Part 2: Lessons I’ve Learned as a GP Partner

Insights

Had we known a few things in advance, we could have potentially reached those successes more quickly and avoided many of the problems and pitfalls along the way.

If you’ve been following along, you know I’ve shared before about some of the difficulties I faced as a new GP partner and what I wish I had known to be better prepared. Fortunately, I did learn many lessons and grow over the course of my years as partner. As a result, we were able to accomplish many things in our practice that I consider to be successes. Had we known a few things in advance, we could have potentially reached those successes more quickly and avoided many of the problems and pitfalls along the way. I’ve found that key knowledge and skills in the following areas are essential to new GP partners hoping to succeed in today’s world:

Dealing with Colleagues.
I, for example, would have liked to have had the knowledge that dealing with colleagues is a skill, requiring managerial technique, that can be done well or less well. Many new partners don’t realize there’s a skill to it and feel they are in entirely new territory as if they are the only person to ever be part of a team that causes them some stress. They’re not. If I had understood this, I would then have known it was a professional problem and not a personal problem and that would have made life much easier.

Basic Understanding of Contract Law.
Because we were delivering services by a brand-new legal framework, I had to learn the basics of contract law in order to be able to ask sensible questions of lawyers. Legal advisers will answer exactly the question you’ve asked, so you’ve really got to know the right question to ask. Otherwise, if you’ve asked the wrong question, you’re doomed.

Slow, Analytical Approach to Leadership.
For doctors who, when leading a team, tend to be very smart and very quick, I would counsel them to be analytical and slow instead. I would encourage them to really evaluate the situation before making a leadership decision or chasing a particular task. Personally, I think I would have tried to lead less in some ways. There were some new tasks I wouldn’t have attempted had I possessed the skills to see and analyse the data in front of me that would have predicted such an attempt would be futile. Instead, I would have first examined inputs and outputs to determine whether a task would have been successful and worthwhile or merely a drain on my time.

Consistent, Reliable Long-Term Condition Management.
If I had the knowledge then that I have now, I would have understood that long-term condition management is not about being reactive and brilliant and making new creative thoughts; it is about doing the right thing time after time and not making an error. It’s about standardization and reliability. There is often a fundamental mismatch between the desires and aptitudes of the professional body and the task in front of it, and we would have understood much more about how to approach that had we realised it sooner.

Respect for Imperfection.
One of the things I learned working with a very high performing team was that it’s good to respect some people because they are really good and it’s still ok to respect them if they have a wobble or make a small error. Our team members are actually human. Understanding my own feelings of watching people I respect say “Whoa, hey, this is very difficult; I need a moment,” and observing that I still had the highest regard for them, made me realize that—despite what you read in the medical culture—actually, the odd wobble is not disastrous

Middle Management is for Middle Managers.
“But I’m the Doctor. I’ve got to do everything!” Not so. If the doctor is doing all the middle management tasks—managing the numbers and doing all the accounting—then who is seeing the patients? Your degree in medicine means you are probably quite good at medicine but the fact that you haven’t got an MBA means you’re probably not as good at running a business. To run your practice well, while also ensuring that each patient receives the care they need, it is essential to know how and when to delegate business operations tasks to the proper team members. It is important to have someone on your team who is very good with numbers and can watch out for the bottom line. The health service has not got your back and will happily watch you go bankrupt.

These are all things I learned that led to success in my practice and, if understood in the beginning, would still be of great benefit to any GP becoming partner today. In my next article, I will share some advice for young GPs currently transitioning to partner for the first time. In the meantime, feel free to check out our New to Partnership Programme designed specifically to prepare GPs and other clinicians in general practice for the partnership role.

To Be Continued…

“But I’m the Doctor. I’ve got to do everything!”