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Experience can be a cruel teacher, but it can shape us into better leaders.

Fam Pract Manag. 2024;31(2):3

I'm an old dude. At least that's what my kids say. I don't know the current slang, the music I listen to can officially be labeled “oldies,” and my fashion sense is solidly locked into the last millennium.

Someone once said with age comes wisdom. I'm not sure about that, but age does bring experience.

Ergo, I have experience. Since the early days of my career, I've been lucky to do both clinical and administrative work — always simultaneously. I've never wanted to give up seeing patients in exchange for sitting in meetings all day, nor do I want to swap creating a useful PowerPoint presentation for yet one more annual wellness visit. I like the balance, and I've always found interest in the different skill sets required.

Over the course of my career, I've observed two things about successful physician administrators.

First, successful physician leaders listen more than they speak. I'm sure you are aware of the study showing physicians interrupt patients after only 18 seconds, on average.1 While I'd like to think family physicians do better than that, taking charge is in our DNA, I suppose. We are busy, analytical, critical thinkers, and we want to know certain data points. So we interrupt and ask. In an administrative setting, I've found that the information often will be presented in a structured way and you just have to be patient and let it unfold. A good presentation will lay out the problem, some background, and then finally the “ask.” By listening to the whole thing and then following up with questions, it allows for a more productive outcome. Also, logistically, if everyone is shouting out questions, then nothing gets accomplished. In a one-on-one situation, like meeting with another physician, I try to keep in mind I'm there to help solve a problem. I want to be like a detective, and my main tools are listening and observing.

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