In this episode, Barbara and Marc discuss:
- Why Creativity is Important in a Medical Practice
- How Creativity can bring Balance to your Work and Personal Life
- How Teamwork can be improved in your Business
- Why “Lightening Up” can help resolve serious matters
- How to Live a Creative Life
“We all have to be ready to reinvent ourselves.” – Marc Silber
Connect with Marc Silber:
Connect with Barbara Hales:
Business website: www.TheMedicalStrategist.com
Show website: www.MarketingTipsForDoctors.com
Dr. Barbara Hales: Welcome to another episode of marketing tips for doctors. I’m your host, Dr. Barbara Hales. Today, we have with us Marc Silber.
For 25 years, Marc and his team Silber Consulting Group have successfully helped hundreds of doctors and their teams create thriving practices.
Marc is also an author of three best-selling books. His most recent one is Create: Tools from Seriously Talented People to Unleash Your Creative Life. And if you saw the cover, you would know that he is a creative who has helped many people lead more creative and profitable lives. Welcome to the show Marc.
Marc Silber: Barbara, thank you. I’m really pleased to be here with you.
Bringing Creativity Back to Doctors
Dr. Barbara Hales: How can a doctor add more creativity to their practice? I don’t think that many of them see the creativity in what they’re doing. So how do you bring creativity back to them?
Marc Silber: That is a really good question. And it’s one that I’m asked pretty much every day. The creative process actually follows what I call a “Cycle of Creativity.” At some point, that doctor probably felt pretty excited about going into practice. There was a point in their lives where there was still a spark and that zest.
Whether you’re looking at it in terms of being in business for yourself as an entrepreneur, which is a really creative thing to do, or just the fact that you’re out of school, and you’re practicing, and you love what you’re doing and you want to help people. So there’s a fire back there somewhere. And like any fire that starts to burn down, what do you do? You add fuel to it and you add oxygen. And the oxygen and the fuel, in terms of creativity actually have five different components.
The first one is what we call a Visualization, which is having in your mind’s eye what it is you intend to create. If we’re looking at being a chef, and we’re cooking dinner, you kind of gets the idea. I want to build this wonderful evening with my friends and I’m going to create the atmosphere, the wine, the meal, the dessert, everything. But I can visualize it. And I can visualize what’s it going to look like on the plate? What is it going to look like in terms of the other components, you add some protein to it, and salad and what dessert is going to go with pesto and what wine is going to match with it. And that’s all visualization. The same thing is true with practice.
You come out of medical school, dental school and you think, well, I want my own practice. What’s my vision of this practice? What do I want it to be? Is it just me or am I gonna have associates with me? How large do I want it? Where do I want it situated? All these things are part of your own vision. And then you’ve got to know the tools of creativity. Any clinical activity has its own set of tools. But we’re not focused on that so much is the tools of building a business. How do you market it? How do you hire people? What’s your business plan? What’s your strategic plan? Those are all tools that we need to be able to implement whatever vision we had.
Then you have to Work Your Craft. You have to go to work and make sure those tools are being used. And that’s something you can’t shortcut. If you’re going to be creative, you have to do something creative. If you want to build a practice, you have to build a practice. I call it working your craft.
And then there’s a stage of Editing, which means you refine what you’re doing and you learn from experience. Maybe you hire an associate and it wasn’t the kind of experience that you wanted. You burnt out on a little bit, so next time you are going to do it differently.
The final stage of any creative process is to “Getting your Work Out to the World” because it’s really not satisfying to just do something for yourself. With practice, you have to market it whether it’s the word of mouth, which is always the best, patient referrals, or any other form of marketing. And those things fit together in a circle or a spiral.
Hit each one of those five points going back to the vision. And that’s what I do with clients. Well, the first thing I asked them is, what’s your vision? Sometimes there’s a long pause.
Achieving Work-Life Balance
Dr. Barbara Hales: That’s true. Well, especially now that so many medical practices are transitioning to digital health, their vision of what they originally thought of in terms of their practice is totally different.
In order to prevent burnout, it really is important to have a work-life balance. And certainly adding creativity to that goes a long way to following your passions alongside your work and your medical practice. How do you recommend that they are able to achieve that balance?
Marc Silber: My dad is a good example. He lived to almost 99. He retired when he was 71 or 72. He enjoyed his practice, but what he did was develop other interests before he retired. So he became a really good calligrapher. Beautiful calligraphy and it’s sort of uncharacteristic of an MD to have clear, beautiful handwriting. He and my mom were also masters in the Masters Swimming Program and they would swim three or four days a week. And he also had all sorts of gardening things. So I think you just have to foster and find the area of interest and develop it and realize that life does need more than two dimensions.
Dr. Barbara Hales: That is so crucial. There are so many doctors that worked alongside of me and I would say, “What are your hobbies? What do you enjoy doing when you’re not actually working?” They say, “I have no hobbies. I have no interests. I love medicine. I love my practice. And that’s not for me.” But clearly, you do need to foster additional passions in order to keep fresh.
Mar Silber: You do. And it makes us a well-rounded human because otherwise, we’re too focused on one thing where there’s no joy if we’re not doing it. This is a cautionary tale. His partner, they both retired at the same time, the same age. As his partner passed away within six months, he had no real other interest.
You need to have something to wake up to every morning to be passionate about. I understand when you’re building a practice that it should be the main thing. But I saw him transition, it was very smart how he transitioned from he was an old-style doctor who was basically on-call seven days a week. But I saw him transition into these other activities. It was obviously very healthy for him. So you really need to find what it is that you are going to be equally passionate about within your area of creativity.
Improving your Medical Practice
Dr. Barbara Hales: What are some practical tips for improving a practice?
Marc Silber: I talk a lot about treatment acceptance, which is basically helping the patient understand why they need this care, and helping them overcome the barriers to accepting it. And that comes down to good communication. As a patient myself, I can see the difference between my physician, dentist, or whoever the caregiver is spending enough time for me to understand what’s happening and why do I need that? Because it isn’t just an investment of money. Sometimes, in the case of a long course of treatment, it’s a lifestyle change.
Dr. Barbara Hales: So we were talking about treatment acceptance. I couldn’t agree with you more. How would you suggest that teamwork be improved?
Marc Silber: Teamwork is a form of creativity. And that comes from the leader. It really boils down to good leadership. Not everybody understands what leadership means and it’s not a skill that’s taught in medical school or dental school. It’s a management skill that’s completely separate and it comes down to a leader having a plan. That’s why strategic planning is actually so important. It’s figuring out what is your strategy to accomplish your goals, and then letting your team in on it, and training the team. As a consultant, we’re always training. We are big believers in filling the gap between what you needed to know when you started in practice and what you can learn now. And that comes from training the leader of the group, the doctor, and the team itself.
Dr. Barbara Hales: The team is a reflection of who you are as a professional. They are your first line of defense. No matter how much they like you if they find that the people that they are meeting with from the front desk are belligerent or impatient with them, then they’re just not coming back.
Marc Silber: It’s a representation of you as the owner. Every person that you’ve got, how they answer the phone, how they greet people, do they treat them with courtesy and stop what they’re doing? If you’re walking into a business and there are two people talking to each other, and they don’t stop when you walk in and look at you, then it’s an immediate turnoff. Once a customer or a patient enters your business, take it into priority. If your employees don’t know that, then there’s a lack of training there because they should know that the minute a person walks towards them, all other concerns are gone. Even if they’re on the phone, there may be just a gesture of finishing this call, but there’s a recognition. In something that simple, let the person know that you care because caring is the key of the whole thing. It’s in willingness to help. Those things have to be instilled by the leader.
Dr. Barbara Hales: What I will add to that is validity. People need to have validation or acceptance of their observances, their complaints, and the issues that are meaningful to them.
Marc Silber: And you have to deal with them. You can’t brush them off or try to pretend it didn’t happen. You have to deal with it. I’ve always felt, and I teach this in my classes, it’s not that you do everything perfect that makes a great company, because there’s going to be a mistake. But it’s how you treat those mistakes. How you handle them is what establishes customer service. Companies that take ownership of the problems, help the customer through and resolve them gain incredible respect. It’s not that you should always be perfect because you will always make mistakes. And how you and your business deal with those mistakes are what establishes great customer service that’s set by the top.
Dr. Barbara Hales: You have a chapter in your book that says “Lighten up,” which we all need to do, especially physicians. So many professionals with their focus on serious topics and problems do tend to lose their sense of humor. Obviously, there’s a time for laughter and a time not to, but between that and egos that are driving them, they do need to lighten up. So why don’t you tell us a little bit about the content from that chapter?
Marc Silber: I interviewed an actor, but he’s also a comedian. He also does amazing voice impressions. I am absolutely blown away by what he can do. And I interviewed him very specifically because I wanted to enter this into the book because it is a form of creativity. We can set a scale for ourselves. On one hand, being very serious and very dry, and on the other hand, is very light. I interpret it to playing an instrument like the piano which has all these keys on it. You have some very dark, heavy keys and some very light ones. You don’t specialize on either side. You have to be fluid. So why not have a keyboard in your own life that you can move around on? It’s inappropriate under very serious circumstances to be flippant and light. But on the other hand, when we look at our heroes like Clint Eastwood or Mel Gibson that are in very tough situations, they’re being flippant. If we can actually do that, we can lighten up a little bit. It’s interesting how it doesn’t solve the problem by getting serious. It actually doesn’t make it better. It makes it worse and it’s almost counterintuitive. If that’s the default position, I’m going to get angry, and serious, and upset, and stressed out, why not try a different approach here? What if it doesn’t stress us out? And we just have to face it, that it’s a problem?
Dr. Barbara Hales: A smile goes a long way. When someone who may be troubled is looking at somebody else with a bright smile, they just feel so much more comforted.
Marc Silber: It’s true and it’s also contagious. Like as kids, your teachers are showing you an example of how to be. And kids tend to want to be like that if they admire the teacher. So if we walk up to somebody, and we do have a smile on our face, it’s amazing. Just walking down the street, if you’re smiling, people tend to smile back at you. It’s just a phenomenon.
Tools to Living a Creative Life
Dr. Barbara Hales: Another chapter that I just wanted to touch upon is one where you have additional tools to help you live a creative life. Tell us about those tools.
Marc Silber: One of the best tools that I could recommend is the power of taking walks. And I did a lot of research when I wrote this chapter. Hippocrates said that one of the best medicines is walking. And it’s amazing how many times and many studies have been done on the power of walking. One of the things that Steve Jobs would do when people are showing up for a meeting, said, Let’s go up, let’s walk and talk. If it’s an adversarial type of situation and things are stressful and tense, is it going to get better going into a boardroom or better going out on the street with trees and cars, and dogs and birds and space? He would carry on these long meetings walking around the Apple premises.
There was a study done about Creativity at Stanford University in 2014. They found that you can increase your creativity by going out for a walk. In the modern world, we are constantly sitting and looking at our computers. We have to get out of those devices and have a look around. Put the device down, look at the trees, and talk to people. This is called Extroversion and that’s one of the most important remedies that one can do. And I think it’s an important reset every day.
I really do try to walk every day. Occasionally I miss a day. But it resets your mind, it resets your mood. And I highly recommend it. That’s one of my key remedies.
Dr. Barbara Hales: What are two tips that you could give to health professionals now to boost their creativity so that they have a work-life balance?
Marc Silber: Visualize something that includes not just your work but visualizes some areas that you had as a passion and go back to it because many times, we drop these things. We let go of those passions because of our priorities and responsibilities. This happened to me, I put it in my book, where I completely dropped photography because I was busy as a consultant and I was raising a family. But then I went back to it and I found it was very enriching. Everybody has one of those things. I guarantee that somewhere back there, you were playing guitar, you wanted to be a comedian, you had a stand-up comedy routine, whatever it was, find it and put some nurturing into it, put some time into that. That’s going to help you balance your life.
The other thing is using the remedies that I put in the book. One of them is walking, and the other is filling your visualization. Look at things that inspire you. If you’re building a practice, find the kind of practice or examples that could inspire you. That inspirational guidance is going to be really important. And you can find them in your library or in magazines. We can be in an environment so long that we don’t even see it anymore. Walkthrough your office as though it’s brand new to you like you’ve never seen it before. And with a notepad, write them down and fix all those things that would interfere with a patient’s experience.
Unleash your Creativity
Dr. Barbara Hales: I really recommend your book. It’s just full of useful information. How can people find it? Is it on Amazon, I assume?
Marc Silber: It is on Amazon, you can certainly find it there. You can go to my website, https://www.silberstudios.com/. We actually have a really great ordering system that all by itself, places the order and then the next day they’re shipped out. So it’s really handy. What’s nice about it too, is I really do like being in touch with my readers. And they can find me through my website and through my social media and I will respond to them. And I get so much out of hearing people saying that they have read my book three times, and it’s really changed my life.
Dr. Barbara Hales: I would like to thank you at this point for being with us today. I’m sure the listeners have gotten a lot out of it. And they have gotten a lot of food for thought when we leave. There’s a lot for them to mull over from what they’ve heard today.
This has been another episode of Marketing Tips for Doctors with your host, Dr. Barbara Hales and we have spoken to a creative, his book is called Create, Mark Silber, thank you again.