In these series, I share from the experience and personal learning of my 30-year journey in the healthcare delivery industry starting as a rookie intern, then working as a C-level executive in Apollo Hospitals Group and now advising investors and consulting firms on the healthcare industry in emerging markets.
A Tale with Two Different Outcomes
Two young doctors set up practices after they finished their graduation/post-graduation studies. Both had similar backgrounds, received comparable education, obtained comparable grades and had similar potential, but one of them established a great practice with multitudes of satisfied patients and earned tremendous respect amongst their peers, while the other did reasonably well but was unable to match the success of their colleague.
In other words, one doctor performed extraordinarily well (by whichever standards we choose to measure), whilst their colleague was ordinary.
What are the factors that contributed to one doctor making the transition from a ordinary to an extraordinary doctor?
Are knowledge base and clinical skills the only factors that contribute to performance and achievements, or are other factors also responsible? Is it luck, circumstances or other such reasons?
What’s It Take to be a Superstar?
Many studies over the last three decades have conclusively established that it is neither the knowledge base, nor intelligence and hard skills alone that are responsible for superlative performance, but an additional group of factors that help to establish the difference between ordinary and extraordinary performance.
Before discussing further, let’s establish the meaning of competency. A simple definition of competency is the ability to do something successfully or efficiently. In short, competencies are a cluster of skills and knowledge that enable a person to do a job effectively. Most doctors would instinctively state the following as competencies that facilitate extraordinary performance:
- A high IQ (Intelligence)
- An up-to-date knowledge of disciplines and specialities concerned
- Sufficient hard skills for us to diagnose, operate or perform clinical procedures (Hard skills)
In effect, most of us believe that the above three, the troika of knowledge “skills” intelligence should be enough to give us the edge to deliver an outstanding performance. However, this is not true, as these are what we call “threshold competencies”. (A threshold is the strip of wood or stone forming the bottom of a doorway and is crossed while entering a house or room.) So, we need these skills to cross the threshold and be counted as competent doctors ”good doctors” but there are other skills and competencies that serve as differentiators or “distinguishing competencies”.
Some of these are skills on their own and others are competencies – a mix of knowledge and skills and in these series it is my intention to discuss each individually.
Let us use a simple construct or model of the brain to help us to build an understanding of the issue
We all know that the brain consists of two halves or hemispheres “right and left” which are connected to each other by a bridge of fibres called the Corpus callosum. A behavioural science model of the brain states that the right and left halves of the brain have different functions, which are outlined in the figure below (This is not the anatomical model that is taught in our Neurosciences studies in medical colleges):
Everyone uses both these halves in their daily lives, but it is the ability to use both halves equally well that adds the word “extra” to ordinary. The great doctors are the ones who are able to use both the lobes of the brain effectively and efficiently as and when required to do so.
The seven competencies that we will be discussing are a mixture of right and left lobe functions, but a lot of them will be part of the right brain function.
Our Indian educational system emphasises the use and proficiency of the left lobe abilities alone, while the right lobe abilities are somewhat neglected. This makes us less skillful in the use of right lobe abilities, which we try to master as we go through various life experiences.
It is possible to hone these skills, which come under the umbrella of Emotional Competence or EQ. We can hone our skills that depend on use of the right lobe by undergoing systematic training, which unfortunately does not form part of our medical curriculum.
Next week, we will be discussing the first of our differentiating competencies: “Listening Skills”.