Physician Team Strategies

Physician Team Strategies, is a national healthcare leadership development company providing consulting to multi-disciplinary teams in healthcare organizations who want to build powerful, sustainable teams that make giant leaps in their performance.

Archive for Physician Team Conflict

At the Harvard Business School Symposium, Imagining the Future of Leadership, 9 expert thinkers were asked the question “What is the biggest mistake a leader can make?”  This group of experts identified 10 critical mistakes.  In addition to listing the ten mistakes I will identify the potential impact of these mistakes on an organization and team.  As you read through the mistakes, consider the impact on your organization and team. Feel free to leave comments.

1. Putting your own interests ahead of the best interests of the organization or institution you represent. –Bill George, Professor, Harvard Business School and former Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Medtronic

Impact:  Others will not follow you; you loose credibility

2. Betraying trust. — Evan Wittenberg, Head of Global Leadership Development, Google, Inc.

Impact: Poor working relationships; Decreased retention; Decreased morale; Increased conflict

3. Being certain. — Dr. Ellen Langer, Professor, Harvard University

Impact: Failure to seek input from team; Team will not share critical information; Decreased innovation; poor decisions

4. Not living up to your values. — Andrew Pettigrew, Professor, Siad Business School, University of Oxford

Impact: Conflict between action and values; Not attracting qualified team members; not being a role model and walking the talk; distrust

5. Being overly enamored with your vision. — Gianpiero Petriglieri, Affiliate Professor of Organizational Behavior, INSEAD

Impact: Passion becomes an obsession; Unable to make unbiased decisions; Continuing on a course which is not relevant anymore

6. Displaying personal arrogance. — Carl Sloane, Professor Emeritus, Harvard Business School

Impact: Team demotivated; Increased potential you will make mistakes; Team will not let you know of mistakes which impacts patient safety; Increased potential for legal liability

7. Acting too fact. — Jonathan Doochin, Leadership Institute at Harvard College

Impact: Not having all the facts can lead to poor decisions; Not getting input from team can lead to not knowing the unintended consequences; Cost you money; May need to backtrack

8. Giving off an attitude that it’s all about the leader. — Scott Snook, Associate Professor, Harvard Business School and retired Colonel, US Army Corps of Engineers

Impact: People want a mission larger than themselves (example: providing quality patient care) and this leadership attitude can lead to decreased retention; Staff will buy pass you; Competition of team to look after their own interests, since you the leader are not a role model of the servant leader

9. Being inauthentic and inconsistent. — Scott Snook, Associate Professor, Harvard Business School and retired Colonel, US Army Corps of Engineeers

Impact: Team is confused of who is showing up today if you are having mood swings; Lack of direction/mission/values; Mistrust; Decreased productivity

10. Not being self-reflective. — Daisy Wademan Dowling, Executive Director, Leadership Development at Morgan Stanley

Impact: Not understanding your impact on others and the role your play in it; You play the blame game; Increased stress

In future blog posts I will go into more detail on each of these mistakes. I will provide tips and tools on how to identify and overcome these mistakes.  Overcoming these barriers to become a successful leader involves developing leadership and interpersonal skills.  Develop a leadership style that is you and is positive and effective.  If you would like to explore how you can become a more effective physician leader, you are invited to schedule a free strategy session with me. Click here to schedule your strategy session.

A video is available of these experts answering the question “What is the biggest mistake a leader can make?”

Watch the video on the Harvard Business School web site. Click here.

What do you do if you’ve hurt a physician team member, intentionally or unintentionally?  Difficult as it is, your first step is to acknowledge it. You might say something like, “I’m sorry I didn’t follow through on what I told you I’d do,” or “I apologize for not listening to you and respecting your point of view.”  Doing this requires humility, but it’s an essential first step to rebuilding trust in any relationship.  The second step is to prove, through your actions, that you mean it.  Words without actions are meaningless.

Confronting issue in a non-accusing way

What if someone has hurt you?  You must gently confront the issue and tell the person, in a non-accusing way, what hurt you.  Begin your sentence with “I”, not “you”.  For example, “I felt hurt when you were critical of me last week.  I need to know you support me and believe that I’m doing my best.”

Developing Healthy Physician Team Relationships

This give and take is what healthy physician team relationships are all about. Whether you have hurt someone else or someone else has hurt you, taking these steps will leave you with greater peace of mind.  Do this, and you will have the kind of relationships that can handle disagreements and move forward when they occur.


When you as a physician team member have a conflict with someone, it can be very difficult to put your emotions aside.  Many people lead with their emotions, often to their own detriment.  Psychologists have discovered that more people behave themselves into new ways of thinking than think themselves into new ways of behaving. Sometimes we believe that we must have the feeling first, before we act.  But in fact, changing your actions will lead to a change in feelings.

Act Respectfully

For example, if you are in a heated discussion with a physician team member, you may not feel like acting respectfully toward the other person.  Act respectfully anyway, and see if you don’t feel your blood pressure falling.  You may not feel like listening to their ideas with an open mind.  Listen anyway, and see if you don’t find some common ground with them.

If you want different results, take different actions!

As the saying goes, “If you do what you’ve always done, you will get what you’ve always gotten.”  Act first, and the feelings will follow.

When physician team members get into a conflict with one another, they often go on the defensive.  Team members ready themselves with their reasons, opinions, and certainty that they are right!  However, most of us give very little thought to the atmosphere in which our conflicts happen.

The atmosphere matters

The atmosphere makes a difference.  Conflict left unresolved will usually grow until an explosion occurs.  For your part as a team member or physician leader, do you make it safe for other people to come to you with problems?  Do people know they can come to you with a difference of opinion or something that needs to be settled, and they will be treated with respect?  Do you approach it as if you are part of a team, looking for a solution?

Conflict as a Mature Discussion

Conflict can be a calm, mature discussion between equals, when you both listen and truly try to understand each other.  Will you put your defenses aside for the sake of seeking a solution?