There’s a familiar saying: behind every good leader is a great team. One cannot work without the other. Building team trust and acceptance is a key driver of successful practice managers, says Kem Tolliver, BS, CMPE, CMC, CMOM, a revenue cycle management expert, co-author of, Revenue Cycle Management: Don’t Get Lost in the Financial Maze published by MGMA®, and business owner based in Maryland. She says that great leaders are exceptional influencers.
A medical office leader’s job is to guide and engage everyone on the team to be part of the practice’s overall success,” Kem said. “Experience and training only get you so far. Good leaders are change-makers and know how to influence others in a productive way. People skills are a big part of the equation. When your team is successful, it reflects positively on your leadership skills.”
Kem has spent 20 years providing strategic and operational leadership to medical practices and hospitals. As the President of Medical Revenue Cycle Specialists, LLC (MRCS), her team leads practice start-ups and transformation, revenue cycle and clinical documentation improvement, educational programing, payer contracting, HIT software development, EMR/PM software customization, and telehealth integration.
Kem teaches medical practice leaders how to influence and manage stakeholder relationships with leadership posturing, a management technique used in all industries to influence others to get more done.
“Posturing means using mutual goals and shared expectations to influence others," she said. "This gets everyone on board. The team knows the value proposition and their individual role and impact on the outcome. A mutual goal might be to improve efficiencies in the practice by more effective use of the patient portal and tie that effort to the value it brings to the practice. Shared expectations would involve something like reducing incoming calls by pushing clinical inquiries, billing questions, and payments to the portal, whenever possible,” she said.
“Trust-building is a form of delegation, assigning someone to be an intermediary on your behalf. We don’t have to do everything,” Kem said. “Distributing responsibilities among the team is so important. Great leaders achieve success because they use their resources well and they know how to engage their team for success. A high-performing team reflects positive influence and leadership. We trust that our team has the tools and skills they need to be successful. Trust helps the ego, and morale, and nurtures their development. It makes them more confident to step up. And when we demonstrate trust, our employees start trusting themselves and taking more initiative.”
Leadership posturing also involves tying specific actions to a mutual outcome. Attach context and purpose so that every action has meaning. She says posturing with patients, providers, hospital systems, payers, and vendors involves empathy, trust-building, definitive decision-making, mentoring, and a shared expectation approach to management.
Successful leaders know how to manage change and encourage the team to solve problems. The patient portal is a valuable tool that everyone uses but may not see beyond their specific role, whether that’s posting payments, entering patient information, or scheduling procedures. A leader helps the team see beyond their individual roles and find ways to contribute in a more impactful way.
A practice manager is a clearinghouse for everything that goes on, and the only way to be successful, Kem says, is to develop a confident, self-assured team that helps you solve problems and get things done. Look to credible resources such as PMI, CMS, HIMSS, AAPC, MGMA, and your specialty organizations to work through challenges.
“We want to groom our team members to handle stressful workloads and work well with others. When your team is on board and successful, it reflects positively on your leadership skills. Adopting mutual goals and shared expectations approach means everybody wins.”
See Kem's article published in the January 2022 issue of Oncology Practice Management
Watch Kem's full presentation for more information on Redefining Your Leadership Posture.