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Top 4 Reasons Why Docs Need to Forget Golf and Embrace Football

December 17, 2015


We were recently talking to a well-known surgeon about physician behaviors that will predict success in the future. He gave an interesting analogy:

“For years, we were the best orthopedic “team” in the region. We were proud of it. But we were golfers turning in solid individual performances. The system didn’t demand high levels of collaboration or “team strategy” – it just wasn’t that complex. Find the best individual golfers and let them do their thing.153753583

Now – “teamwork” means something completely different. There are strategic decisions to be made every day. We need to work closely with the hospital. Everyone has a role and their performance impacts their teammate and the team’s overall goal. Sometimes people have to sacrifice their own goals to some degree so that the organization can meet the overall goal. Now, we need to build, and function like, a football team.”

He hit the nail on the head. No disrespect to golfers but golf is an individual sport. Even in the Ryder Cup, a team event, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson don’t spend too much time coordinating their efforts. Healthcare today needs team players who understand:

  1. The Team Goal. There is an overall team goal and our ability to achieve that goal will benefit the individuals, in the long run. (Tom Brady would gladly throw fewer touchdown passes if the running game gives him the best chance to win.)
  2. Constant Communication. Watch a game closely – players on both sides of the ball are constantly communicating threats, opportunities, last second changes. After each play, they literally run over to each other and update what went right, what they missed, what to expect next time. On the sideline they are reviewing pictures of previous plays and discussing new strategies. No football team could succeed in the silos we have built in healthcare.
  3. Collaboration. Every football play requires 11 people to do something very specific and to coordinate efforts. It’s the same with a multi-disciplinary team working on a better, more cost-effective care delivery model. Your actions or failures impact the team, the patient, and the organization.
  4. Leadership. Some believe that the quarterback and coach are the only leaders. but this is far from reality. Football teams have leaders on the offensive and defensive lines. They have leaders among their running backs and receiving corps, among their linebackers and defensive backs. They share a common belief that their job is to help others focus on team goals rather than individual performances. They lead by example. They mentor rookies. They communicate strategy across all positions. They sacrifice individual performance for the benefit of achieving team goals.

You can’t build a football team with a golfing talent strategy. The role of healthcare staffing professionals and physician recruiting needs to shift from finding individual golfers, to finding football players.

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Bryan Warren Bryan Warren was the former Director of Healthcare Solutions at PSI. He was responsible for developing and promoting tools and services designed specifically for the unique challenges faced by healthcare organizations.