We are living in a truly unprecedented time. A highly contagious virus is sweeping across our country, and there seems to be little practical guidance on what people working in practices should actually do.
As I talk to doctors, practice owners, managers and team leads, I often sense feelings of deep worry or even helplessness that I have not encountered since the beginning of the pandemic. Our staff members are once again dealing with sick families, canceled schools, and quarantines. For many of us, this is the highest risk of needing to temporarily shut down our practices that we have faced. It makes perfect sense that some of us are more than a bit stressed.
I know my own team has felt this pinch, and the combination of working short-handed along with carrying extra concerns for the health and wellbeing of our friends, family and loved ones has taken a toll. I often find myself wondering what I, as a leader and cheerleader of my colleagues, can actually DO.
The answer, I’ve decided, is to simply try to serve as an eddy in the river of stress and uncertainty flowing around us. Notice that I’m not saying we should be a “lighthouse shining the way” or a “beacon of strength!” I don’t think that’s an honest way for most of us to behave. It would feel deeply disingenuous to me, and I don’t want to feel inauthentic while I’m also feeling all the other feels that are coming along with this pandemic spike. Nor do I want to throw out bold statements or plans that feel dismissive of the struggles around me, or that I have no way of actually making happen.
Right now, I am accepting that I do not have all the answers, the power to fix most of the problems I see in the world, or even all the information I need to make very good short-term plans. I am aware that I do not know who will show up for work tomorrow (including myself!), what those people who do show up are struggling with, or how best to help them. I am reminding myself that this too shall pass, that I am a human being like everyone else, and that I do have the power to choose how I respond to the challenges I am faced with.
As people look to the leaders in their practices (and their lives), I believe the best thing these leaders can do is offer some stability. We can model acceptance of circumstances beyond our control and respond to stress and frustration with kindness (both for ourselves and others). We can listen to understand, and not just to get things done. We can forgive ourselves so we remember the grace to forgive others who wrong us in their misdirected anger and frustration.
Most of all, we can be honest about what we as normal human beings are capable of doing and what we are not. We can practice patience and remember that our primary goal is not to do the most and best work that we have ever done in our careers right now. It’s to help those who need it while taking good enough care of ourselves and our teams to ensure we will still be here in a year, or two years, or ten.
If nothing else, please remember that it’s not a leader’s job to make every client happy, to perform work capacity well beyond a reasonable expectation, or to have answers that no one else has figured out yet. It is a leader’s job to set an example. Be patient, be calm, be kind, be certain that things will get better.