Companies listed as top employers have discovered their greatest assets are their co-workers. However, knowing something does not mean we apply it in our work place. Maybe you are a skeptic, that an engaged employee working in their strengths can maximize your bottom line not only financially, but patient satisfaction and staff satisfaction. The Gallup Organization asked 198,000 employees if they routinely worked in their strength within 36 companies (1) the organizations with employees routinely answering yes to that question consistently outperformed their competitors. The book “NOW, Discover Your Strengths” is a must read! The revolutionary program shows you how to develop your unique talents and strengths – and those of the people you manage. Almost a third of our gross revenue is directed toward staff, yet our leadership in development of their strengths and skills is often lacking.
Our professional training and demands of patient care often result in these critical areas not receiving the attention they deserve. Leadership in these areas will impact our practice growth, satisfaction and staff retention.
How do I find time and energy to deal with these important components of my business?
Pass it on to an office manager without clear expectations and the necessary people skills? Discuss your plan with a staff member while walking down the hall way or over the patient while delivering care, making a point to leave other team members out of the conversation. Just implement your ideas with limited communication to the team. Maybe you have not experienced the result of the above half- hearted efforts at addressing improvement or team engagement. I have had the privilege of stumbling in all these areas over 35 years of practice.
In that journey, I have discovered some strategies that promote engagement and allow team members to take responsibility for action. While interviewing staff for Leadership by Design workshops the two most common complaints are the doctor won’t follow through on necessary change or address the difficult employee. “He or she does not care what I think or what I could offer.” One of the most desired qualities in the workplace is to be valued. I have found, if it is all up to you it will frequently fall short of your desired outcome and staff loses confidence (nothing is going to change).
Try this for summer office meetings!
Allow me to propose the action office meeting initiative that engages staff, improves morale and gives team members the sense they are valued. Is that an oxymoron? Look around your office, are team members valued by you and do they value each other? Perhaps you already have great productive energizing meetings, if so read no further, congratulations, send me what you are doing for future tips to our readers. Being valued is a top priority of people in the workplace.
Following is an outline for summer rejuvenation and creating team ownership:
1) Announce (both written and oral) to the team your desire to tap into the talents and ideas of each team member.
2) The summer theme will be “How can we set our selves apart” solutions through action meetings.
3) Set the frame work for the action gatherings. Have a standard agenda and let the staff fill in the details to be discussed. Block out office time not the lunch hour. Do this for the next 3 months. It shouts you believe this time is important.
4) Establish the attitude everyone is responsible for creating a thriving culture. Often I see a victim mentality, that it is someone else causing problems, this often kills the spirit of the effort. If it is one individual address it in private. (See VA Dental Journal, October 2012, Difficult Conversations) A chief complaint I hear from staff is the doctor addresses everyone about a problem when the problem is only with one individual staff member.
5) All team members are expected to talk and nobody interrupts. Often meetings are dominated by a single individual. Allow people to speak without criticism and be heard with respect. Create a goal that everyone builds on the skill of better listening to patients and to each other.
6) Have established sections on the agenda .
7) Always have a slot for celebration. There is always someone or something to celebrate. Celebrate when people show a random act of kindness, a beautiful case, or a special occasion.
8) Identify someone responsible for taking notes and delivering them to all team members the next day. The notes will cover each issue and identify action items that are assigned to people during the conversations. Each action item has a date to complete and prevents the same issue from coming to the table month after month.
This is a skeleton outline for engaging your team for all areas of growth, marketing, procedures, staffing and more efficient operations. Please take the time to check out the books I have listed. Depending on your leadership skills and style it may require some practice. I guarantee it will pay dividends. Please call with questions, it is not without its bumps, but it will give you an edge in a rapidly changing profession that requires greater collaboration along with decisive leadership.
Bibliography: Buckingham, Marcus and Clifton, Donald O, Ph.D., Now, Discover Your Strengths, New York, New York, the Free Press, 2001
Nicholas, Michael P., The Lost Art of Listening, New York, New York, the Guilford Press, 1995
Kouzes, James M. and Barry Z. Posner, The Truth about Leadership, San Francisco, California, Jossey-Bass A Wiley Imprint, 2010
Dr. Jim Schroeder is the Founder of Leadership by Design. He has been writing about leadership and organizational growth for over 30 years.
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