Medicine isn’t an individual act; it is a team process. Harvard Business School researchers, Robert Huckman and Gary Pisano, tracked over 200 cardiac surgeons practicing at 43 hospitals. After analyzing more than 38,000 procedures, Huckman and Pisano found that patient mortality rates were no better after the surgeons had performed 100 surgeries than after the first few surgeries. A closer look at the data revealed that the surgeons did get better as they gained more experience at a particular hospital. The technologies weren’t any different from one hospital to another; but the healthcare professionals were. As the surgeons worked with a core team of nurses and anesthesiologists at one hospital, they developed effective routines that leveraged the unique talents of each member.
Today, successful and highly functioning teams are an essential part of the ability to deliver high-quality, cost-effective, and patient-centered care. Physicians are trained to be highly competent individual contributors. What can be challenging, however, is a sense of loss of direct control over the work when the physician has the dual roles of individual contributor and team member. To be a good team player in an environment where success comes, not only from what is accomplished individually, but also from what is accomplished through others on the team, means that your perspective will shift from having authority to being an influencer.
Effective Team Medicine
You will increase your influence and the effectiveness of your team as you keep your personal attention on the following actions:
Cast The Vision
Often people don’t do what we want, because we have not invested the time to paint the vision. In my experience, people want a challenge to do something significant.
A team that lacks trust will try to conceal their weaknesses or mistakes, may hesitate to ask for help, or may not offer to help others. What you can do is: admit what you don’t know; ask for help; accept feedback; and focus on important things, rather than politics of the workplace.
Handle Conflict Well
Teams that handle conflict well have interesting meetings, extract ideas from all members, put critical topics on the table to discuss, and solve real problems quickly. To encourage constructive conflict, create an environment where people can share their thoughts. Manage your emotions, and be willing to ask whether a discussion really would be in the service of getting the best results.
Focus On Results
Teams that don’t make commitments suffer from ambiguity about direction and priorities, which can cause over-analysis, fear of failure, and delay. Ask questions to create clarity around direction, in order to focus your team on their objectives. Review key decisions at the end of meetings, and determine next steps, so that everyone clearly is aligned when the meetings are over.
All of us have areas of expertise, workflows that we have worked out for ourselves, and tips to share with others. Your knowledge can be pooled with the knowledge of others, making the unit cohesive and, therefore, much stronger and more helpful than just a loose confederation of people who are trying to get things done on their own. As an influential contributor to your teams, you make the difference in best outcomes and helping the most people!