Leadership Intelligence: Managing 'Up' in Practice

On 15 May, 2013 in Human Resources by Rosie Overfield

As a new team leader or manager it can be a daunting task to communicate effectively with the practice owner. Here are four key tips for working smoothly together:

  1. Your Manager/Owner doesn’t know everything. That is why they have entrusted you to a leadership role. Be kind to them. They are busy too.
  2. Discover their preferred communication and problem solving style. If they are analytical and methodical, asking them to make a decision on the spot is not ideal. Mirror their communication style and ask them questions about how best you can work with them.
  3. When wanting decisions or answers, do the thinking for them. For example; if the practice requires equipment upgrades, don’t just ask “When can we have a new autoclave?”. Do the research and present the ‘must know’ details in a concise format. Most people will prefer this in writing. Make sure you address the WIIFM (what’s in it for me/my business).

    Include all costings and cost per day etc. to help them see the value. Also include ROI information such as how many dentals need to be done to pay back the investment. This demonstrates your business acumen and that you have the owner’s interests in mind.

    Funnel the information down to no more than 3 options with pro’s and con’s for each. Don’t be afraid to say what you think is best, but unless instructed always respect the fact that it is the business owner who should make the final decision.
  4. Use ‘I statements’ for assertively raising issues. Nobody likes a whinger. A good team leader can assertively communicate a problem but should also be ready to offer a solution. Speak in a calm, adult tone of voice. The model below demonstrates an effective communication pattern:



“When you don’t prioritise our management meetings …


…I feel disappointed because I need to hear your decisions and gain direction for the week ahead …


…for the future, can you please advise me on the best time of day that we can get together …


… and I’ll do my best to keep your work diary free and get us offsite to meet. Would that work for you?”

Stay tuned for next month's Leadership Intelligence blog post: Time and Stress Management.

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