Can you Handle the Pain?

Can you handle the painMany years ago, we were engaged to perform our Strategic Review on a practice and assist with various implementation projects.  This client was financially successful, but the practice was in disarray.  The business had clearly outgrown its current organization and systems.  The client (an O.D./husband and manager/wife team) were literally “owned” by the practice.  They were experiencing high staff turn-over and extensive stress at all levels.  The wife/manager had no experience managing teams beyond her practice experience, and had few delegation skills.  The O.D./husband simply wanted to take care of patients.  Their deepest stated desire was to be relieved of the burdens of practice management.  They looked forward to slowing down and enjoying their wealth.  The wife/manager wanted out, out, out!   These were her words.

As part of the Strategic Review, among other actions, we recommended that the client hire a new manager with deeper personnel and organization experience.  This manager would “replace” the wife, who would then focus on family and special business projects.  She’d thus be removed from the day-to-day management burdens that she so disliked.  This was their stated desire.

At the client’s request, we performed an executive search to find that unique individual with the appropriate skill set and experience level.  The rural location of the practice complicated our search.  However, within 60 days we were successful in identifying several experienced and qualified candidates and a new manager was ultimately secured.  The successful candidate had led a health care business that was significantly larger and was supported by a large team. He was well respected in the community.  His credentials were impeccable.  The client’s stated goal of reducing their managerial burdens was on the verge of fulfillment.

The honeymoon lasted for all of three days.  By the mid-point of the new manager’s first week, he was called in by the client and summarily terminated.  The stated reason was that the new manager didn’t do anything in his first week but ask people about their jobs…and he had the audacity to ask for business cards.  But there’s an obvious “rest of the story” here.

What happened?  In summary, while the client clearly had the objective in mind, they were also clearly not prepared to go through the “pain” associated with a changing of the guard.  They couldn’t see the forest for the trees.  They didn’t truly understand what management is and how a skilled manager works.  They didn’t understand that the most important job of a manager is “working through others” and “establishing the systems that run the business.”  And perhaps our mistake, as consultants, was that we missed the signals.   There was an unstated disconnect between the client’s documented goal and, ultimately, the willingness of the client to work through the pain associated with getting there.

The lesson?  A very successful entrepreneur shared with me his credo. “Twice as long, twice as expensive” were his words when describing the business development process.  Another maxim that I’ve personally relied upon is “entrepreneurs don’t have failures…we have learning experiences.   In this case, had the leaders had more patience,

the hire would likely have been successful.  What drove the demise of the hire was the emotional issues relating to someone having a different style; a more thoughtful approach; and a greater level of experience.  The new manager understood that his priority was to understand the team that he inherited and prepare them for the changes ahead.

As leaders, we must clearly understand that there’s often pain associated with success.  And it’s been my experience that our best teacher is failure.  Do you have the patience to see a strategy through to successful completion?  Or do you cut and run at the first sign of trouble or worse, fail to move forward out of fear of the consequences?

Our world is changing at warp speed.  Your answer to these questions might well predict your success in taking your practice to the next level of performance.

Can you handle the pain?

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