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The Irreplaceable Employee - a "Nice Guy" Problem?

By Thomas Lecoq

I am a systems guy. In a system, all the parts or roles are well defined, and tasks clearly laid out. Who does what, when. The Lecoq System carefully documents each role.

But more often than I like to remember, we’ve found clients who were thwarted by an irreplaceable employee. What makes this bad is that a system has to have replaceable parts, or it’s not a system at all. Every minor glitch becomes a big deal. The doctor is always putting out fires.

Worse, what the doctor wants and asks for never happens. Excuses, “We don’t have time for that.” Or “that’s not how we do it.” Worse, “That wasn’t part of the job when you hired me.” Worst of all, silent refusal to do what the doctor requires.

The thing to do with such an irreplaceable person is to REPLACE them. If you hire people based on their special talent, skill or personality type, any system you might have in mind, or choose to install at a later date, is done for.

Being a "Nice Guy"

And this is exacerbated by what we’ll call, being a “nice guy.” Oh, being a nice person is probably desirable, in fact, Dr. Rob Fox, who operates a highly successful practice in N.Y., always hires nice people. (NOTE: Women also suffer the “Nice Guy” thing, probably from learning to play together nicely.)

But a person stuck with being a “nice guy” is one who does so at their own expense. It is debilitating and the irreplaceable staff person often manipulates that person in a remarkably passive-aggressive way. How do I know this? Two things:

First, Amee and I have seen it in practices where staff seemed to sabotage every single thing we taught and the doctor wanted to do.

Second, an exercise while taking a leadership course before I discovered VT, my love for it and the doctors who practice it. We played “the Samurai Game,” in which two sides compete in ceremonial combat until only one is left. Being a nice guy, when choosing sides, I was a nice guy and said it didn’t matter to me. And instantly, I was “dead,” carried out of the room to lay down silently as the rest of the game progressed.

It was while laying there, arms crossed over my chest, listening to life going on in the next room, that I realized that for decades, I’d been a “nice guy,” AT MY OWN EXPENSE. I was out of the game, but throughout my life, I’d given up what I wanted to be a “nice guy’ to others.

No More Mr. "Nice Guy"

I’m still a very nice guy. Those who know me know that. But no longer at my own expense. No longer willing to put everyone else’s interests above mine. Oddly, this plays an important role in my decades of consulting and training doctors, and developing a powerful and effective system. The difference is that when I see something the client or staff is doing or behaving, I say something meant to affect a change.

If a staff person is being resistant or committing sabotage, I have a direct conversation with the doctor. Yes, I’m diplomatic and respectful, but I don’t flinch. I’m being paid to be a realist, to help the doctor and staff succeed at what they intend to do. Being nice to be comfortable in that situation is a disservice to the client.

It doesn’t always work. Some clients just can’t get over it and are fearful that the irreplaceable staffer will quit (a frequent threat for this type of employee). It’s designed to strike fear in the doctor, a nasty manipulation that limits the freedom, prosperity and joy in life for the “nice at all costs” doctor.

A Standard Beyond "Nice"

In a system, all roles are clearly set out. When someone leaves, you hire for the skills needed for that role. We’ve often seen doctors hire a “hot” prospect, full of promises, only to find that the role actually requires a quiet, but friendly introvert.

During the on-site portion of our consultation and training, we produce a map, a time line of patient interactions that IS the system. Every aspect of training is in how any specific role affects everyone else’s role and their success. When everyone becomes part of the whole, dedicated to helping patients above all other interests, the synergy is terrific and the rewards are there for everyone. A prosperous practice, to mix metaphors, raises all ships.

From the first day I worked for the OEPF in February 1982, I’ve dedicated myself to mastering the communications and processes that build great, successful, multi-million dollar practices. It’s not a casual thing because people pay for what I learned and the system I developed. About 20 percent of VT ODs have done the same and thrived. If you’re not one of them, or you’re stuck being nice, I invite you to speak with Amee Lecoq. Or email me, Thomas Lecoq at

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