Managing Your Physicians 101: Understanding the Personalities

Michelle Turley
I have a great working relationship with my physicians.  It wasn’t always that way.  It is now.   And, with continued work, I plan on always having a great working relationship with them.

Every year at the SPSSCS Annual Meeting, I get questions about salary negotiations, or how I got my doctors to accept a proposal, etc.  The answer: If you want a great working relationship where success, progress and happiness thrive, you have to start by understanding your physician personalities.  Then you can begin to build the relationships.

Christine Cashen’s Keynote presentation at our Boston Meeting is a great way to approach this understanding. So, I’m going to use her “What, Why, Who, How and Whatever” classifications to explain how I manage my group of doctors.  As Christine stated, it’s not about you…. It’s about THEM!   Their individual personalities will dictate how they will view a proposal.   Therefore, my proposal is presented in five different formats to appeal to each.  Yes, this takes time.   But, in order to move a multi-owner business forward, it’s necessary.

Before you approach anyone, get all relevant data needed!   I always have the following data ready before progressing: WHAT I want; WHY I want it; WHO it benefits; HOW to pay for it and HOW much potential profit we can expect.

Next, approach the physicians in this order:

The “What” Doc:   Christine describes What personalities as “drivers and leaders, impatient with incompetence, and control freaks.”   I’ll add “warriors.”   The reason I approach my What Doc first is, once on board, she will help fight any battles.

Give your What Doc a synopsis of the proposal, financial matters, benefits, etc.   What Doc needs to feel secure that they know what is going on.  Never surprise a What Doc.  Include all pertinent information so your What Doc never questions your integrity.   Of all your physicians, your What Doc can be your greatest ally.  Your What Doc is also your worst enemy if you haven’t properly briefed them.  So, my What Doc gets my attention first because she’s vital to my success.

The “Why” Doc:  Christine describes Why personalities as “fast-paced, idea gurus, and rule breakers.”   Your Why Doc should be after What Doc for sheer enthusiasm and support for your proposal.   With What and Why Docs on board, you’ll gather momentum to sail through the remaining personalities.  A note: If your Why Doc isn’t an easy sell, you should stop and reconsider before pursuing!  I have to admit that my Why Doc isn’t fast paced but he loves innovative ideas. I love Why Doc because I’m a Why personality.  Of course, without the other personalities’ involvement, the Why Doc and I would be broke from all the equipment we’d buy! 

The “Who” Doc: The Who personality is “fun, peacemaking, and conflict avoiding.” So, make sure you have your Why and What Docs on board before approaching your Who Doc.  The first question out of the Who Doc’s mouth will be, “Who is on board?”  A Who Doc is very much like a politician.   A quick synopsis of your proposal followed by who is on board will be all it takes to get his vote!

The “How” Doc:  The How personality is “meticulous, logical and a rule-follower.”   Your visit to How Doc should heavily involve spreadsheets detailing cost, payment schedules, potential profit, etc.  Once the How Doc’s need for detailed information is met, he is on board.  I enjoy working with my How Doc because he’s completely analytical.   Once again, if he has hesitations, I reexamine my proposal for flaws.  Usually, it’s a simple matter of numbers and execution with the How Doc and we’re on to the last Doc….

The “Whatever” Doc:   You may be fortunate enough to avoid this personality.  If not, you can work with it!   The Whatever Doc will immediately pinpoint your proposal’s problems, predict its failure and dismiss it.  Anything you suggest is a failure waiting to happen with Whatever Doc.  In fairness, the Whatever Doc can’t help himself.   He can see the pitfalls and therefore must vomit them all over your enthusiasm for your great proposal. How do you handle this?   Your best strategy with the Whatever Doc is to surround and conquer.   If your What, Why, Who and How Docs are on board, they will simply overrule the Whatever Doc.   But, do not underestimate the value of the Whatever Doc. 

If I have a proposal I feel might meet objection with anyone beside the Whatever Doc, I send it in a trial meeting with the Whatever Doc first.  In this meeting, I’ll get all the objections in one sitting, work through them and feel prepared to present a dynamic proposal.   Yes, a Whatever Doc can be really useful!  Of course, there’s more to Physician Management than educating yourself on personalities and learning to get along.  But, one lesson at a time!   Coming next: Becoming a Better Businessperson (aka Know Your Numbers!)  For now, get busy working on your relationship with your doctors.  Take time to understand their personalities and you’ll be well on your way to building a fantastic working relationship!

Michelle has been working in the field of esthetics since 1990. Over the past two decades, Michelle has worked with the physicians at Savannah Plastic Surgery. She has been a featured speaker regionally and nationally and has served on the SPSSCS Board, as Program Chair at the SPSSCS Annual Meeting in Boston in 2002 and President in 2003.  In 2006, Michelle was appointed to the Georgia State Board of Cosmetology by the Governor of Georgia. The Board is responsible for reviewing applications, administering examinations, licensing qualified applicants and regulating the professional practice of licensees throughout the state.  Michelle's background with SPSSCS paired with her position on the Board helps promote education in the cosmetology and medical skin care specialty. 

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