Define Your Internal Image

By: Kriss Barlow, RN, MBA

“Being aware of your fear is smart. Overcoming it is the mark of a successful person.” –Seth Godin

It’s human nature to want to feel respected and valued for the work we do. However, for some physician strategy roles, positive affirmation is hard to get!  Let’s face it: Working with physicians can be rugged, and yet the bigger challenge often ends up being relationships with the internal team or leaders. Perhaps it’s time to change it up and create a plan to define or (re-define) your internal image.

How am I perceived?

Take the time to do a personal assessment.  If you have 360’s at your organization, use them to help you jump-start the process. Consider the categories of internal stakeholders and assess things like: How often does your boss cancel meetings with you? How often does someone seek you out for an expert opinion? Compared to you, are others given more opportunities to speak in a group setting? Are you often asked to “just put it in writing” rather than attend a meeting? This is not about right or wrong; it’s about being brutally honest about your current status.  Set the baseline for today.

What’s realistic?

Call out people and processes that demonstrate opportunities. Create your ideal internal image and write it down.  Be specific about your expectations and set a timeline.  I suspect it goes without saying, but a realistic expectation is not, “I want all the C-suite to let me know every time there is a physician involved business decision.”  Attainable goals include measurable actions, specific people and practical business expectations.  I really believe this works best if you call out one or two people. If you feel you have many layers of work to do, start with one level higher than you and work up the chain of command.

Evaluate the internal culture and professional style of the internal stakeholders. Observe how they work with each other and notice the attributes of those who have the best internal buy-in. What works for them? Can you develop some of those same techniques?  For example, if they always come armed with data, that might be a technique you could adopt.

Define your plan

To achieve change, start with a written goal, specific timeline and a documented plan.  Here are some ideas to get you started; I suspect this list will only stimulate more thoughts.

  • Call out your best skills.  Build from a position of strength.
  • Detail the skills and/or habits you need to change, enhance or develop. Don’t write a laundry list changes, rather focus on a few pro-active steps you can take now to improve your image.  For example, “I need to better organize my ideas before I meet with the leaders.”
  • Leverage your points of value with leadership.  If you have credibility with the primary care physicians, make sure you call out that strength in your reports or conversations.
  • Commit to outlining or scripting your conversations. This is especially important  if you know you tend to ramble a bit. Stories are incredibly valuable, but to make a compelling point, your stories need to be crisp and clear.
  • Re-define the role if necessary.  While you may have changed your focus in the field from pure relationships to measurable results, internal stakeholders may not be aware of the shift. If you’ve made the effort to change, make sure to call it out and demonstrate the shift in your reports.

Assess your success

While a great personal plan is essential, it all falls flat without disciplined implementation. Test your personal growth through daily decision points.  Determine how your current image compares to your ideal. Once you’re successfully interacting with the first line of people, progress to your next audience. Successful internal buy-in is earned one person at a time.  And, it’s well worth the effort.