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Being the best you can be. (Leadership).

We hear a lot about performance today. We use many labels to describe top performers--high achievers, fast trackers and Type-A's. Whatever they are called, these are people who share several common characteristics:

* They are talented.

* They focus on doing what they love to do.

* They accomplish more with the resources they have been given than most people do.

* They work quickly.

* They understand how to leverage their strengths.

* Their personalities are as diverse as their talents.

* They achieve good results with less effort than the rest of us.

Performance is more important now than ever. It used to be enough that you showed up for work each day and did your job. Not so today! Now, you must not only show up, but you must consistently add value if you expect to hold your job.

Some people are being passed over for promotions or "plum" assignments because they have stagnated and are not proactively growing and/or adding value to the organization. The crisis of rising health care costs is forcing many tough decisions, not the least of which are personnel changes based on poor or marginal performance evaluations.

Leadership competencies are changing too. In the past, organizations were structured for top-down decision making, more of a command and control mentality. Today, the emphasis is on empowered work teams whose interdependence drives results. This requires leaders who are team players and see the value in interdependence. Their leadership style needs to be more democratic than autocratic.

This is particularly challenging for physicians who also are managers and leaders because their professional expertise has been demonstrated as individual contributors in medicine, not as managers. Learning to adapt to a team environment and to getting things done through and with people are, therefore, major areas of development for physicians.

Stay competitive

To be competitive in today's marketplace you must operate at your best. You do not have to be the best in your profession, but you must strive to operate at your personal best by optimizing your strengths.

As managers, you cannot bring out the best in others if you are not optimizing our own talents. If you do this you will have:

* Increased job satisfaction

* Improved productivity and results

* A desire to innovate and be agents of change

* A more upbeat attitude

* Direct reports and other stakeholders who are more likely to be motivated to perform at their best

So how do you bring out the best in yourself? There are three important steps:

* Identify your motivational "sweet spot" and leverage it in all you do

* Make sure you are in alignment with your organization

* Check your priorities

Find motivational "sweet spot"

Every golfer works hard on his or her grip and body positioning to contact the ball at' the "sweet spot" of the club face, the spot that will transfer the most energy to the ball. Each person has a motivational sweet spot, an innate motivational pattern that, if identified and leveraged properly, will optimize the person's strengths for the greatest productivity and satisfaction.

To identify this pattern, you need to study the peaks or accomplishments that reveal your basic motivational pattern. In Figure 1 the peaks are specific situations where you performed well, "loved" doing it and accomplished something important to you. Each of these three factors must be true of an activity to qualify it as originating from your motivational sweet spot.

First, identify accomplishments that made you feel "in the zone," highly motivated and passionate about what you were doing at the time--such as delivering a lecture, researching a rare disease, performing a surgical procedure or mentoring a young resident.

These experiences do not have to be work related. In fact, it's particularly enlightening to include accomplishments beginning in childhood and throughout your life, both inside and outside of work. The key is that you really enjoyed doing it, you did it well and it brought you real satisfaction and fulfillment,

Your "sweet spot" is an innate, permanent part of who you are. Some have found that they feel a greater sense of purpose in life when they function within the parameters of this motivational pattern.

Second, for each accomplishment ask yourself a few questions:

* What abilities (such as communicating, designing, analyzing) were you using?

* What subject matter (people, instruments, concepts) was involved?

* What circumstances (challenges, time pressure, recognition) were in play that triggered and sustained your motivation?

* What role (individual contributor, team member, facilitator) did I play relative to other people?

* What objective (overcome obstacles, make an impact, build or develop something) were you trying to accomplish?

Third, by analyzing the peak performance experiences or accomplishments, you can define a pattern of motivation that is constant through your life and drives your behavior. Figure 2 depicts the relationship of our motivational pattern to our current job.

Job satisfaction is a function of the overlap of these rectangles--the greater the overlap the greater the job satisfaction, People with greater congruence will say, "I can't believe I get paid to do this," while those with too little overlap report a lack of motivation or fulfillment in their jobs,

The shaded area "A" in Figure 2 represents parts of the job you are not motivated to do, while shaded area "B" represents aspects of your motivational pattern that are not fulfilled in your job. For the latter, you may hear a little voice inside saying "find a way to bring this into your job and you will be much happier." This is not always possible so the "B" areas are typically relegated to hobbies and free time.

To illustrate how other health care leaders have leveraged their sweet spots, consider the experiences of five department chairs I interviewed prior to a leadership workshop at a medical school. I asked them about best practices and how they discovered their passion and achieved their motivational objectives. Their responses are described in Figure 3.

Notice how in each case, the motivational driver pushed them to achieve certain results based on a set of beliefs and triggered by certain circumstances and factors.

Check your alignment

Figure 4 shows how the individual can align with the organization on several levels:

* Why we come to work each day

* What we focus our energy on accomplishing

* Characteristics of our approach

* How we apply our talents

* The context in which we work

When you are out of alignment in any of these aspects, you will find it difficult to perform at your best and fully optimize your talents to achieve desired business results.

For example, one very accomplished health care leader figured out that his career vision did not align with the organization where he worked, so he left to pursue his dreams elsewhere. A fundamental role you have as a manager is to Create alignment between your employees and the organization in these five areas.

Check your priorities

Fred Smith, the founder of FEDEX, regularly asked his associates three questions whenever he spent some time alone with them:

1. Are you happy with what you are doing?

2. Are you happy with where you are going?

3. Are you happy with what you are becoming?

The first question is most frequently asked and typically relates to job satisfaction. The second is more penetrating and forces us to reflect on the direction our career path is taking us. Is it the right direction and will it be the most satisfying for us in the long run? Should I make a "mid-course correction?"

However, the real grabber is #3. Many successful executives struggle as they come to grips with the reality that what they are becoming is not what they intended. Maybe they've become a workaholic who has climbed the professional ladder of success at the expense of family or other personal priorities.

Maybe they have become an angry person or a self-absorbed person or someone obsessed about something to the exclusion of others. What am I becoming? is a very important question, the answer to which can dramatically impact your life going forward. Do not get caught berating yourself at retirement by saying, "If I had it to do over again I would do it very differently." Make changes while you still can.

To further reinforce the importance of priorities, you can apply these three questions to the six priority areas shown in Figure 5. Use this chart as your guide to generate tough questions to ask yourself about your real priorities.

Emotional refers to our moods, self-esteem, and all that makes up how we feel each day. Many health care professionals are so focused on thinking and doing that they are completely out of touch with how they actually feel. Yet those around us detect and are impacted by our emotional state positively or negatively, so it is wise for us to pay attention as well.

Spiritual are those aspects of our being that cannot always be understood rationally or emotionally but are nevertheless real. Spiritual includes religious aspects of life, certainly, but goes beyond to that which defines our being and differentiates us from the animal world. It refers to philosophical, metaphysical aspects that point to the meaning and purpose of life. For many professionals who operate primarily on the rational level of ideas based on scientific fact, the spiritual realm offers a whole new world of experience and meaning.

Intellectual refers to our cognitive processes, how we think and reason. For most health care professionals, this part of our lives is overused and must be balanced by the other five priorities. Even if you focus on intellectual pursuits, it is wise to expand your view to other disciplines like reading and thinking about art, relationships, innovation and new problems and challenges not ordinarily part of your daily routine or health care in general.

Vocational includes your occupation and all aspects that define your career path. Being the best you can be at your profession is the goal of most people and typically is a high priority. The question is: Are you growing professionally and headed somewhere meaningful in your career or are you stagnating?

Physical refers to your body, how you care for it and what you do with it. With today's news regularly focusing the negative effects of obesity, smoking, lack of exercise, excessive alcohol consumption and lack of work/life balance, health care professionals more than most people should be attuned to the need to maintain a healthy focus on our physical well-being.

Finally, interpersonal is the social aspect of our life, how we relate to others and they to us. Fostering good communication skills is the key to healthy interpersonal relationships. Many professionals find that their careers flourish at the expense of their social lives. It is important to broaden your relationships outside of your profession and learn to relate to a diverse spectrum of people. Teamwork is clearly a high priority for today's managers and leaders and teamwork begins with strong interpersonal skills and behaviors.

By taking these steps, you will be more in touch with the real you, your strengths and how to leverage your strengths and priorities to be the best that you can be.
FIG. 3

Examples of Leveraging the Motivational "Sweet Spot"

Physician Motivational Beliefs
Executive Objective

 A Collaborate to * Everyone benefits when
 meet the no one is left behind
 challenge of the * New possibilities emerge
 disadvantaged when you collaborate

 B Make an impact * Development hinges on
 on faculty good performance
 development, set feedback
 standard for * Model behavior you want
 others to see in others

 C Conduct * Clinical cures must be
 innovative linked to research
 research with * Talent needs to be drawn
 high quality out--can't be forced

 D Set the standard, * Empower; listen,
 be the best in my facilitate, have strong
 field mentors, encourage
 others you want to

 E Make impact on * Team spirit motivates
 the system and people to grow and
 underserved develop

Physician Circumstantial Triggers Results
Executive of Motivation

 A * Team sports * Created health care
 * Team problem solving system that integrated best
 * Exposure to Native care with most vulnerable
 Americans members of society

 B * Learning environment * Faculty evaluation plan
 * Linking learning with implemented
 research and clinical * Supportive and affirming
 tone promotes strong

 C * Role models as a * Able to attract high caliber
 student research-oriented faculty
 * Opportunities to grow * Able to procure excellent
 technology to match faculty

 D * Educational * Developed a leading
 environment national OB/GYN
 * Performance department
 benchmarks and

 E * Compassion for the * Cost efficient and
 underserved comprehensive dental care
 * Exposure to key issues for underserved patients

FIG. 4

Good Alignment Helps Bring Out the Best In Each of Us

Individual Organization

Passion/Interests WHY Vision
Career Goals WHAT Mission/Strategy
Personality CHARACTERISTICS Culture
Competencies HOW Tasks/Roles
Values/Beliefs CONTEST Values

Bill Tiffan is owner of Tiffan Consulting, Inc. in Atlanta, Ga. He can be reached by phone at (770-8049280 and by e-mail at
COPYRIGHT 2003 American College of Physician Executives
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2003, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Author:Tiffan, Bill
Publication:Physician Executive
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:May 1, 2003
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