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Entries in Non-Clinical Skills (15)


Physician Networking

By Michelle Mudge-Riley DO


Do you avoid networking because it seems like work?  In a negative way? 

You know you should be networking to find a job or create a job – no matter what you are looking to do but especially if you are an entrepreneur.

Here’s the first question you should ask yourself  - when networking, do you enjoy yourself? 

If not, you should.  That is one of the “secrets” of networking – it should be fun.  If you are having a good time with it, chances are, you are making a good impression on the person you are talking with and showing him/her your best self.

But some people have a lot of fun talking nonstop about themselves.  And if you talk only about yourself, you’ll soon find that isn’t the best way to network and definitely does not give off a good impression. 

So the next question is, have you ever thought about networking as just helping someone?

Many of the doctors I work with tell me they are intimidated by networking.  They see profiles of people on Linked In or see individual’s title on a website and assume these people would have no interest in talking with them.  I’ve approached many doctors, chief medical officers, CEO’s, Vice Presidents, etc. and have had about an 80%-90% return rate via an e-mail or call.   I encourage other doctors  to approach anyone they want to talk with and suggest they will experience the same return rate of response.

Why do I have this confidence?  I’m not any different than anyone else – I don’t have a fancy title or sales pitch to get people to call me back.   Most of the doctors I work with have done many more impressive things than I have. I’m not any better or more fun to be around than anyone else (though I often wish I was that quick-witted person everyone always wants to talk to but I can’t tell a good joke to save my life).   What I try to do is have fun and find a way to help someone when I approach him/her.  I’ve found most successful people are willing to consider help from someone else and would also like the opportunity to help someone else.

A few years ago I read a book about this.  At first I felt silly doing it and didn’t really know how I would be able to help someone who I wanted to help me.  But it’s amazing how just by uttering that sentence (“what can I do to help you”), the other person sees you differently than someone who just wants something. 

And the really important thing is, you also begin to see things differently.  No longer are you in it for yourself.  You really want to help this other person and in the process, you learn something about yourself and you build a relationship.

And that is the key with networking, in my mind.   It isn’t just work to be done and then forgotten about. It’s about building relationships. 

Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi is that fantastic book I just referred to.   The book is all about networking through building relationships.  There are a couple reasons why you should read this book.  First of all, it’s a very easy read.  Second of all, it makes sense.  For example, being authentic and genuine when talking to people will help you feel like networking is fun, not work.   The book also gives a ton of examples of how helping someone can help you build a relationship with that person.

It worked for me.  I help physicians find ways to diversify their careers – be it in non-clinical careers or simply through enhancing their own revenue in some shape or form.   I do this because I wasn’t happy in my clinical career and eventually I found my way – but not without a lot of missteps and confusion and need for sense of direction.   Every doctor I help teaches me something I can use to help another doctor who works with me.  I also work as a consultant to large employers in health promotion and wellness.  About 18 months ago I met an actuary and offered to help him with some medical claims analysis.  That lead to a $49,000 project with some neat outcomes for the employer – a 2:1 return on their investment and a significant decrease in the medical risks (specifically hypertension) for their employee population. 

In my next blog, I’ll talk a little more about tips for approaching people and helping them and about building a relationship so you can find/get work and have fun– not just work – when you network.

About: Michelle Mudge-Riley DO successfully made the transition from clinical practice to non-direct clinical work and now works for a brokerage firm in Richmond, Virginia as Director of Wellness and Health Promotion. She has worked with over 50 doctors located in various locations throughout the United States.

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Leadership Attributes In Industry

Physicians in industry must be leaders—not just experts in their field.

What does it mean for a physician to be a leader in industry?  What attributes are companies looking for in physicians who are seeking careers in industry?

Physicians looking for non-clinical careers may find a good fit in the medical device or pharmaceutical industries.  Some will have no difficulty in demonstrating technical mastery of the job.  After all, they are domain experts.  Unfortunately, physicians in industry are expected to be strong leaders—not just experts in their field of medicine.

The good news is that the attributes of a good leader can be learned.  Contrary to what some believe, these qualities are not passed down through the DNA of well-known business leaders.  Physicians can develop or strengthen their leadership skills—and apply these skills in new career opportunities.  But they will need to be deliberate and intentional about this—and go into industry with their eyes open.  Top companies will have high expectations for leadership—perhaps more so than for the technical aspects of a job.     

Some companies simply display their mission and vision statements—and almost never refer to them.  For others, theses statements are very much a part of their culture or “social architecture.”  They constantly talk about why they exist, what they want to achieve in the future, what they value most—and what they consider to be the key attributes of leaders in their organization.  In these companies, management and staff continuously evaluate themselves and each other against these standards.  Technical know-how is necessary—but not sufficient.  Physicians will need to be proficient in medicine—but also true leaders in a dynamic business setting.   

Different companies may use different terms to describe leadership—but the key attributes are essentially the same.  These core qualities are vital to most businesses and certainly apply to companies in the medical device and pharmaceutical industries.   

Charts the Course (sets the direction and plan)

  • Translates the business strategy into challenging, actionable objectives and plans
  • Conveys a sense of purpose and mission that motivates others
  • Maintains direction, balancing big-picture concepts with day-to-day issues

Delivers Results

  • Consistently achieves results in line with company values
  • Establishes high performance standards, uses measurable goals to track progress, and   continually raises the bar on performance and expectations
  • Focuses their organization on high-impact activities by clearly communicating expectations, accountabilities, and responsibilities
  • Conducts periodic reality-based, results-focused operating reviews and drives quick corrective actions

 Develops Best Team

  • Recruits and retains high-performing individuals and develops successors for key positions
  • Builds diverse and empowered teams
  • Provides honest and constructive feedback on an ongoing basis.

 Role Model

  • Lives the company values and sets expectations for others to do so
  • Displays self-awareness and seeks self-improvement
  • Demonstrates technical mastery of the job
  • Develops insightful strategies based on deep knowledge of external and internal operating environments
  • Champions opportunities for change and innovation
  • Has the courage and judgment to take appropriate risks

For further reading on this topic, check out the following resources: The Leadership Challenge by Kouzes and Posner, Leading Change by John Kotter, Execution: The discipline of Getting Things Done by Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan, and High Flyers: Developing the Next Generation of Leaders by Morgan McCall.


Plan Your Non-Clinical Career Escape As A Physician: Building Your Team

Building your team to suport your non-clinical or non-traditional career moves.

I just finished reading a very interesting book entitled The Art of Non-Conformity by a guy named Chris Guillebeau.  I mentioned Chris' blog in a recent post on Lifestyle Design, and I thought I'd download his new book to see what I thought.

The book is an interesting read, mainly because Chris is an interesting guy and looks at things in a unique way.  The focus on the book is breaking free form our default patterns of living and stepping out into something more purposeful, more directed, and hopefully, more fulfilling.

At some point in the future I'd like to write an entire entry about Chris' book and give the Freelance MD crowd a rundown of my thoughts on this text, but suffice it to say I thought it was a good book and it helped refocus my energies on building Freelance MD.

If you've been reading much of Freelance MD, you know that we're offering various forms of career modification to physicians.  All life modifications-- regardless of their scope-- require a little risk, and it's this risk that holds many people back. The few individuals who do modify their careers or lives in some way often only do so when the pain of change is less than the pain of staying in the same place.  This push towards change is discussed in Chris' book and made me think some more about Freelance MD and what we could do to offer more practical goals so individuals who were considering change could begin stepping out in little steps.  Hopefully, these little steps would assuage their fear while at the same time help them make some forward progress with the hope that the inertia would eventually carry them through to something substantial.

It's in this spirit that I offer this post.  It's a sort of beginners guide to building a team that you will need once you launch out on your own.  You may see little need for the entire team right now, but once you go "over the wire" to a new life, these are the individuals you'll be tapping for expertise in a variety of crucial areas.

Team Member #1: Your Financial Advisor

The first person I suggest you recruit if you're going to move forward in your career is your financial manager.  A good financial manager is difficult to find since many are predators who do little to build wealth for you and lots to build wealth for themselves.  The unscrupulous in this field begin to salivate when they meet naive individuals with high incomes and little understanding of the financial industry (think, young newly graduated physicians).  However, a good financial manager can evaluate your financial situation and set you up with a plan to take you from where you are to where you want to be in 5, 10, or 30 years.

Freelance MD has recruited a great financial manager as an author in Dr. Setu Mazumdar who, in addition to being a board certified Emergency Medicine physician, also runs Lotus Wealth Solutions and specializes in helping physicians make good financial management decisions.  Another good outfit is Martin & Wight based in Hunt Valley, Maryland.  The folks at Martin & Wight have managed my finances for the past six years, and I've found them to be very approachable and honorable in their business dealings.  Both Setu at Lotus Wealth Solutions and the folks at Martin & Wight specialize in the financial management of physicians, something that is a huge help when discussing things such as disability insurance and other issues specific to physicans.

Please know that I am not a trained financial person and my experience with any financial management company is, at its core, anecdotal.  You need to use your own judgment when considering anyone to handle your finances, but these mentioned entities are a good place to begin. 

Red flags when meeting a financial manager that indicate you need to run screaming from the room?  Any sort of pressured sales job to sell you any products, especially in the beginning, or any requirement that you submit a large, up front cash payment to secure their services.  Either of these indicators are big warnings.  Maybe there are exceptions, but I would proceed with extreme caution and make sure I spoke to multiple references prior to signing anything binding.

Team Member #2:  Your Attorney

In medicine, when we think of attorneys we almost universally think of the profession in a negative light.  This is due to years of conditioning from hours upon hours of paperwork that we are required to fill out on every patient simply to make sure all the "legalese" is in its proper order, and the specter of a malpractice suit that colors every patient interaction.

However, once you begin to delve into business, you find that your attorney can be one of the most valuable members of your team.  You go to him (or her) for advice when you set up your company and when things need to be restructured as the company grows.  You also know that you have a dog in the fight if you ever do need to do legal battle, and in this day and age, this is a great comfort.

As you begin to broaden your career to do consulting, entrepreneurship, or even write a book, it's good to have an attorney around that you trust.  A good attorney can walk you through such issues as how you form your own company, writing or reviewing contracts, discussing ways to limit your exposure to lawsuits, and many other legal issues that might arise as your begin your new pursuits.

So how do you find a good attorney?

Well, you don't find one by asking your doctor buddies who they'd recommend.  They'll most likely end up recommending one of their golf buddies, or someone who they know who works in or around the medical field. 

The best way to find a good attorney (as well as the third member of your team that we'll be discussing very shortly) is by going to the best small business person you know and getting a recommendation.  A small businessman or businesswoman is an expert in the area you are just getting into, whether it's consulting, writing, or anything else-- small business.  These hardy individuals will recommend someone who also knows small business and can help you navigate through the mine fields of your new endeavor.

The culture these days is highly litigious and a good attorney is worth their weight in gold.  Get a good recommendation, build a relationship with an attorney, and listen to their advice as you begin to expand your career.

Team Member #3:  Your Accountant

This final team member is important because as a physician, your number one expense is your taxes.

As you begin to branch out from your current career into other areas, you should begin receiving income from entities other than your main source of income now.  When this happens, your tax situation can become very complex very quickly, and it is very important that you have a good accountant around to help you sort through the dos-and-don'ts of things like tax write-offs, expense accounts, savings plans, debt exposure, and the like.

A good accountant can give you advice on ways to invest your income into your business, and limit your exposure to unnecessary taxes.  Notice that I say unnecessary taxes since I want to be clear that I am not advocating for cheating on your taxes or not paying what you are legally bound to pay.  However, paying more than your share of taxes simply due to ignorance or laziness is not "patriotic" as some politicians have implied, but foolish and short-sighted.  If you believe you should be paying more taxes, fine, that's your prerogative.  I personally think it's wiser to pay what you owe and then take whatever savings your accountant can find and invest them into your company, or simply donate them to a charity of your choosing.

The point is that a good accountant is a huge help when you start expanding your career, and once you've found a good one (through recommendations from small business owners once again), listen to their advice.  Beginning a new endeavor is tough, and it would be incredibly unfortunate to take that first step towards freedom, only to have it dashed due to poor bookkeeping or foolish business practices.

So there you have a basic guide to building your team.  Start with a good financial advisor and as you get ready to branch out, find a good attorney and accountant. 

In future posts we'll be giving you some more specific tasks to take to your various team members, so you can continue to grow your competence little by little. 


Does Your Hospital Have An Innovation Management System?

We will need to innovate our way out of this recession. Doctors need a system to help them.

Hospitals have all kinds of systems to manage people, cliinical and administrative processes, assets and money. Very few have an Innovation Management Systems to identify, capture, develop, vet and launch innovation.

At , we work with healthcare clients to create the structure and processes necessary to insitutionalize creativity and innovation in healthcare. Among the many reasons for building such a system are it creates a competitive advantage, it  creates non-clinical revenue, and it attracts talented staff. There are three basic steps involved.

The first is an internal process of making faculty and staff aware of the process, soliciting invention disclosures, cataloging them, and detemining which are a strategic fit and worthy of further development.

The second step involves using tools and assessment techniques to determine whether the idea has market potential, is legally structured properly, has intellectual property protection and freedom to operate, and is technically feasible with time and budgetary guidelines. The essential part of this exercise is to get inventor input and well as critique and analysis from multiple innovation stakeholders of the feasibillity plan,  like content experts, advisors and executive leadership.

The third and final phase deals with further developing ideas that have passed the previous stage gates and given a go decision. The charge now is to write a commericalization or business plan , follow a spinout , licensing or other strategy, and secure the resources and talent to move the ideas foward to market.

We all have process, product and service ideas to thow into the top of the innovation funnel. The challenge is to stratify the ideas and pick an innovation portfolio that can be managed.

The beauty of the system is that innovators use simple, structured, valid tools to do a self-assessment of their ideas. The result is that bad ideas are killed early, marginal ideas are returned for further development, and good ideas are put to the head of the line. No one like to have their baby called ugly. Innovation Management Systems provide an objective, structured pathway using valid selection criteria to screen and stratify ideas. That way, you get to call your own baby ugly with no hard feelings.


How Doctors Can Double Their Income

As a physician, you're trading time for money.

Most physicians are no doubt very adept when it comes time to academics and being “book smart”. We all had to get great MCAT scores and high grades to get into medical school. However when it comes down to financial planning or building wealth, it’s not overstating the case that our preparation was a bit lacking. Medical school didn’t prepare me very well for finances,entrepreneurship, let alone running my own practice.

As physicians, when it comes down to it, we are exchanging time for money. The amount of money a physician can make is generally in proportion to how much patients we see or procedures we do. This is no different then the majority of the population who earn wages for a living.

The unfortunate aspect is that for us to double income, we generally have to see double the amount of patients. And as reimbursement continues to dwindle, we are now having to see more and more patients to get the same amount of income, in comparison to five to ten years ago.

So what are our options? For physicians who want to maintain their current nest egg, they need to start building passive or residual income to work for them. Indeed, many physicians have resorted to passive income (in the form of investing, real estates, buying bonds, etc), or started “side careers” or investments (In fact, many of my ER doc friends have run anything from owning their own tavern, to daytrading, even starting your own winery! There’s a reason why Business Pitch section of the AMA news, a series that highlights physician side careers,  seems to be one of the most popular columns.

One great way to build residual income, is entering the domain of online health consulting and medical publishing.  No matter what you decided to do, building residual income to work for you will be more imperative for physicians in the near future. Starting early is the key.


Physician Leadership In Industry

Physicians in industry must be strong leaders and team players.

Do you consider yourself a leader or a team player or both? To succeed in industry, physicians will need to be strong leaders—but also team players.

Physicians looking for non-clinical careers may find a good fit in the medical device or pharmaceutical industries.  Some will readily adapt to the technical aspects of their new role. Others may be thought leaders in their field—but could fail if they cannot work effectively in teams. Still others may not fit, if they can’t or won’t follow leaders with less clinical knowledge or experience.

The culture of a company will vary depending on what is valued. For instance, some companies are science-based. Applying the scientific method in all parts of the organization is expected and highly valued. Other companies are very competitive. They compete intensely against time, past performance and industry rivals to rapidly achieve quality results. While companies may differ in their core values, most get things done by working in teams. Teams move scientific breakthroughs from the lab through the clinic to the marketplace—and support other aspects of the business. 

Most companies believe diverse teams working together generate the best decisions for their patients, staff, and shareholders. Their team structure provides opportunities for staff to impact the direction of the organization, gain broader perspective about other functions within the company, and reach their full potential. 

So, what does this mean to a physician who is considering a career move to the medical device or pharmaceutical industries?  t means the physician must be able to demonstrate strong leadership skills—but also work effectively in teams. It means that they will not always be the leader, even if they are experts in the area. It means they will need to flexible, adaptive to change. 

Leading companies in the medical device and pharmaceutical industries continuously evaluate staff on their performance.  But this is not just about getting things done or getting results. Staff members are also evaluated on (1) how they achieve results in line with company values and (2) how effectively they demonstrate the company’s leadership attributes. 

As you consider career opportunities in industry, imagine how you might be evaluated against the expectations of your new role. How would others describe your performance?   What would you include in your self-assessment about team work?  Here are some statements of effective performance:

Team Leader

  • Displays strong leadership in a team environment
  • Builds a strong sense of teamwork and purpose
  • Conveys a powerful influence in a team environment
  • Promotes cooperative behavior and team efforts
  • Excels in building teams for success

 Team Player

  • Excels in developing team momentum, enthusiasm, and pride
  • Resolves team conflicts with finesse
  • Participates effectively in team efforts  
  • Excels as a team player

Steps To Surviving the First 100 Days In Your New, Non-Clinical Career

The biggest question from physicians in the process of transition to their first non-clinical role? How can I best prepare?

From my last post on docs moving on to the corporate world, we know that leaving clinical practice and making your way within the business environment has a unique, and sometimes steep, learning curve. This curve, made up of both the new career training, as well as the unspoken expectations for business skills and acumen, has been a stumbling point for many a physician who is venturing into the non-clinical world for the first time.

The importance is on being prepared for the learning curve, and doing what you need to do ahead of time, as well as during the first few weeks of your transition, to ensure that those critical first few months position you for success as you continue on your new career path.

So how do you do that? What are the steps you can take to make sure that you have the most successful “First 100 Days” on your new job as possible?

Here are some ideas:

Step 1: Get Ready - Optimize the Period on to Your Transition

One of the most important things to recognize is that your first day on a new job better not be “day one” where you’re getting up to speed on the company and your new role. It is critical that you’ve spent time preparing yourself for the transition prior to the actual change, so that when you do arrive on the job you are ready to hit the ground running and make your initial days a value-added time for all involved. It is critical that you’ve thought of, and planned for, all of the elements that will start you off in the best way possible. These should include:

  • Doing your “homework” on the company, the industry, the competitors, financials, etc.
  •  Meeting with initial management, employees, alumni, customers, etc. to lay the groundwork for strong relationships and to gather valuable input up-front
  • Preparing your family or personal support base for the intense time (and hours) ahead, in order to minimize personal disruptions and allow you to immerse yourself in your new role for the first months
  • Assessing your own knowledge, skill or experience gaps, to determine what functional expertise or specialized training you will need to succeed in your new job – particularly where it comes to the “unspoken expectations” of business skill / acumen that are a given in the non-clinical world 

Step 2: Starting Off Right

When starting a new position within a new environment, you have a unique “window of opportunity” to establish yourself and to mold peoples’ expectations of you as well as your own foundation for the work ahead. You want to ensure that you are as successful as possible as you begin this new professional phase. During those early days it is critical to establish yourself as a learner, an active listener, and someone who is prepared and organized as they enter into this new space. Things to consider as you make your way:

  • How you introduce yourself – to colleagues, team members, clients – and how you set expectations of yourself, your working style, your ability to partner
  • Spending time to learn about, understand and shape your team
  • Crafting your own “personal strategic plan” for the first three months, including your goals, milestones and your desired outcomes (see resources below)
  • Spending time to understand your new company’s culture, and your place in it
  • Establishing a productive relationship with your colleagues and boss
  • Making sure you listen more than talk, and using effective communication as questions / issues arise

Step 3: Thriving in Your New Role

Once you’ve gotten yourself well-entrenched in your new position and are feeling comfortable that the initial learning curve is behind you, you will still need to make sure you are mastering the critical success factors that drive non-clinical environments. Pay attention to how well you are:

  • Avoiding Common “New Team Member” Pitfalls - things such as talking more than listening, trying to impress by having all the answers (often before getting all the facts), stubbornly relying on what has made you successful in the past, setting unrealistic expectations of yourself, etc.
  • Being an Effective Team Player - e.g., knowing how/when to defer to others, knowing how/when to delegate, taking leadership when appropriate, being accountable, sharing credit, knowing how to utilize complimentary skills for a common goal / outcome, etc.
  • Knowing What To Do When You Don’t Have the Answer - not an easy one for physicians who are used to being required to have the answer! - this includes, avoiding the temptation to think you must have immediate answers and/or over-promising on things you may not be able to deliver, knowing how to create a process for reviewing the issue and inviting others to participate in getting the answer
  • Running Effective and Impactful Meetings - things as simple as crafting an effective agenda, keeping discussion on-track, guiding and tracking feedback, and starting and ending the meeting on time
  • Staying Accountable - knowing how to take criticism without deflecting blame, "owning" your work and any dependencies that others may have on it, delivering things on-time or appropriately escalating issues that impede progress
  • Being an Expert Facilitator and Presenter - knowing how to engage your audience and deliver impactful presentations, being able to communicate complex clinical data and information in a way that your audience understands, being able to facilitate other peoples' process to a common end
  • Delegating and Trusting Your Colleagues - being a true team player not only in words but in action, trusting others' follow-through, having a highly honed sense of collegiality
  • Being a Highly Effective Communicator - having strong interpersonal skills, being able to mediate conflict, being clear and unambiguous in your words, being highly effective in both written (i.e., email) and spoken communication

A couple of great resources for you to consider:

“The First 90 Days: Critical Success Strategies for New Leaders at All Levels”  (2003)  by Michael Watkins (thanks to Dr. Arlen Meyers for the reference)

“You’re in Charge - Now What?: The 8 Point Plan”  (2007)  by Thomas J. Jeff & James M. Citrin

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