I’m becoming more and more aware of a disturbing phenomenon in many practices today. I’m seeing it much more often and I fear it may be becoming a trend. In fact, it could be emerging as the new number one threat to doctors and their practices. I’ve even decided on a term to describe it: fun deprivation. Just to be clear, here is my definition:
Fun: A source of enjoyment, amusement, or pleasure. . Playful, often noisy, activity.
Deprivation: The state of being deprived; privation; loss; want; bereavement.
Basically, “fun deprivation” means the loss of enjoyment. So what are the symptoms of this unfortunate malady? How do you know if you’re afflicted with “fun deprivation”? Here are some possible signs to watch for:
- Monday is the worst day of your week. Tuesday isn’t any better. Ditto Wednesday. Etc.
- You’ve realized that you don’t particularly like the people you spend every day with, and you perceive that the feeling is mutual.
- Your favorite daily activity is to sit in your private office — by yourself.
- You are usually the last person to arrive at the office every morning, but you compensate by always being the first to leave every afternoon.
OK, those may be a little extreme, but I think you get the message. However, there is one thing you can always rely upon: patients are watching every aspect of your practice and people. As they are sitting in the reception area and as they are keenly listening to the muttering of conversations around them while they are in the chair, you are being observed. Your patients are searching for congruency and incongruence in the mannerisms and interactions of your team as they communicate with you, with each other, and how they show up in the patient relationship. An example of incongruence would be the old joke of asking a person “How are you today?” and they respond with a grimacing face and say “I’m great”. And your response is, “Well if you are great, why don’t you tell your face?”
Here’s something to consider, rate yourself and your staff on the following scale to see if there is a minor to significant degree of “fun deprivation” in your practice. The purpose of this exercise is to help you see what you are not seeing about your true level of happiness and satisfaction within yourself and your team. If a problem exists and it is acknowledged, solutions can then be created to bring you and others back into balance.
1. Your existing team creates a warm, friendly, helpful, inviting, accepting atmosphere with new team members so the new person doesn’t have to “prove themselves worthy” before being genuinely accepted into the inner circle.
2. There is a noticeable shift in attitudes, behaviors and friendliness between team members and in their interactions with you when the first patients enter the practice at the beginning of each day. It is as if the team is now “on stage” for a performance.
3. Your patients often comment on how much they enjoy being in your office, how friendly and happy everyone is, and how it must be a great place to work. This leads naturally to the willingness (even eagerness) of a vast majority of your patients to refer their friends and family to your practice.
4. You experience very little employee turnover. Once someone joins your team, they recognize it as a unique opportunity and they stay forever. When you do need to hire someone, it is usually a consequence of practice growth and there is a ready pool of candidates due to the outstanding reputation your office has for being such a great place to work.
5. You enjoy all aspects of your practice equally and consider yourself an astute business person as well as a highly skilled and competent clinician. Everyone who really knows you would wholeheartedly agree.
SCORING: Simply add up the numbers you’ve circled. A score of 25 would be “perfect”. You’re having fun!
Guess what, your patients and employees already know the answers to these questions! They know the score.
If there are too many lower numbers it may be a clear indication of a higher than necessary level of stress in your life and also slow or stagnant growth within your practice. Those two things are quite often related. Both also tend to lead to lower than desired personal income.
Let me put a reverse spin on those last three sentences. Doctors who can honestly answer those questions with “all 5’s” will be those who are rarely stressed about work or the office, have practices that continually grow by a healthy margin month after month and year after year, and enjoy the perks that accompany the upper echelons of a high personal income.
Over the next few months, I’ll delve more deeply into this topic here in the newsletter. I really want to work with doctors and their practices to help them mitigate this huge threat in their personal and professional lives, to relieve the unnecessary suffering as a direct result of “fun deprivation.” If this strikes a particular cord with you and you’d like to talk about it, just give me a call. My cell phone number is 214-762-3117.