What Bad Doctors Can Teach Good Leaders

When’s the last time you were on your way to work and thought, “Today I want someone else’s life miserable!”

Not likely.

But maybe there’s someone at work (a boss, employee, vendor or customer) whose sole purpose on earth seems to be to make your life miserable.Just thinking about them can prompt a strong emotional response.

Do you think they really intend to make your life miserable?  Just as with you, not likely.

But when you’re on the receiving end of an action where you’re now feeling miserable, you don’t stop and think about others’ intentions: you just feel bad. You’ve been “triggered”—that is, provoked into negative emotions.As a leader, in the course of a busy workday, you’ve got a lot going on.  It’s easy to lose sight of which of your actions may trigger others.

Remain blind at your own risk: triggers impact relationships and results.I experienced this impact first-hand recently.I’d been referred to a podiatrist by my primary care physician due to some ongoing pain in my left foot.  My appointment was for 10:00 am.I arrived a few minutes early for the appointment.  After filling out a clipboard with a stack of forms, I grabbed a copy of TIME as I waited for my name to be called.

At 10:20, I went back up to the receptionist to ask when I’d be seen.Five more minutes.

Eleven minutes later, I was brought into an examining room.The doctor will be with you shortly.

Another twelve minutes goes by. (I’m timing this, can you tell?)

It’s nearly 10:45.  The doctor finally comes into the room.Let’s see what’s going on here.

He looked at the laptop on the assistant’s table and started to review my case.

  • No introduction.

  • No hello.

  • No inquiry.

In the course of the next four minutes the doctor was in and out.I’d attempted to explain my issue to the doctor, but was interrupted–and told what my issue was.By the time I walked out of the office, I felt like an object: a mere health care transaction.The doctor had role modeled some of the top triggers, all in one fell swoop:

  • I’d been kept waiting

  • My time was wasted

  • I didn’t feel heard

  • I wasn’t respected

  • The doctor had a patronizing attitude

When I left the office, my first thought was:I never want to go back there again.It appears that some doctors just don’t get that fact that the practice of medicine involves peopleFor example, a study of obstetricians found that about 6 percent of obstetricians accounted for more than 70 percent of all malpractice-related expenses over a five-year period.

On the other hand, research shows that doctors who are sued less spend more time asking their patients questions about their condition, and get their patients to talk.  These physicians smile and laugh with their patients, and spend more time with them overall.

What are these doctors doing differently?  They don’t practice trigger-based medicine.

Think about the best and worst leaders you know:  how do they differ at causing triggers?  What difference does it make?  Join the conversation by leaving a comment below.

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