May 2020


Covid-19 News You Can Use
Being a leader in a time of crisis

by Liz Hillman Editorial Co-Director

Ophthalmologists are being looked at for leadership now more than ever within their practices. But how to lead effectively in the midst of a pandemic affecting not just global health status but also the economy is a challenge.
EyeWorld reached out to experts for their advice on how MDs can man the helm during this crisis with the novel coronavirus known as SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19. Bruce Maller said in a March webinar offered by BSM Consulting that this is “how leaders should act all the time but even more so during a crisis.”
“Leaders will have everything to do with success as we come back out the other side,” he said.

Remain calm, create a task force

Laura Baldwin said it is important for physician business owners to “remain calm and be seen as someone who can and will lead the practice through these turbulent times.” The first step is to get educated: about the situation, about the financial health and operations of the practice, and about programs and government stimulus that could offer aid.
“This is more than one person can manage, so it is essential that a core team is assembled to assist with the many moving parts,” Ms. Baldwin said. “Create a task force of essential team members that will be instrumental in helping to create and implement your plan. Engage with experienced and trusted advisors to ensure you are thinking about the right things. Deliver frequent, transparent, empathetic, and hopeful communication. Now more than ever, people need to hear from the physician leaders, and they need to know ‘we’ve got this.’”

Communicate often, acknowledge fear

Ms. Baldwin said it is important to acknowledge the uncertainty and stress employees might have during this time.
“People need to know a leader is connected to and appreciates the very real emotions that they feel,” she said.
Once these feelings are acknowledged, she continued, you can begin to provide a plan that includes “reassurance, transparency, and commitment to doing what’s right for the organization, its people, and patients served.”
“People are amazingly able to deal with reality, even if it has a significant downside. It’s the unknown that is paralyzing,” said Jim Haudan. “A leader’s job is to bring the facts about ‘exactly where we are’ to their organization and teams. In times of economic trouble, not only can most people handle it, they crave it. Be truthful about job security. If there are no guarantees, tell them. Uncertainty and ambiguity can be more harmful than the bad news itself.”
As Ms. Baldwin put it, when people are left to wonder, they create their own narratives, often negative. So frequent communication with the team and patients at this time is vital. Though email and phone calls are easy modes of communication during social isolation, Kevin Denny, MD, stressed the importance of seeing each other. For example, he has moved what was a regular in-person resident check-in conference to a video chat.
“There is a difference between the level of communication that takes places in an email vs. being in the room,” he said. “Meeting regularly with residents and my practice staff, now virtually, we’re looking at one another, hearing each other’s voices, and seeing expressions, which makes all the difference in understanding.”

Be there for patients

While a practice leader might be focused inward on how to usher staff and business through this crisis, patients, even if they’re not coming into the office, need communication, too.
“Patients want to know they’re not forgotten,” Dr. Denny said.
“Given our evolving understanding of the COVID-19 disease, we should present information in a way that conveys the limits of our knowledge, while reassuring patients that medical science is working hard to increase our effectiveness,” he continued.
Dr. Denny said his team communicated with patients at several points in the COVID-19 situation and reassured them that they could contact the team via email for urgent matters.
“We’re not seeing patients in the office unless there is a need to, but they can reach us this way. So they’re not alone,” Dr. Denny said.

Understand what’s within your control

Very quickly in a crisis, leaders have to focus on what’s within their control, creating a solutions-based plan with confident, decisive actions, Ms. Baldwin said.
Mr. Haudan recommended having members of a core team write down their thoughts and discuss as a team what’s within their control vs. not. “For the things that are within our control, look at them with fresh eyes and outline new ways to approach them in the current environment,” he said.

Prepare for mistakes, take advice

One of the main points Dr. Denny made was to be prepared to make and acknowledge mistakes, listening to advice that might lead toward a better decision. Dr. Denny said he originally planned to still host his Department of Ophthalmology grand rounds in person, taking precautions with adequate space between attendees, no hand shaking, etc. But after proposing this, some trusted colleagues approached him and suggested video instead, which has allowed spirited discussions but to an even wider audience than before.
“While ophthalmologists aren’t on the critical care frontlines with COVID-19, we are responsible for keeping our practices viable until we can resume care. Trusted advisors and colleagues are a godsend, since it’s not possible to be an expert about every possible question,” Dr. Denny said, adding later that he took BSM Consulting’s March 26 webinar “Business Survival Through The COVID-19 Crisis,” which he called a “master class on leadership through this challenge.”
Along the same vein of seeking advice, Mr. Haudan recommended deputizing “opportunity scouts.” Get your team involved in imagining a response to various situations.
“Their ideas for weathering the storm on both the cost and revenue sides of the business are often better than what most leaders could implement on their own,” he said.

Take care of yourself

“The airlines use a great line during their pre-flight safety messages—put your oxygen mask on first,” Ms. Baldwin said, noting that taking care of yourself demonstrates true leadership.
It can be easy to let one’s own physical and emotional needs slide when focusing on tasks related to crisis management, but Ms. Baldwin said it’s healthy to make time for each of these. Even a 10-minute walk a few times a day can provide a much-needed energy boost. Adequate sleep is also essential, in addition to proper nutrition and hydration.
As for spiritual needs, Ms. Baldwin said these may look different among individuals and “could include meditation or mindfulness, a nature walk, or anything that fills your tank.” Acknowledging gifts and expressing gratitude can help one’s mental state as well.
“Whatever it is for you, becoming more consciously aware and expressing gratitude is a wonderful way to boost your spirits—and the spirits of others—during this difficult time,” Ms. Baldwin said.

About the sources

Laura Baldwin
Principal, senior consultant, and certified professional coach
BSM Consulting
Phoenix, Arizona

Kevin Denny, MD
Frank Stein and Paul May Director
The Pacific Vision Eye Institute
Chair of the Department of Ophthalmology
California Pacific Medical Center
San Francisco, California

Jim Haudan
Founder and chairman
Root Inc.
Sylvania, Ohio

Bruce Maller
Founder and CEO
BSM Consulting
Incline Village, Nevada

7 things leaders should do in the time of crisis

From Bruce Maller in the BSM Consulting March 26 webinar

•Get educated
•Act the part of a leader
•Be decisive
•Be selfless
•Be hopeful
•Be clear, be conscience
•Demonstrate empathy



Being a leader in a time of crisis Being a leader in a time of crisis
Ophthalmology News - EyeWorld Magazine
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