefore, the regular meetings Oliver arranges are important because they ensure that the owner is aware of practice developments, accomplishments, and challenges.
Requesting a meeting
How should managers initiate a meeting? Take control and ask! Whether the request in through email or in person, be sure to outline the purpose of the meeting and give the owner an opportunity to supplement the discussion items.
Oliver prefers to hold these meetings at offsite locations like coffee shops or restaurants to prevent staff interruptions and practice issues from interfering with the conversation. She has been meeting with her owner for years, and they average roughly four meetings annually.
Although the offsite get-togethers are informal and casual, they are not unstructured. Oliver prepares and shares an agenda, which typically focuses on staff issues, a snapshot of how she spends her time, accomplishments, and missteps.
Breaking down the agenda
The four key areas on the agenda include:
A summary discussion of staff issues that is informative and allows for owner input. KPIs and metrics, financial information and marketing issues may also be discussed under this topic.
The snapshot Oliver brings to the meeting is based on information obtained from Clockify, a free time tracking app that lets the user follow how their time is spent in the office. Oliver considers this an effective tool for demonstrating that she is capable of managing time and responsibilities and not just putting out fires.
Although Oliver has an agenda item reserved for accomplishments, she also communicates significant successes to the owner in real-time---for example, she emailed the owner when she passed the CVPM exam. Usually, the achievements discussed offsite is an edited version of quarterly successes that she maintains in a detailed file to highlight during this face-to-face get together.
Coming clean about missteps is a key component of the offsite meeting. “We all fail. There’s no shame in that and no reason to be embarrassed. I discuss my mistakes and how they were addressed so that the owner knows that I have the capacity and the clarity of thought to devise solutions, learn from the mistake and move on.” Interestingly, demonstrating an ability to correct mistakes and devise solutions, can highlight a manager’s resiliency and creativity and can be more akin to success than failure!
Keep track of your victories as they occur. There is no need to contact the owner every time you achieve a milestone or find a solution. After patting yourself on the back, add it to the file with details and context, and move forward!
The power of the job description
The job description can be a valuable meeting resource. Managers can walk through the descriptions and responsibilities and highlight accomplishments. The two parties can also assess whether the roles and responsibilities continue to be relevant or need to be revised. Oliver advises all managers, especially those new to the position, to create a job description. “The job description opens communication and articulates the owner’s and manager’s expectations,” she said.
VHMA offers a Job Framework and Job Duty resource to clarifying job responsibilities and owner expectations. Visit https://members.vhma.org/store/ViewProduct.aspx?id=3124200
What to bring to the meeting
Along with a meeting agenda, managers can support their position with supplemental information, such as graphs that depict how time is spent and charts that summarize accomplishments. Succinct, easy to digest, and effective.
At the conclusion of each meeting, astute managers will review the discussion, pinpoint future actions and transfer those items to a “to do” file. This information can be shared with the owner and should be the starting point of the next meeting.
Asking for recognition
You had a productive meeting with the owner but did you broach the subject of recognition---specifically what type of recognition motivates you?
Oliver believes that it is imperative for managers to clearly communicate what meaningful recognition looks like. Even if the owner isn’t asking, a manager must take the lead and describe what s/he wants from the owner.
Oliver spoke with the owner and was thrilled when she marked Oliver’s CVPM success in a way that was important to her.
Oliver acknowledges that some owners might be oblivious to managers’ requests. She cautions managers not to avoid asking simply because the owner does not appear to be interested and amendable. Initiate the discussion and be honest about your needs. If the conversation does not elicit a breakthrough, then it may be time to part ways.
Don’t be like that tree in the forest that is not heard. Find your voice and confidence and advocate for yourself and the important role you play in the practice.
For more advice on how to advocate for yourself, check out this practice tip: