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Growing Enthusiasm and Commitment in Your Staff

Your success in making your practice a strong team depends on building strong relationships with the people who work for and with the practice. You can help motivate staff and foster engagement by communicating in a way that is respectful, considerate, and sincere, recognizing that everyone in the practice is important to its success.

Managers can grow a great staff, but not without sincerity. Sincerity shows when you express your confidence in their skills and dedication, and give recognition when it is deserved. Consistently provide opportunities for your employees to take on new challenges, and communicate appreciation when they excel.

Just as important, be visible and approachable. Your presence is an opportunity to observe staff interaction and show that you are available. A manager's accessibility sends a signal to the team that they are important and have leadership's support.

Getting Your Staff to Be Enthusiastic About and Committed to the Practice

The entire leadership team should have the goal of helping staff members adopt and believe in practice values and strive to be top performers. If you consistently model your respect for the organization—what it stands for and the people within—staff will follow.

Think about the journey of a new employee who accepts a position with your practice. He or she assumes that it was the right decision and that the practice is a good place to work—before even getting to know you! That is powerful. But a year down the road, will this employee feel the same way? If the employee doesn't, consider what has changed and why.

A new employee typically comes to work with a positive attitude but is observant, quietly assessing the inner workings of the practice and the people in it, including their behavior, attitude, and overall morale. Is the leadership confident and encouraging? Are the employees energized at work, respectful of each other, and proud of the quality of their work? If so, your new employee is likely to model these same traits.

When leadership's actions and decisions are consistent in demonstrating value and respect for employees and their contribution to the practice, it makes a strong statement. If instead a new employee has the opposite experience, he or she may regret joining your practice. In the end, your investment in hiring and training will be lost if the employee leaves, and that departure may result in the rest of the team feeling frustrated.

Employees are rating you and the practice on these factors. If management treats staff with indifference and little respect or regard for their needs, performance and morale will decline. The ability to retain the best employees and help them grow is influenced by how managers treat each other, their team, and other line staff.

Hire the right people, support them, and be the example that you want them to follow. Make it your job to help everyone succeed. Two key ways to show your support are through effective communication and accessibility to everyone on your team when needed.

Communicating Your Ideas and Expectations

Employees don't know what you are thinking or what you expect of them unless you tell them, and how you tell them makes a difference. The words you use have power, so choose them wisely.

  • Make a point to frame a criticism with positive statements on both sides. It will then be easier for the employee to accept the criticism and work with you to resolve it. Doing this shows that you value their strengths and want to help them improve in other areas. Here's an example: "Mark, you are doing a great job learning the new software. I noticed that Amanda has been asked to help but she has a pretty full plate. Let's give the online tutorial course a try and see if we can reduce interrupting Amanda's work. And Mark, after it is completed, let me know if more help is needed, but I'm confident that you will master the program."

  • Say "thank you" when an employee does something for you or when you ask them to do something. Express your appreciation and the employee will be more eager to help you.

  • When something goes wrong, try saying, "Explain how it happened" instead of "Who did this?" This may help you avoid triggering the employee to become defensive and uncooperative.

  • Using "we" instead of "you" reinforces cooperation and teamwork. "We have a problem in the department that needs to be fixed" is far better than "You have a problem and it needs to be fixed."

Be thoughtful and helpful when giving criticism, and offer ways to improve. The conversation should be in private so that it is not overheard by other staff or your patients. "Praise in public, criticize in private" is an adage worth remembering.

When you plan to meet with an employee for the purpose of criticism or counsel, it is important not to alarm him or her or draw the attention of other team members. You can send a casual email or make a phone call: "Carla, can you stop by my office for a few minutes?" Alternatively, if Carla typically comes to your office, then the next time the opportunity arises, you could simply ask her to take a seat.

Some managers resolve this concern by making a habit of stopping by a team member's desk at random, asking them to come to their office and give a 3-minute report on how things are going. This is valuable on two fronts: It goes under the radar as a feedback session, and it shows management's interest and support.

When delegating a task to a subordinate, it is important to get your point across in a short, uncomplicated conversation. Begin by asking for their help and then explain your needs. Make clear that you are available if questions come up or if assistance is needed, and end with an expression of gratitude.

Think about what you say before you say it, and be sensitive to how staff will respond. Above all, be sincere in your communication and back it up with your actions.

Silent Messages and Body Language

The unspoken word sends a silent message. Think about an argument that is left unsettled; both parties walk away and continue to work together without speaking to each other. The silence is deafening and it's harmful to the relationship. It also influences the people who observe this uncomfortable situation.

Now think about staff's response when a manager walks into a room. People start reading him or her before a word has been said. An abrupt entrance with anxious movement or a frown on the face sends a negative message. It may spark fear and staff's avoidance of the manager.

A friendly smile is always a welcome sight for your employees. Before you enter a room, check that you are not preoccupied; are you able to give your awareness and attention to the people around you? Even passing someone in the hall becomes a positive experience for them if you say hello, nod, or smile. It is a valuable habit to learn and apply.

When engaged in a conversation, send positive signals with consistent eye contact, a nod of agreement when appropriate, relaxed and uncrossed arms, and a posture at the same level (eg, not standing over someone while they are sitting). Applying these simple tips shows respect and interest, and helps you build stronger relationships.

Making Time for Your Staff Members

Leaders and physicians have many demands on their time. Their schedules may be derailed if something more urgent comes up. Before bumping a meeting with one of your employees, be sure you've evaluated the importance of the meeting and the consequences of delaying it.

Be respectful and call or talk directly with the staffer, and offer your sincere apology. Reschedule as soon as possible and at his or her convenience. This helps staff understand that canceling was not intentional, and it may head off resentment or frustration over getting attention and support.

Being too accessible, on the other hand, can plague managers, impeding their own productivity. This often happens when managers adopt an open-door policy, which can encourage staff to bring up problems that they could have solved on their own with only a little effort.

Instead, set aside a standard time when you are available to talk, almost like a professor's office hours.

How much time to set aside depends on your preferences and several key factors, such as the number of direct reports you have and the amount of time you can dedicate to this process on a regular basis.

It is also important to consider how much confidence your staff has and their ability to problem-solve. If they seem to seek help all the time, perhaps you are micromanaging and not giving them the skills and authority to do their jobs properly, making them far too dependent on you. If you grow their skills and confidence, they will be more productive and more engaged, and you will free up your own time.

Appreciation and Celebrating Victories

Expressing appreciation for staff's contributions is vital to fostering engagement. But shows of appreciation have more impact when they're connected to the goals of the department and the organization. Managers who share the data they use to evaluate the team's performance, and then celebrate shared victories, can help employees gain a true sense of having contributed.

For example, practice managers or team leaders rely on metrics to tell them how well their departments are doing. Some of these metrics may not be shareable with the team, such as physician productivity results or certain expense calculations. But metrics that are directly influenced by staff can tell them a lot about what they're doing right and what is valued by the practice.

Improvements in no-show rates, copay collection, and patient service ratings are all day-to-day victories that can and should be shared with staff so that they can pat themselves on the back too.

When you share your successes, you lift staff up. Give praise and celebrate together. Have a pizza party, pass out movie tickets, or give everyone a gift certificate for the local mall. You might consider inviting your own boss to attend occasionally. This cost will be minor compared to the positive impact it has on staff.

Encourage them to be a unified staff, working hard to achieve department- and practice-wide goals, taking pride in their work, and being the kind of employees you want to keep—a staff that cares, shares your values, and feels that coming to work in your practice is one of the best decisions they ever made.

Leaders can succeed at fostering engagement and building solid relationships throughout the organization when they demonstrate respect and acknowledge everyone's contribution consistently throughout the practice—not just their direct reports'. From the onboarding of a new employee to guiding his or her growth, from dealing with difficult and delicate situations to celebrating your department's successes, your results reflect your own determination.

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| January 01, 2019