Practice Management and Coaching

Kathleen O'Donnell September 23, 2011 0
Practice Management and Coaching

Some of the most rewarding coaching experiences I have ever experienced occurred during the past eleven years as a practice management consultant and business coach for dentists and veterinarians. These are small businessmen and businesswomen who have no golden parachutes, no employment contracts protecting them, no administrative executive team on whom to blame business failures. The “buck” truly does stop here.

In these settings, you work directly with the CEO of these entrepreneurial businesses.  You often see immediate implementation and an impact throughout the organization – no bureaucratic mazes to wander through, no complex office politics to muddy the waters.  And yet, there are diverse, interesting issues about which you coach your colleague. At times you may be a performance coach, at other times a life coach helping a veterinarian decide if she should change careers.  At other times you do classic executive coaching working with a person wrestling with strategic decisions for his dental practice that does $2 million USD annually. For me, it has been working with the best of both worlds …. that of a small entrepreneur and a corporate CEO.

A Blend of Coaching with Consulting

Coaching dentists and veterinarians typically seems to be most successful when there is a strong base of sound business practices operating in their organizations. When they have experienced profitable months, lower turnover, increased new business, or lowered stress, they have increased interest in classic coaching activities. One is reminded of Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Until business survival and safety are taken care of, these small businessmen and businesswomen have a difficult time dealing with social and self-actualization issues. Practice management consulting gives us skills and tools to address basic business issues and gives us a common language to cut through procrastination. Dr. Maria, a dentist in a wealthy suburb of New York City, repeatedly complained to me in multiple coaching sessions about frustrations she had with her Office Manager’s substandard performance. Because I knew she had tools at her disposal from our practice management consulting that she could use to script a confrontation session with this employee, I asked her what she was getting out of keeping this frustrating situation the same.  There had to be some gratification – otherwise, why not use the tools and attempt to change these negative dynamics with this underperforming employee. Dr. Maria acknowledged her procrastination was due to her fear of confrontation.  From that point, we were able to talk through worst and best case scenarios, conduct positive visioning exercises, script the confrontation session, and role play several confrontations.  Since that positive experience, Dr. Maria feels more confident to take proactive corrective actions with employees when a problem first surfaces rather than postponing.

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