Influencing Without Authority: How Practice Managers Impact Decisions
As practice managers, we have authority over some things, but many decisions we aren't in charge of making affect our jobs, too. Decisions about medical systems and processes, large new purchases, when to hire another doctor, and what new services or products to offer are just a few examples. Influencing without authority is a skill that managers must possess — as the glue of the organization and the person with a bird's-eye view, our opinions are valuable.
Tips on How to Influence Decision-Making
The American Society of Administrative Professionals suggests the following methods:
Build strong relationships: Be an ally of the stakeholders who have the authority to make such decisions. Having a foundation of trust will make it easier to get others to follow your lead. A great way to accomplish this would be to hold regular leadership team meetings. Spend time at each meeting discussing what's working and what isn't in each department so you can represent every department's interests when you propose changes.
Be aware of organizational initiatives:Understand what the short- and long-term goals for the organization are, as well as the financial ups and downs. This will help you make timely suggestions for changes that support the overall goals for the organization. Request monthly or bi-monthly meetings with your owner to keep a pulse on the organization's goals and financial health. Create a dashboard to track goals and key performance indicators, and update it after each meeting.
Listen carefully: Be aware of decision-makers' motives and understand what's most important to them. This allows you to present your opinions and ideas in a way that addresses what matters to them. You'll gain this insight during your monthly leadership meetings and during your one-on-one meetings with the owner.
Be a Source of Knowledge
According to Forbes, you can add expertise and information to the influencing without authority list above as well. Your expertise as a veterinary management professional is valuable and should be used to underpin your recommendations. Information is a powerful motivator. In my experience, veterinarians love data; it's what they use when making medical decisions, so it feels natural to use information for business decisions as well. You can stay abreast of industry trends and find supporting data/resources via DVM360 and through the Veterinary Hospital Managers Association.
Don't be afraid to connect with local practice managers, too. Find out if they've successfully (or unsuccessfully) carried out an initiative that you're considering. Ask them to share what worked and what didn't, as well as any trends they've been able to document such as increased revenue, client satisfaction, or workflow. Tie that data back to the organization's goals and what's motivating or most important to the decision-makers, and then you're on your way to a win!
Lastly, it's important to be respectful. You may do everything right and still see the final decision go another way. And that's okay. The ability to be flexible is practically synonymous with practice management. Just don't let a defeat keep you from trying again. Even if your recommendation wasn't acted upon this time, chances are high that your efforts and display of commitment to the business did not go unnoticed. Stay positive and trust that the decision-makers did what they felt was best for the organization, and support the effort to the best of your ability.