Chiropractic + Naturopathic Doctor

CHA Education: Defining ‘likeable’ leadership

By Brandi MacDonald   

Features Leadership Profession

What your CHAs really need from you

One of the most empowering traits of human behaviour is the ability for anyone to “change” or “improve” themselves at any given time. Leadership is an evolution and a process of discovery.  The definition of the “likeability” aspect of leadership is subjective, yet powerful. I believe this factor is one of the “keys” to improved staff and practice performance.


To define this in subjective terms, I think we need to determine first what it is not.  It is not “needing to be liked.” Needing to be liked directs us down a path of least resistance with our staff members in our practices. This path of least resistance can be bumpy and uncomfortable and produces the very thing we are trying to avoid…conflict!  When leaders need to be liked, the following is more likely to occur – there will be a lack of clarity and boundaries with roles and responsibilities. Doctors are more likely to “let things slide” in the practice rather than give constructive, fair feedback. The CHAs tend to really like their doctors, but may experience frustration with not knowing what their responsibilities are in the practice, demonstrate lack of respect when direction is actually given, and rarely have the opportunity to display their initiative and talent.

If you have determined that you have the right staff members in the right roles, feelings of “unfairness” should rarely, if ever, occur for you. These feelings are yet another great device to establish the distance between where you believe you are, in regards to leadership, and where the staff feel you are. Do any of the following reactions apply to you?

  1. You feel that you are very clear in laying out expectations, but the staff appear “confused, or unclear” about your expectations.
  2. You feel frustrated and angry with your staff because they “take advantage” of you.
  3. You feel there will never be any other staff to replace your current staffing complement.
  4. You “tolerate” performance issues such as lateness, lack of initiative, personality conflicts with team members or patients, inability to problem solve, etc.
  5. You feel that you have given more to your staff than received.

If you experience any, or all, of the above feelings, chances are you may be craving the “needing to be liked” relationship more than being “likeable.”  When you worry about whether the staff will still “like” you at the end of the day, resentment starts to build and frustration occurs between you and your staff. This resentment sometimes will lead to doctors feeling like they have been taken “emotionally hostage” by their staff. This doesn’t have to happen! By analyzing our feelings towards staff, we are, then, truly able to begin change- worthy behaviour in regards to our personal leadership.

An ideal CHA-doctor relationship requires that both parties remain stimulated by one
another, respect one another, and are clear on roles and responsibilities within the practice.

Likeable leaders tend to be more open to feedback from their staff and willing to implement new ideas in the practice, even if those ideas have been tried before!  What didn’t work months or years ago may work now. 

Likeable leaders hold performance reviews and set goals with their staff.  CHAs support, work, and drive practices to meet targets and goals. The doctors must do the same for CHAs. Performance reviews are meant as both a goal-setting and a performance management exercise.

Likeable leaders do not “yeah, but” their staff members. Instead, they encourage feedback about the practice, as well as themselves.  Likeable leaders are clear and consistent with expectations within the practice. Inconsistency with expectations forces staff to be on a constant “vigil” as to what is going to happen next. They cannot focus on the NOW, when they are on this “vigil.” Likeable leaders provide stability in the practice, so staff can focus on the present task, or person, at hand.

Leaders strike a fine balance between “likeability” and “being liked.” This balance is not simple, but, merely, essential. Chiropractic health assistants do not show up every day in practices across Canada because they need friendship from their doctors. CHAs show up to make a difference in the lives of the patients they touch as well as support the doctors in the vision both for the practice and for chiropractic.

Brandi MacDonald manages a multi-doctor, high-volume clinic in Edmonton. She is the owner of True Concepts, which consults with chiropractors all over North America regarding staffing. She also is an international speaker for chiropractic assistants. She can be reached at .

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