Could it be that the National Board of Medical Examiners and the Federation of State Medical Boards are on to something that far too many entrepreneurs and individual businesspeople have ignored? Could be.
It’s been 15 years since these entities made it mandatory for all aspiring physicians to pass the “bedside manner” test if they want to practice medicine and it’s as important to their profession today as it was when the test was first implemented. That’s right. If they don’t pass the test, they don’t practice medicine. Imagine if entrepreneurs and individual businesspeople were mandated with the same requirement. How interesting would that be?
Simplistically this test focuses on what the business word all too lightly refers to as “people skills,” or the “soft skills.” You know, the skills training that generally gets axed in tough times because it isn’t deemed quite important enough in which to invest.
The “bedside manner” test for graduating doctors addresses a problem that patients have long complained about—doctors who may be technically skilled, but lousy at their bedside manner when interacting with patients. Hmmm. Could this also be a problem in the business world?
The reality is, a similar quandary does exist in the business world. For decades research has shown for example that employees rarely leave a job because they dislike the job; they leave because of a dislike for their manager. And, the biggest factor is directly related to communication. It is said that an employee’s performance can move positively or negatively as much as 30 percent—all depending upon their work environment. That environment is directly tied to the boss’s bedside manner. Much the same can be applied to a person’s interaction with their clients.
If one translates these critical factors to the world of business, they become equally important. As an entrepreneur or independent businessperson, ask yourself how well you do in each of these three areas. Here are some self testing questions:
· How clearly have you conveyed to your employees exactly where the company is going this year? Have you made extremely clear your objectives and vision for the year ahead?
· How clearly have you conveyed to each employee the role they play in achieving those objectives?
· How frequently do you have to repeat instructions?
· How often do you blame the listener for lack of understanding rather than considering that you may have failed to take adequate time to give instructions and ensure clarity?
· How often do you truly provide feedback to ensure that what you meant to convey was actually heard by employees?
· In all honesty, do you talk more than listen?
· How frequently do you practice “skip thinking?” That’s where you begin to think ahead of what you’re going to say before the other person finishes what he/she has to say.
· How frequently do you actually let the other person say everything they intend to say without interrupting?
· How frequently do you “tune out” when others’ are explaining their view?
· How thorough do you examine the issue at hand before you make a firm decision?
· How much detail do you gather from others to ensure that you’ve looked at all the angles?
· How much questioning do you do to get mixed insights?
· How much bias do you bring to each decision?
· How well do you ask open-ended questions?
Soft skills, people skills, business bedside manner—call it what you may, but when the medical profession takes such a dramatic step that they consider effective communication a mandatory prerequisite for practicing the profession, perhaps it’s not a bad idea for American business to take note and follow suit as well.