3 ways to train new managers to lead

It's common in medical practices for the best-of-the-best coders, nurses or front-desk personnel to find themselves rewarded with promotions. These new roles, however, tend to focus less on the tactical job aspects in which these individuals have proven themselves and introduce brand-new responsibilities in managing people. Too often, this model sets even the most promising managers up for failure, according to Jamie Verkamp, managing partner with (e)Merge Consulting, who presented last Tuesday at the Medical Group Management Association annual conference in San Antonio, Texas.

The good news is that you can avoid this problem by helping new managers develop the skills they need to lead people, Verkamp said.

"We all have tendencies to be good leaders," she said. "They just need to be developed."

To help your managers and their teams succeed, Verkamp recommended the following training strategies:

1. Coach managers

Verkamp defined coaching as "spending consistent time managing expectations and giving open and honest feedback." It's critical to keep coaching time regular, but it doesn't have to consume a huge amount of time. Just 15 minutes a month spent going over a specific agenda and providing feedback can do the trick, she said, adding that the managers being coached can then repeat the process with their own staff.

2. Distinguish between job function and purpose


"We all have tendencies to be good leaders. They just need to be developed."

Managers who have difficulty seeing past their own functional silos often aren't fully aware of how their role affects others, Verkamp said. As a result, they may compromise the success of the practice of a whole by being unwilling to communicate with other departments, hold back information to make their own teams look more favorable or take similar short-sighted actions. A better understanding of the big picture--and their role in helping the practice care for patients--can alleviate such behaviors.

3. Build awareness of communication styles

There are several assessments available to help individuals determine their communication style, but Verkamp recommended the DiSC Profile as an informative and easy-to-use tool. Among the four types identified by the profile--dominance, influence, steadiness and conscientiousness--almost 90 percent of healthcare workers are "S" types, she said. While these "steady" communicators are known for their patience and humility, they also tend to avoid conflict and very direct communication. As a result, leading a team through change or managing problems can be difficult. But greater awareness of communication styles and differences can help managers work through weaknesses and avoid conflicts due to miscommunication.