I’ve been a physician for over 40 years. I’ve held administrative posts for more than half of that time. I’ve been a Psychiatrist-in-Chief at a private hospital, an academic department chair, etc. I am well trained as a doctor and psychiatrist. I learned how to do assessments, differential diagnosis, and treatment plans. But administration? I have had next to no formal training.
Typically, medical administrators are chosen for intelligence, some measure of social skills, and (one hopes) being a good doctor. In academia, teaching, science, and scholarship also are prized. But these have little to do with predicting aptitude at management and leadership. And even if someone has the raw talent and instincts, there are vast areas to be comprehended: finance, accounting, human resources, strategic planning, and much, much more.
In blogs to come, I will share a few tips I’ve learned in the “school of hard knocks.” First and foremost, as a new administrator (whether in a clinic, private practice, mental-health center, public or private hospital, or university) you need to know what you don’t know. The best clinicians know their limits. The same holds true for administrators. On that first day, you’ll likely be hit with a knotty issue about hiring, firing, promotion, resources, or budget. Knowing that you don’t have a clue is the first step toward wisdom and knowledge. Find out whom to turn to: a colleague, peer, predecessor, consultant, superior. Talk to an old friend who has preceded you in the world of management. And resolve to get some formal training—just as soon as the shell shock wears off.