2018 Symposium for Physician Executives
The QMA’s 4th Symposium for Physician Executives took place on November 30 in Montréal; the highly popular event drew more than a hundred participants. In his opening speech, QMA president Dr. Hugo Viens gave a post-election briefing on the province’s medical-political issues.
This was followed by an engaging presentation by Pierre Lainey, full-time lecturer in the Management Department at HEC Montréal, who stressed the importance of physician executives developing their political sense. According to him, it’s possible to have a lot of power, but zero influence! However, to be an effective leader, you need to be able to decode your environment, rely on your allies, and turn your enemies into friends. Far from being manipulative, someone with political sense takes a strategic approach to building their influence.
Pierre Lainey sees influence as “the ability to get other people to do what you want them to do,” which implies being or becoming—in the eyes of your allies and opponents—someone who not only talks the talks, but also walks the walk. Hence the importance of developing alliances, which allow you to influence your opponents through your allies when you can’t do it directly. According to Mr. Lainey, this strategy needs to be carried out openly, because “when the other person knows what you want, it’s not manipulation, it’s influence.”
Dr. Daniel Roux, head of the family medicine group at Clinique Nouvelle-Beauce and member of the Executive Committee of the QMA’s Physician Executives Group.
For his part, Jean Poitras, psychologist and professor in the Human Resources Management Department at HEC Montréal, talked about how to deal with so-called “toxic” individuals. Bad news: You can’t change them. “Beaver will always remain a beaver,” the psychologist explained. Worse still, there’s no point in waiting for these people to quit or to realize that they’re poisoning the water. These types thrive in environments that are just like them: toxic! What’s more, organizations rarely get rid of them, either because they don’t see them as toxic (toxic people can also be charming, intelligent and productive, and aren’t often called out for their bad behaviour for fear of reprisals) or because they think these people are indispensable.
Since it’s impossible to manage a toxic person, the only solution left is to manage their environment, either by decontaminating it, if it’s been polluted, or by preserving it, if it’s still healthy. “The situation won’t be perfect, or even like it was before, but the workplace will go back to being functional,” Mr. Poitras explained. He recommends a three-pronged approach to containing a toxic individual.
They need to be presented with a strong, unified organization that has made a pact to support and assist its members. A good starting point may be to establish a professional code of conduct and/or to draft policies on permissible behaviours.
Since toxic people also generally have followers, who are themselves outcasts from the group or who feel they have something to gain by standing with the toxic person, you need to start by enlisting these colleagues. Once they’ve realigned with the group, they will become allies in containing the toxic individual. Lastly, you need to keep involving the group in the decision-making process in order to defuse new attempts by the toxic individual to cause trouble.