Monthly Leadership Favorites – April 2017 Edition

Don't Ruin An Apology With An Excuse

It’s time for the VITAL Physician Executive’s Monthly Leadership Favorites – April 2017 Edition. In this feature I share inspiring and enlightening advice from respected leaders, generally from outside of healthcare (but not always).

Leadership Favorites – April 2017 Edition

This month’s favorites follow…

United Airlines Faux Pas

United Airlines provided some obvious examples recently of how NOT to treat your customers (a.k.a. patients). Without getting into the weeds, here is what was reported:

  • United Airlines overbooked a flight;
  • UAL subsequently found that it needed four of the seats for its own employees to travel;
  • The discovery did not happen until after the paying passengers were already seated;
  • Four passengers were reportedly selected, using an unclear algorithm, to leave the plane to accommodate the employees;
  • Three of them left quietly, but one passenger refused to exit;
  • The passenger that refused to give up his seat was confronted and forcibly removed by airport security personnel;
  • Much of the altercation was videotaped by other passengers and has been extensively shared on YouTube and other social media;
  • The initial responses to the incident by the CEO of UAL was less than stellar.

Failure Promotes Discovery and Breeds Character

Remembering an Influential Friend

I was awakened at 2:30 AM by the ringing of my home telephone not two feet away. It was startling and disorienting. My “land-line” never rang at night. And my wife and I rarely answer it because only telemarketers call us on that phone.

failure promotes discovery bad news

But my wife answered. She determined that the caller wanted to speak to me. After clearing my head for a few seconds and focusing on what the caller was trying to tell me, I finally heard:

“This is Maya. I am calling to tell you that my father, Kan, died earlier this week.”

The Looming American Association for Physician Leadership Annual Conference

An Opportunity for Inspiration, Learning and Networking

I really miss attending the physician leadership annual conference of the AAPL. For the past 2 ½ years, I have been consumed with starting a new urgent care center north of Chicago. In addition to interviewing, hiring, writing policies and procedures, and training staff, this required that I study for the American Board of Family Medicine exam (thankfully, I passed!).

It also required a thorough review of workers compensation and occupational medicine. And I needed to take a mandatory course and exam by the National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners in order to conduct physical examinations for interstate commercial motor vehicle drivers.

As a result, I was not able to attend any recent American Association for Physician Leadership Annual Conference or Institute.

However, I am now registered to attend the 2017 Spring Institute and Annual Meeting! They run back to back from April 18 through April 23, in New York City. And my wife will be attending with me because she loves New York.

Top Reasons to Reintroduce Your CME Program

Benefits For Patients, Physicians, and Your Organization

I’ve spent lots of time involved in planning, producing, evaluating and participating in CME. And I’ve observed over the past two decades that the number of CME providers in Illinois, where I live, has been declining. But there are recent changes that indicate that it’s time to reintroduce your CME program if your organization has withdrawn from the CME planning world.

reintrodure your cme program lecture

Participating in CME (continuing medical education) has been a big part of my professional life. After completing my residency, and joining a hospital medical staff, the first committee I was assigned to was the “Program and Education Committee” (a.k.a. the CME Committee).

Preparing to Be a Better Physician Leader – Part 2

A List of Important Skills to Learn and Practice

I started this series by discussing the attitudes or perspectives that physician leaders should understand and adopt. I would like to complete it with a description of some practical skills that you should seek to learn or enhance. If you are early in the journey, you can try to observe these skills in others as you’re preparing to be a better physician leader.

This is a process. Like any new realm of learning, we follow a path from awareness, to understanding, knowledge, competence, and eventually, mastery. This process may take years to complete.


The Chief Operating Officer and I asked the Director of the Laboratory, Sheila, to join us to discuss a challenge she was experiencing with her staff. I was still learning the ropes about working with directors of hospital departments like the Lab. The COO was quite good at sorting through difficult issues and building strong teams.

The director was very frustrated. She spoke about a particularly difficult employee. Peter had been working as a laboratory technician for many years. Every few months he would become the center of some drama in the department. He would be “written up” and then not be heard from for several months.

Preparing to Be a Better Physician Leader – Part 1

A List of Important Attitudes to Examine

Several events this week inspired me to think about preparing to be a better physician leader.

A colleague reminded me about the upcoming Spring Institute and Annual Meeting of the American Association for Physician Leadership. I had just completed registering myself. And I volunteered to act as an ambassador, assisting with introducing speakers and helping to support the meeting.

Networking with colleagues and old friends will be fun. And I look forward to spending time in New York City with my wife, Kay, when I am not attending educational sessions.

better physician leader board

As vice president of the local nonprofit hospice board, I had the privilege of chairing the board meeting because the president was out-of-town. It was interesting to observe how the board members, many of them leaders in their own organizations, communicate with one another and run some of the subcommittees to which they are assigned. It is a very effective team.

How to Evaluate Direct Reports

Objective Key Performance Indicators Beat Subjective Measures

Julie waited patiently in the small waiting area in the administrative suite. As the Director for Inpatient Nursing Services , it was time for her biweekly meeting with Patricia (Pat), the Chief Nursing Officer. Pat opened the door to her office and motioned for Julie to come in and sit down. As she did, Pat recalled the lecture she attended the previous year about how to evaluate direct reports, and the subsequent adoption of their new process.

evaluate direct reports meeting

It was early August, and Julie and Pat had already received the most recent update on Julie’s balanced scorecard. The scorecard listed four key responsibilities as well as the three goals she and Janice had agreed upon at the beginning of the year. The scorecard contained data through the second quarter, ending June 30.

After some small talk, and briefly discussing a new manager on one of Julie’s units, they shifted their conversation to Julie’s scorecard. During the previous year the entire organization had implement this formal, objective evaluation process as a pilot. It had worked well, so it had been officially implemented in January.

Monthly Leadership Favorites – March 2017 Edition

A few wise and inspiring items

It’s time for the VITAL Physician Executive’s Monthly Leadership Favorites – March 2017 Edition. In this feature I share inspiring and enlightening advice from respected leaders, generally from outside of healthcare (but not always).

March Favorites

This month’s favorites follow…

productivity and leadership favorites - march 2017 edition

Productivity Pointers

Create a Personal Mission Statement for the Life YOU Want by the Productive Physician should inspire us to become more intentional

This is the first time I am offering content from The Productive Physician. I have been following him for about 6 months.

The Eight Essential Abilities The CEO Wants In A Chief Medical Officer

Focus on These Skills When Developing Your Career

I am sometimes asked: what does a CEO look for in a CMO? I’ve heard this discussed at the American Association for Physician Leadership (AAPL) meetings and American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE) meetings, and it was a topic of discussion during the week-long tutorial for the Certified Physician Executive (CPE) qualification. I’ve looked at dozens of job descriptions which also provides insight into identifying the essential abilities the CEO wants in a Chief Medical Officer.

abilities the ceo wants in a cmo leader

There is no one set of skills or abilities, of course. Each organization and CEO will be looking for a set of skills to meet its unique needs. But there are some common themes.

After the hospitalist movement began, it wasn’t on the radar at our 300-bed hospital for many years. Robert Wachter and Lee Goldman made the case for dedicated hospital-based physicians years earlier. And as DRG payments failed to keep up with inflation, and inpatient care became more complicated and costly, it seemed our medical staff was not becoming any more efficient with inpatient care.

Blogging Has Taught Me 9 Keys To Writing Quickly And Clearly

A Skill Every Healthcare Executive Needs

After making a commitment to write consistently at Vital Physician Executive, I quickly learned that writing regularly can be a daunting task. From topic selection, to creating content efficiently, it is a process that requires practice and a perseverence. I’ve sought to learn the keys to writing quickly and efficiently. I believe the effort has been worth it, because the written word is so important for inspiring, teaching, entertaining and engaging others.


Some years ago, a young African-American came to the realization that the key to escaping the poverty and hopelessness into which he had been born was to escape from illiteracy. Hence, he devoted much of his youth to educating himself. He not only learned to read, but to speak and write passionately and eloquently.

After moving from his birthplace in Maryland as a young man, he began to write about his experiences and found a following for his writings. Eventually, he published a book describing his life as a young black man in the U.S. Those writings and his speeches inspired thousands of persons who read them to join the movement that he had committed himself to.

frederick douglas keys to writing quickly

His book, written and published at the age of 27, described in detail his life under, and escape from, slavery. It was published 16 years before the start of the U.S. Civil War, and made a meaningful contribution to the abolitionist movement that eventually ended slavery. That author was Frederick Douglass.

Great writing can have profound effects. It is an essential skill of any leader. Verbal communication is important. But writing serves as the basis for most important forms of lasting communication, even if the message is delivered in a speech. Whether writing a scientific presentation, book, white paper, or newsletter to our colleagues, it is a fundamental skill that must be learned.