Don’t Let Your Office Manager Retreat!

From our newsletter back in July of 2006

I thought this subject worth repeating…

At a certain point when the Doctor’s practice is large enough (or Doctors are practicing a group) there comes a time when they want a true office manager. They want someone to handle all the non-clinical aspects of the practice… especially staff hassles (scheduling vacation hours, interviewing, disciplining and generally calming the waters).

Yet, we see many office managers who have “retreated” (physically and figuratively to an area removed from the action). Perhaps they started at the front desk and were promoted to the office manager position. They get involved in the practice numbers (bookkeeping, payroll, insurance processing, credit follow up) and after a while are so busy managing numbers that they’re not managing people. Their front desk skills may have even gone dormant and they might be all but invisible to the treatment staff. Then, the staff hassles and other business matters end up back in the Doctor’s lap.

How does this happen? Often the Doctors are their own worst enemy in this regard. They set someone up to be an office manager but at the first unpopular decision (let’s say the manager did not grant your senior hygienist her preferred vacation time) the staff person does an end around and goes to the Doctor directly. It’s at that point you determine whether or not your office manager is going to be a true office manager or a bookkeeper. Do you stand behind your office manager… knowing there will be some flack but knowing that they will be empowered to do what you want them to do, or do you back down and try to be a “Nice Guy” and end up being a nice guy or gal with lots of management hassles you don’t want?

Often office managers do not take the cultivation of their supervisory skills as seriously as they do the numbers. They need to get to courses and read about leadership. They need to get out from behind the desk and walk around the office. This way they can listen to the staff’s problems and requests so they can grant resources as well as give direction. The office manager has to nail down Doctor decisions that need to be made and make sure those decisions are communicated throughout the office so that everyone feels they are in the loop.
Office managers focus on just getting through each day (like we all do). However a good office manager is future focused. Their job is not just to handle the day to day, it’s to help the practice reach its goals. Does your office manager know what your goals are? Do they have a strategy for reaching those goals? Are they reaching beyond the day to day duties each day to implement the gradual worthwhile changes that will help your practice excel? Are they actively looking for ways to cut your expenses? Are they totally familiar with computer software so you’re leveraging every application you can? Are they getting a reputation for making sure that decisions made at staff meetings are followed through and people responsible for the various systems are held accountable (and rewarded or not according to their performance)?

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’til next time…
Posted by Bill Rossi