Archive for the ‘General Advice & Opinion’ Category

Is the MD,MBA Worth It? (Part 3)

Monday, July 15th, 2013

Six years have passed since I began the MBA program and 4 four years since I graduated.  So, after all this time, is it worth it?  The one-word executive summary is…yes.  My previous posts (Part 1 and Part 2) reflect my views when I was in the thick of it and working on completing the MBA program.  Now it is time for further reflection.

7) One of the great benefits of adding the additional letters after your name is that it sends a signal to the market.  Whether you are pursuing an MBA degree or completed one, that information tells the market you are ready for a change and are doing so with serious intentions.  There is a marketplace out there that is constantly looking for new talent.  If you have an MD or DO after your name, then you are probably already on a specific clinical career path.  An MBA degree sends new information about you to the market.  The new information is, “I’m interesting in a different path than the usual one”.  It may or may not involve a clinical career, but at the very least, it will be distinguished by an education in business administration.  There is a market for those equipped with an MD and MBA degree, and that market is very interested in finding you.  This is one way you let it know you are interested in finding them.

8) Just as there is a language for those with an MD, there is a language for those with an MBA (or equivalent business experience).  An MBA gets you a seat at the table and helps you learn how to begin to speak the language of business.  As they say in business school, “If your not at the table, then you are on the table”.  If you want to be engaged in the business of medicine, then you need to be at the table and understand what is being said.  Your interests and those of your patients need competent representation at the table.  All too often physicians think their medical degree will be enough to carry them through discussions with hospital administration.  All too often it is not enough.  Typically my biggest contribution in meetings involving physicians and administrators is in translating what each group is really saying to one another.  It is interesting to observe how two groups can speak a common language (English) and not really understand what one group is trying to communicate to the other during a physician-speak vs. admin-speak conversation.  Being bilingual is an asset under these conditions.

9) There is another business school saying which is, “All roads pass through finance”.  If you want to get anything done, that involves capital resources, then you will need to maneuver it through the budget and finance process.  It doesn’t matter if you are working with your own small business or a multi-billion dollar organization.  At the end of the day someone will need to finance your dreams.  Understanding how that is achieved is key to success.  The MBA degree provides the starter toolkit for helping you understanding the “how” of this process.  It was once pointed out to me that cash-flow is like oxygen.  You can wake up in the morning with all kinds of great plans of what you will accomplish that day, but if you can’t breath, there is only one thing on your mind… “I need oxygen”!  In business, cash-flow serves a similar purpose.  To ignore it is to ignore a fundamental principle of organizational survival.  Being a person who has a strong medical background, is versed in the language of business and skilled in the art of traveling the road through finance makes for a powerful combination to help any organization survive and thrive.

10) When you obtained your medical training, you no doubt realized that there are opportunities for leadership development if you are interested.  When you add an MBA degree to your CV/Resume, you tell the world you are very interested.  It distinguishes you and makes you more visible.  A leader, I know, likes to say, “visibility leads to credibility, credibility leads to trust, so if you want to be trusted, you need to be visible.”  Leadership requires trust.  An MBA degree is not only a way to say you are interested in a leadership position but it can also serve as one of many paths on the journey to becoming more visible.  How you build credibility with this new found visibility is up to you.  The MD/MBA path opens the door.  It really is up to you to take advantage of the opportunities it will present once you go through that door.  So is the MD/MBA worth it?  Absolutely!

The Paradox of Blame

Saturday, May 30th, 2009

Blame, when appropriately dispensed, assigns responsibility for a past occurrence.  The event that occurred is typically one which resulted in a negative outcome.  As in, “Hey, it’s all your fault.  You screwed up.”  The paradox is, there is an interesting opportunity which becomes available when blame is not appropriately assigned.  As in, “Hey it’s your fault.  You screwed up but… (wink-wink everyone knows you really were not the one who screwed up.)”  The general rule is, none of us wants to accept blame, especially when we were not the responsible party.  There is an exception to this rule and that is when everyone knows you really were not the person responsible for the bad outcome.  This is sometimes referred to as, “taking one for the team.”  By accepting blame, you now become the responsible person (and better team player).  The opportunity granted to you for accepting blame is that you can now fix the problem caused by the person who was previously responsible.  If you fail, then it really is your responsibility.  If you succeed you have now earned the right to the new position of responsibility.  Since you were not responsible in the past, you were not in a position of authority to affect the outcome. By accepting blame, under certain circumstances, you can advance to a new position of responsibility.  This assumes, of course, you learned from your predecessor’s’s mistakes and can affect a good outcome. It’s a risky tactic but one that comes with rewards if performed effectively.  The key is to recognize and guarantee the quid pro quo.  In exchange for accepting blame, you will be given the opportunity to correct the problem.  Therein lies the paradox.  Given the choice between blaming the person truly responsible, who has proven they don’t know how to fix the problem, and “blaming” the person who is not responsible, who can fix the problem, blame sometimes tends to find the problem-solver. This is more common when responsibility is distributed to many individuals, and difficult to assign, or when saving face for the responsible person is warranted, for whatever reason.  It’s an odd thing to say but sometimes “blame” is another way of saying opportunity.

Life 101: Elevator Etiquette

Monday, June 16th, 2008

With all of the emphasis on reading, writing and arithmetic in our educational system it leaves little time for courses that could also be beneficial to our society.  They would fit under the broad heading of “Life 101”.  These would be a series of courses that teach all that stuff that can make everyday life run much smoother.  For example, how about a short course on “Elevator Etiquette”.  We can start the course by having everyone memorize ten simple rules. 

Rule #1: Pressing the up or down button multiple times does not make the elevator move any faster.  The corollary to this rule is that pressing the button harder (or punching/kicking it) also does not make the elevator move any faster.

Rule #2: While waiting for the elevator do not stand in front of the door.  You can’t get in until the current occupants of the elevator make room for you and they can’t do that unless you get your big butt out of the way and make room for them to exit.

Rule #3: Do not, repeat do not let children under the age of ten press the floor button.  It’s like eating potato chips; they will not be satisfied with just one.  They just can’t resist the urge to press every floor button.

Rule #4: The “close door” button: A) is broken and will never be repaired. B) was never hooked up and was only installed to make you feel like you are doing something by pressing it repeatedly. C) has a delay built into it and the doors will close when the time delay has elapsed. D) once worked but was disconnected because of too many complaints about people closing the doors too quickly. E) All of the above.  (Correct answer “E”)

Rule #5: Under no circumstances is anyone allowed to pass gas.  This is especially true for those who are about to disembark.  That’s just rude.

Rule #6: Unless you have a health problem or are moving things (furniture, packages, baby carriage, etc.) the rule for using the stairs is “one up, two down”.

Rule #7: The elderly, disabled, people carrying stuff (babies, packages, food) and those with nothing better to do move slower and must be allowed adequate time to board the elevator.  (Yea I know it seems to take forever but just remember, some day it may be you who needs that time.)

Rule #8: Regarding speaking on cell phones in public places, don’t say anything you wouldn’t want printed in tomorrow’s paper (or blog).  And BTW, “CAN YOU HEAR ME KNOW!”, speaking louder does not improve your cell phone reception.

Rule #9: As a general rule the personal body space  distance in social situations is about 18 inches (OK, OK it varies by culture but for most people in the US it’s still about 18 inches.).  The personal body space distance in intimate situations is less than 18 inches.  Just because we break from convention to allow more people to fit in the elevator doesn’t mean we’ve become more intimate.

Rule #10: Eighty-five percent of buildings with at least 13 floors do not have a named “13th floor“.  It’s considered unlucky or superstitious to have one.  That’s just the way it is so the next time you are on an elevator and some smart-ass gets on and asks you to press floor thirteen just tell him to press it himself if he is feeling lucky.  (BTW for all of you who live or work on the 14th floor in building that don’t have a “13th floor” it is really the 13th floor.  Sorry to ruin your day.)

Well that is it for today.  If you can think of any more add them to the list.  Who knows, someday we may have an “Elevator Etiquette” course manual.

The Cornerman

Thursday, May 29th, 2008

Years ago as a child I asked my father for money in order to buy some ice cream.  He said he would give it to me but I had to promise to memorize something he was going to tell me.  It seemed like a fairly straight forward deal so I agreed.  He then said, “always remember to make sure your cornerman is in your corner.”  He made me repeat it back to him so I did but I must have looked a little puzzled when I did it.  At the time I wasn’t really sure what he meant by that comment so I asked him, “so why must you always make sure your cornerman is in your corner?”  As he handed me a dollar bill he said quite simply, “because sometimes he isn’t.”  I was seven years old at the time but I never forgot that message even though it took me a few years to fully understand its meaning.

 My father, much like his father, was a boxer in his youth.  He trained as a teenager in a gym his father owned on the near north side of Chicago back in the 1920’s and 1930’s.  My grandfather trained local youths in the sport of boxing.  The gym not only supplemented his income but served as a front for his real source of income, a saloon known as the “Shamrock Verein”.  It was there he taught my father the importance of the cornerman.  In boxing the cornerman is your trainer and coach.  When you enter the ring against your opponent it is this trusted individual who supports, advises and watches out for you.  Your cornerman can make or break you in a close match.  Sometimes, as you may have guessed, your cornerman is not always in your corner.

There are two main reasons why your cornerman may not be “in your corner”.  The first is that they may not be competent enough to be there in the first place.  They may lack adequate experience and be providing poor advise.  It doesn’t take more than a couple of ass-kickings to figure out if this is the reason.  If everyone your cornerman trains gets beat then the problem is most likely the cornerman.  There is another reason why the cornerman may not be in your corner.  This one is more subtle and dangerous.  That is because your cornerman has sold you out.  He has either bet against you or at the very least his interests are not aligned with yours.  (This is referred to as the principal-agent problem.)  The problem is one of asymmetric information and the solution is one of aligning incentives so that both boxer and cornerman approach the ring with the same goal.

Everyone needs a cornerman.  It could be your coach, trainer, agent, consultant, financial advisor, priest, minister, rabbi, physician, mentor, attorney, or anyone who assists and guides you in life.  It doesn’t matter if they get paid for it or they volunteer.  Part of their best interest must include your best interest for them to be granted this trusted position.  So heed these words, “always remember to make sure your corner man is in your corner.”