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As the only physician attending a leadership seminar at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, I was curious to learn what goals my executive colleagues had for the weekend session. Many wanted to practice giving feedback to their employees in ways that engendered results but didn’t foment anger, sadness, or alienation in the employee.

 

The seminar leader told us that frequent encouragement early in the employer-employee relationship helps establish the bed of trust and support needed before giving negative feedback. We learned that empathy and warmth in leaders produces better results from employees. The seminar participants practiced giving feedback on each other, with lots of expressions of appreciation for what the recipient of the feedback was doing well.

 

The participants were shocked, even indignant, when I explained that this kind of trust and respect building is almost nonexistent in the medical profession. There is an information gap between doctors’ employers and their actual work. Patients can, and often do, tell me that “You saved my life” or “I wish you were my regular doctor.” That’s terrific feedback. But there is almost no way for my employer to hear that.

 

Most physicians who are employed by medical groups or hospitals are called on to do three types of tasks: take care of patients, hit metrics involving billing in a manner that maximizes revenue for the hospital, and do clerical work involving electronic charting and ordering of medications and tests.

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