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 simply want to help more patients.
You may have taken steps personally to move towards those goals. But no matter how much effort you put in, improving your practice isn’t something done alone. It takes a team that share your goals.
So where do you start? How do you get your team on-board?
1) SCHEDULE TIME, SET COMPELLING GOALS, AND REPEAT
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.
Be Proactive and Begin with the End in Mind
The first principle, “Be Proactive” requires scheduling time with your team to discuss goals.
Dr. Rich Castellano, a Plastic Surgeon in Tampa, FL and CEO of PracticeProfitabilityMD.com, shared, “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. 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.”
Gloria Faulkner, Administrator at Aloha Laser Vision, agrees. “Monday morning staff meetings are essential. It’s a time to get together, iron out problems, go over the week. In Monday morning meetings, everyone has a voice; everyone has an opinion, which I think is valuable.”
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.
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 World Parks. They created a set of standards (or goals) for all employees over sixty-five years ago that are still being used today. They call these goals the “4 Keys to the Kingdom”: Safety, Courtesy, Show, and Efficiency. The “4 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 D. Schank, a cognitive scientist and entrepreneur, once said “Humans are not ideally set up to understand logic; they are ideally set up to understand stories.” Without a narrative of what you’re aiming for, it’s harder for your employees to understand your vision.
Humans are not ideally set up to understand logic; they are ideally set up to understand stories.
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.
Think about your favorite film: at one point early in the movie, the hero tells someone what they want. Now for the rest of the film, the audience is rooting for the hero to achieve his or her goal. It’s human nature. When we see someone with a goal, we want to help them achieve it.
“Once I got my team on board with our training and our story, the greatest thing happened in my life,” Castellano shares. “My team started telling ME what to do. And they were right, because they were so well trained and in tune with what we do, they often knew better than I how to create even more value for our patients.”
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.
Shane Snow writes about this for FastCompany: “Unlike mission statements, mantras are pivot-proof. They transcend current target markets and quarterly quotas. Google’s ‘Don’t be evil’ says nothing about search, social, or self-driving cars. It’s a banner under which augmented reality glasses and payment systems can thrive alongside pay-per-click ads, and it doesn’t conflict with any particular product’s mission of moment (say, organizing the world’s information). The mantra is the guiding star, not the operating manual….Cheesy? Who cares. Everyone remembers it. And in a startup where the soil of culture is fertile, a meaningful mantra can be one of the greatest seeds you plant.”
Claudine Anz, Office Manager of Smile Design Dentistry and former consultant to medical practices across multiple specialties, says that the phrase she uses in every office is ‘red-carpet service’. “I tell [all the employees] here when someone comes in, from the moment that they walk in that door, that 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 ‘red-carpet 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 medical, often underestimate the power of your employees feeling that they are part of a team, working towards a common goal. Psychology Today reports that peer motivation is the number one factor in what encourages employees to “go the extra mile.” Writing for Entrepreneur Magazine, John Rampton writes, “To show an employee that you truly trust and respect his opinions, let him make decisions that will impact your company’s culture and future.”
“To show an employee that you truly trust and respect his opinions, let him make decisions that will impact your company’s culture and future.”
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 PepsiCo CEO 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 multi-million dollar innovation.
“People say patients come first, but for us, our employees do. They have to feel valued” says Faulkner. “Our employees have contributed ideas from our workflow to even our furniture arrangement. They really do have a pulse on what patients are saying.”
Marie Norgaard, Administrator of Boxer Wachler Vision says, “We empower our staff to make decisions to help patients. For example, if a patient has had a delay in a driver picking them up, a staff member might buy them lunch while they wait or pay for an Uber ride for the patient. A patient is struggling financially; they can provide them a reduced rate.”
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 towards 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 towards. 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.