You've probably thought about your practice goals for the next few years. Maybe it's offering additional services. Perhaps it's regional recognition. Or you want to help more patients.
You may have taken steps personally to move toward those goals. However, no matter how much effort you put in, improving your practice isn't something done alone. It takes a team that shares your goals.
So where do you start? How do you get your team onboard?
1. Schedule time and set compelling goals
In the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, author Stephen Covey starts with the first two principals, "be proactive" and "begin with the end in mind." These are essential for individual leadership. Combined, they offer a road map on how to communicate with your team.
The first principle, "be proactive," requires scheduling time with your team to discuss goals.
Dr. Richard Castellano, a plastic surgeon in Tampa, FL, and CEO of PracticeProfitabilityMD.com, shared his thoughts on this matter.
"The best way to set clear expectations and group priorities is to schedule regular meetings or trainings with your team, at least 30 minutes per week," Dr. Castellano said. "Many offices offer little or no training to their staff and often expect the team to figure things out. Email training and hallway conversations will not get the message across. When you commit to scheduling this time, magically, your team will more easily internalize expectations and priorities."
The second principle, "begin with the end in mind," requires you to "develop a clear vision of your desired direction and destination" for your team, according to Covey.
You probably have a ranked list of goals for your practice: outstanding patient care, exceptional service, and friendly interactions that put patients at ease, just to name a few possibilities. If you asked every member of your team for those goals, would they produce the same list and same rank order?
If not, perhaps it is because your practice's goals haven't been crystalized and repeated. If the goals are not easy to understand and are not a part of your regular conversations, they will be forgotten.
One organization that is routinely applauded for its employees' commitment to the organization's goals is Walt Disney. They created a set of standards (or goals) for all employees more than 65 years ago that are still being used today. They call these goals the "four keys to the kingdom:" safety, courtesy, show, and efficiency. The "four keys" work because they are simple to understand and ever-present.
It's no different for your team. Clarifying your priorities and repeating them not only helps your team members, but it may help you in making executive decisions and staying on track.
2. Cast a compelling story
Roger Schank, a cognitive scientist and entrepreneur, illustrated the benefits of a compelling story.
"Humans are not ideally set up to understand logic; they are ideally set up to understand stories."
For your practice, without a narrative of what you're aiming for, it's harder for your employees to understand your vision.
A team story has three steps:
- Where we are now
- Where we want to go
- How we are getting there
Having open discussions about where you are and where you want to go can clarify the journey and can motivate your employees to participate in the process.
Sharing where you are now and where you want to go is relatively easy. Defining how you get there can be more difficult.
One way to communicate this part of the story is with a company mantra. A mantra distills your practice's goals even further into a short, pithy statement that guides decision-making and behavior.
Many top companies use them, including Google's "Don't Be Evil," and Apple's "Think Different." Neither of them describes what the company does but tries to illustrate how the company acts.
Claudine Anz, office manager at Smile Design Dentistry and former consultant to medical practices across multiple specialties says the phrase she uses in every office is "red-carpet service."
"I tell [all the employees] here when someone comes in, from the moment they walk in that door, they receive 'red-carpet service. "
Organizing a practice's ethos around a phrase gives employees a tool to measure their work decisions against. According to Anz, emphasizing this level of service ensures all team members understand creating an exceptional patient experience is paramount.
3. Make them part of your mission
Once you've established your practice's goals and shared your story, it's your team's turn. Invite your team to be part of the process and come up with innovative ways for how they will implement the company's vision.
When employees feel their innovations are being implemented, or at least fairly evaluated, they feel more invested in the mission of the practice. Employers in all sectors, including healthcare, often underestimate the power of their employees feeling they are part of a team, working toward a common goal.
This doesn't mean you have to surrender control of your organization, just that you intentionally make yourself open to implementing ideas that fit your priorities, and that comes from your employees.
Many company-changing innovations came from the most unlikely sources. For example, Flamin' Hot Cheetos were invented by a janitor who called up the CEO of PepsiCo with an idea for a new flavor of the product. Not only was this a success for the company and the janitor, but also for the CEO who was willing to listen to a new idea that resulted in a multimillion-dollar innovation.
Everyone ends up benefiting when the team is part of the mission: the practice, the team, and the patients.
In the end
Making sure your employees are "on the bus" is a process that starts with management. Your team is looking toward administrators, office managers, and doctors for leadership and inspiration.
No one wants to get on a bus that's sitting in a parking lot. Have a vision for your practice and goals to move toward. Communicate those with your team and give them opportunities for input.
These are the ways that you can get your team excited and motivated about the priorities you have for your practice to keep moving forward.
The comments and observations expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the opinions of DrBicuspid.com, nor should they be construed as an endorsement or admonishment of any particular idea, vendor, or organization.