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Episode 178 | Do Great Clinicians Make Great Leaders?

Episode 178  | Do Great Clinicians Make Great Leaders?


  • Episode 178 | Do Great Clinicians Make Great Leaders? 00:00


Hey Group Practice listeners! In this episode, you’re getting a clip from my latest training from the Exchange membership, where I talk all about how to determine who’s a good fit for a leadership role in your practice.

In this episode I cover:

  • Differences in the clinical vs. leadership skill sets
  • Qualities of a good team leader
  • Developing specialized leadership roles based on employee strengths

This episode is sponsored by TherapyNotes. TherapyNotes is an EHR software that helps behavioral health professionals manage their practice with confidence and efficiency. I use TherapyNotes in my own group practice and love its amazing support team, billing features, and scheduling capabilities. It serves us well as a large group practice owner.

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Maureen Werrbach

Hey, everyone, I am going to do a sharing of a clip from our December training in The Exchange. And this is on specifically Creating Your Legacy: Six Struggles When Building Your Leadership Team. This was a really fun training to do because it was less skills based and steps based but more interactive and collaborative. So what I talk about are six different struggles that many group practice owners have when they’re building a leadership team.

The six things that I talked about in depth are the struggle for leadership that shifts from being a peer to a leader and everything that is encompassed around that leadership person’s struggle of moving from being the peer to their team to potentially leading a team. Trust between the business owner and between the leaders themselves, right? The trust that the business owner has to have in their leadership team, but also the trust that the leaders within the team have to have of themselves and within each other.

I talk about the struggle of the fit for the role. So making sure that the role in leadership is actually the right fit with the person that you’re putting into that position. Oftentimes, we shift a great clinician into a role of a leader and not all great clinicians are great leaders. And I talk a little bit in depth about that. And I feel like that’s something that a lot of good practice owner struggles with is that they look at their their team of clinicians, and they find that one that is just the rock star or a superstar and is a great clinician and assumes that that means that they will be able to lead and that is not always the case.

Another struggle we talked about is the balancing of roles for your leadership team, the balance of them being a clinician and a leader, the balance of them, looking at things from the lens of an employee because they’re an employee as well, but also having to look at decisions being made through the lens of a business as well and balancing seeing things through the lens of an employee and as a business. And the balancing of roles when it comes to time management.

We also talk about the struggle of the accountability of results with the leadership team and ensuring that you aren’t just being the decider as Mike Michalowicz, it says in his book Clockwork, but that you’re actually holding them accountable to their role and how are you? What objectives do you have that can show that they are accountable and doing the things that they need to do as leaders? We talked about the accountability, your decision tree and how you can formulate what decisions can be made without you what decisions can be made with you, as long as you’re regularly notified of those decisions, what decisions that need to be collaboratively made between you and the leadership team, they can’t make it without you, and what decisions can only be made by you. Having that decision tree for your own group practice mapped out is a really helpful tool not only for you, but for your leadership team, so they know where they stand.

And then lastly, values alignment, talking about ensuring that you made sure that your leadership team knows your values mission and vision, and that they’re actually understanding the why behind your business. Its trajectory, the decisions that get made in your business, that they understand the why. Because if they aren’t in line with the why they’re not going to be able to hold their teams accountable to living out those mission, vision and values. And that is so important. So listen to that.

This clip, you’re going to get a clip from one of those six struggles I’m going to talk a little bit in depth about. And if you’re interested in watching the whole training, it’s inside The Exchange membership. That is a membership for group practice owners, whether you’re starting or you’re a seven figure group, we’ve got all over 1000 people in that whole range. I do trainings that are for both startups and I do trainings for established people in this most recent one is for well established group practices that are bringing on or have a whole team of leaders, you can join by going to members dot group practice, exchange that calm and you can join and watch that full video and hundreds of others in there as well.

Alright, let’s see, Fit for role. I think this is one of the things I’ve been seeing a lot from group practice owners in my Facebook group right now as they’re bringing people into leadership. Me myself have also I myself have also gone through this where it takes a while right? If you have a larger group practice of clinicians, you probably really learned how to interview the right people with time for clinicians, right, it probably took your first couple of hires. Either you might have luckily just hired the right person. Or maybe you had a job in the past that was in hiring. And so this is a kind of a skill set for you that you already have. But most of us don’t know how to interview until we practice it and do it a bunch. And same with leadership, bringing people into leadership, we often start by bringing on great clinicians, and bring them into leadership because we assume that if they’re a great therapist, and they do their job, that they’re going to be a great leader. But those two things are very different roles.

And so if you haven’t brought on leadership, or you don’t have a full team yet, that’s something to think about is that you don’t necessarily want to look at who are your best clinicians who who have who has the best retention, who is has the best, you know, lives out the culture of the practice that you have, lives up to the values and mission of your business, who sees the amount of clients that they’re supposed to see and does their notes on time. Those are all great, that actually is exactly the type of clinician you want to have. But not necessarily means that they’re the best for leading.

You want to look at things outside of their clinical experience. Now, obviously, in leadership, depending on the type of leadership role, they might need to actually be a great clinician to write. But you want to make sure that you’re looking at the qualities that leadership, like a person who leads needs to have, and that those are things like being able to be radically candid. It’s things like being able to have difficult conversations, but from a place of care, right? Not someone who is, you know, has attitude when they’re angry, or not someone who’s really passive and afraid to bring up their needs. Also someone who has a business sense in some way, right, you might obviously not have staff who’ve had their own business, but they have to have an understanding that the success of each clinician and the success of the business are two things that need to be happening simultaneously. And that they can’t be overly focused on their clinical team at the expense of the business.

So they have to have to have some sense of understanding that pay and benefits and certain procedures and clinical requirements are there because it allows the business to continue to be successful. And that goes in line with leading with the business in mind. Right, I think we just had an Instagram post today I saw before I did this training that I put up or that my team put up and it kind of aligns perfectly with this. In that if we focus too much, and this happens often with leadership who were clinicians first and now are in leadership, they heavily focused on the needs of the clinicians almost at the expense of the needs of the business, because they’re, they’re used to having been in the position of being a clinician, and that’s the lens through which they see, right. But that can be detrimental for the business, if only the needs of the individual clinicians are being accounted for, cared for, without kind of looking at the overarching umbrella of the business and the success of the business.

Because at the end of the day, if we focus on the clinicians and the needs of each individual clinician and not at the business, you run the risk or your team runs the risk of potentially creating a non profitable business that can’t withstand, right? And then all this work that your team does to make sure that the clinicians are happy is is a moot point because the business can no longer survive. And so there has to be this like delicate balance between both of those things.

Harnessing the leader strengths when creating a leadership role, this one is something that took me a while and I don’t know why actually. I feel like you guys probably won’t have this problem as much, because it’s talked about so much more than when I created my leadership team, you know, eight or so years ago, but looking at their strengths, it kind of goes along the lines of a great clinician does not always equal a great leader. You want to look at their strengths, when creating the role for them, and the job duties, right. If you put together a list of a job offer with a list of the requirements for the role, you want to make sure that the person that you’re wanting to put into that role, that it aligns with their actual strengths, otherwise, what they’re going to do is to continuously fall short. Kim Scott’s book, Radical Candor talks about this, where she, for a long time really kept the wrong people in the right roles, right? You might have certain roles that you know, you need. But if you have the wrong person in that role, you’re never going to get the type of support you need as a business owner. So there’s the issue of having the wrong person in the wrong role, right, maybe you have role setup, that you actually aren’t fine tuned, the way you need to in the role isn’t actually a great role for your business.

But you might also have the wrong kind of person in that role.

You could have the right person in the wrong role, right? You can have someone who is like a great leader, you know it, but though the leadership role that they’re in isn’t, isn’t the role that’s for them, right is maybe not using their area of strength. And so there might be a potential to need to shift that leader into a different role that is the right role for the right leader. And then you can have the right role and the wrong person in that role. And that’s what most often happens, right is that you have a leadership role that needs to be fulfilled, you have someone in it, and they’re just not the right fit, and no amount of coaching, no amount of support gives that person to be able to do that role well, right?

And then lastly, co creating positions. So after you build the frame, this is something that I didn’t do initially. And now I do this every time is I build a framework of a position that I know I need in leadership, something that I want to let go of, or as the business gets really large, you know, even existing leadership roles might need to be even parsed out even more. So that because often what happens is a smaller group practice will have a clinical director who’s providing supervision, you might be doing hiring, you might be doing onboarding, you know, a lot of roles. And you might realize that as your business gets larger, that one role needs to be fine tuned even more where there may be only providing supervision and, and being a part of the interviewing process, but you need to have someone else maybe who’s leading in the hiring and the recruiting and the interviewing and the onboarding, right. And so what’s really a great tool is to come up and build the framework of a position that you need, because you know, what is missing? What’s not being fully you know, cared for, or what you also want to let go of as a business owner? But then if there’s a person that you find is a good person for that role, is to then give them that job description and start co creating that position to mold it into something that is actually a good fit for them. I love this because it it aligns with my my anti racism framework and my own personal values. But it also encourages that person and leadership to step in and actually start leading right making decisions around how that role can best fit with their own strengths. And you’re then providing them with the best opportunity to actually be successful in their role.

All right, I hope that clip was helpful to you. If you want to hear more, you can go to The Exchange  website and join and become an Exchange member at members dot the group practice exchange dot com. I’ll see you there.

Thanks For Listening

Thanks for listening to the group practice exchange podcast. Like what you heard? Give us five stars on whatever platform you’re listening from. Need extra suppor? Join The Exchange, a membership community just for group practice owners with monthly office hours, live webinars, and a library of trainings ready for you to dive into visit www dot members dot the group practice exchange dot com forward slash exchange. See you next week.


Here are the resources and guides we recommend based on this episode

When your team needs to kick off a project, hire a new employee, deploy some code, review a sales contract, finalize next year’s budget, measure an A/B test, plan your next office opening, and more, Slack has you covered.

We use clack to communicate within the office. It is almost like Facebook, in that you can search through old threads, which makes it easier than sending the same emails over and over. We have threads like general, clinical, administrative, and referrals to help us communicate without emails.

Recruiting & Hiring Your Ideal Therapist

Whether you’re a seasoned or a new group practice owner, one thing we all have in common is the overwhelming, sometimes painful process of recruiting, interviewing and hiring of therapists.

* I am an affiliate for some of the businesses I recommend. These are companies that I use in my own group practice, and make recommendations based off of my experience with them. When you use some of these companies through my links, I receive compensation, which helps me continue to offer great free information on my podcast, blog, Facebook group, and website.

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Meet your host


Maureen Werrbach is a psychotherapist, group practice owner and group practice coach. Learn more about her coaching services here:


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Episodes are structured into categories: coaching sessions where I coach a group practice owner on a specific topic, tips of the day by yours truly, real talk where you get to be a fly on the wall while an established group practice owner and I talk about the highs and lows of ownership, and trainings done by experts in the field.

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