direct report

In the last post, I talked about the Five Intentions I believe every physician executive should have for their direct reports. The intentions are to:

  • Inform
  • Assist
  • Mentor
  • Maintain accountability
  • Evaluate

In Part 2, I want to provide some specific actions that can be taken to fulfill those intentions and cultivate your direct reports.

Now, let's get to the tactics I found most useful.

1. Meet Regularlymeet regularly

In order to influence your direct reports (DRs) you must have consistent face time with them. Set a weekly schedule to meet with them. Don't let other priorities interfere with these meetings. This is the primary time you will have to achieve your five intentions with them.You should include time to talk about personal issues – family, hobbies, etc.

2. Use an AgendaAgenda Clipart

My preference is to have the direct report create the agenda each time. But the agenda should follow a very consistent pattern that includes topics that will impact the five intentions. When I had issues I wanted to discuss, I would email my director and ask her to be sure the item was on her agenda for the meeting.  This served the additional purpose of allowing my director to prepare for the discussion.

A sample agenda should include the following items:

  • Updates from you on any recent senior executive meetings
  • Updates on status of goals or ongoing projects
  • Review of “evergreen” department metrics (budget, satisfaction, volume measures, etc.)
  • Open ended discussion about areas where assistance is needed – how can I help?

3. Non-agenda Items

  • Spend a little time at almost every meeting providing feedback about the director's performance.
  • Provide coaching with respect to important skills – writing, presenting, managing.
  • Ask about any professional development being explored. Encourage participation in leadership training.
  • Discuss participation in community organizations and encourage the DR to join community boards and volunteer with non-profit organizations
  • Identify opportunities for the director to present to the executive team. Review and critique those presentations in advance.
  • Acknowledge the director for any recent accomplishments, goals achieved, recognition in the community, etc.

listen4. Listen

  • Spend most of the time in these meetings listening, not lecturing.
  • Take notes. Write down agreed upon deadlines for milestones of projects and other goals. Bring those notes to future meetings to maintain accountability.
  • Be present, not distracted about other issues you may have or deadlines that are looming that do not involve this director.

5. Ask Questions

As a senior hospital executive, I had access to regular business coaching. On one occasion, during our one hour session we discussed a particularly challenging issue involving an interim director that was clearly not working out. As we neared the end of our session, I felt that I had determined the course of action that I needed to follow. On reflection, I realized that my coach had not actually provided any advice to me. He had made very few declarative statements. Most of his comments were in the form of questions.

I have found that achieving the five intentions above is easier if you ask questions rather than give answers. Fierce conversations, as defined by Susan Scott, are characterized by intense mining for insights.

Your direct reports usually have the answers, so don't let them throw the monkey on your back when they have a challenge or dilemma to resolve. If your DR is coming to you with a “problem” she should have one or two possible solutions already prepared to discuss. Push your directors to seek the answers themselves, rather than expect you to tell them what to do.

6. Other Tactics

Incorporate clarity into all of your conversations. I discussed the importance of clarity in a previous post (The Three Disappointments of a Lack of Clarity). Close your meetings highlighting the actions that were agreed upon and the deadlines attached to each. Which items will be discussed at your next meeting? Which will be due in one month, six months, etc.?

In my previous post (Five Intentions for Direct Reports), I mentioned that I was inconsistent with informing my direct reports about updates from my executive team meetings. My solution for that was to hold monthly meetings with all of my direct reports together. I used these meetings for three main objectives:

  1. To meet in a relaxed setting over a meal (usually lunch) and share personal stories
  2. To enable my directors to interact with each other
  3. To update them as a group about topics being discussed by the system leadership

If you use these tactics and apply them to regularly, you will be an effective leader and manager. Some of these one-on-ones will focus more on goals. Some can be focused on budgets, or other specific items. But, over time, all of these issues should be consistently addressed with your DRs.

What tactics have you seen that successfully engage your colleagues or employees?