Chapter 10: Creating superb employees by taking good care of them
|"Example is not the main thing in influencing others, it is the only thing. "
- Albert Schweitzer.
To a large degree your employees are your clinic. While it is true that your patients come to see you, the quality of the interaction of your staff with your patients is just one of the many areas your people can either make or break your business. Your staff also has a huge effect on the quality of your life, because dealing with people can be agony or ecstasy - the source of your greatest frustrations or your most gratifying accomplishments.
You need to enhance your ability to effectively interact, direct and work with people. Unfortunately, most doctors never acquire good people handling skills, let alone management training , along the way. One problem is that most of us dont intuitively know what makes people tick and as a result we get involved in all sorts of counterproductive and self-defeating approaches in managing and dealing with our employees.
The commonest mistake most doctors make in managing their staff includes micromanaging and overmanaging. You need to be able to trust your staff to do things their own way. This may be different from your own way – and may actually be better !
Managing human resources often gets a low priority in medical practice. Busy physicians usually find themselves hiring employees chiefly in crisis situations—when a spot needs to be filled—rather than as part of a carefully considered staffing plan. But developing a strong staff doesn’t happen by accident, and practices can learn a lot from organizations with a stronger tradition of human resource management.
Remember that helping employees learn and grow also boosts the development of your practice. When staff members are content, they’re more friendly and responsive to the needs of patients and happy staffers improve your patients’ experience with your practice.
High-functioning employees cope with problems better, keeping the entire office running smoothly but it takes more than just good pay and benefits to keep employees motivated and satisfied.
Workers who are most likely to be satisfied with their jobs
Know what’s expected of them
Have the materials and equipment they need to do their work properly
Have the opportunity to do what they do best every day
Feel their opinions count
Have been recognized or praised for doing good work
Feel that their supervisor or someone else at work cares about them on a personal level
Receive encouragement for their professional development
Feel the clinic’s mission or purpose makes their job important
Feel their colleagues are committed to high-quality work
Have a best friend at work
Feel they’ve had opportunities to learn and grow within the past year.
In general, there are three managerial styles. Many doctors have a managerial style which is based on a police cop mentality – the " authoritarian " model - " find things that are wrong , and fix them the way I tell you to " . Following this model, many doctors try to force their staff to perform, but this approach works only if you are there to monitor your staff all the time. Others prefer a "hands-off” approach – the "laissez-faire” model, because they prefer not handling staff problems at all .
Unfortunately, taking an ostrich in the sand approach will not make the problems go away – and they may often fester till they become unmanageable. In this age of service, a more appropriate management style is " participative " – based on the coaching philosophy. Coaches look for strengths – they see what talent they have to work with and devise a game plan to win with the skills they have available. This is far more effective – both for you, and for your staff !
Remember that the way you treat your staff is the way they will treat your patients. You cannot ill-treat your staff, and then expect them to go forth and deliver inspired, compassionate service to your patients. What they see is what you will get. You are the role model whether you want the job or not. If you want your staff to treat your patients with respect, treat your staff with respect. If you want your staff to listen to your patients, you need to listen to them. If you want your team to report to work looking sharp, pay attention to your own grooming habits. If you want people to be on time, schedule an arrival time for yourself and be at work when the schedule says you will be.
Today’s business climate means physicians must act as coach and counselor to improve morale, reduce turnover, and energize employees. More than ever, physicians are seeing
the value of a motivated office staff.
How do you create an atmosphere like that? Some tips from experts:
Saying ‘thank you’ to your staff when they do something right is the single most powerful motivator you have, a recent survey shows. Yet doctors, perhaps because they tend to be self-motivated, are notoriously stingy with praise. They don’t realize that the
people who work for them need to be given verbal thanks to feel good about what they’ve done. If they’re not recognized by their boss — the office manager or the doctor — then they’ll definitely lose motivation.”
"When a patient says, ‘I’m really glad your billing person dug in and found out what the problem was with my bill,’ then make it a point to go and thank that employee , preferably in public. It’s a good idea to pick a worker every week and go out of your way to catch him doing something well.
Have a few stock phrases that are bound to be useful at some point. Here are some lines that Pitts-burgh- based organizational consultant Sam Deep recommends to help keep office staff motivated and on the right track:
"Here’s one way to do it.” Those five words tell your employee you’re willing to teach him, but won’t force him to do things your way.
"That looks great!” Employees want to feel appreciated, and surveys show they don’t think they get thanked enough. The good feeling a worker gets from a compliment
from the boss can last a week.
"What’ll it take to keep this from happening again?” This is a clever way to accomplish at least four goals at once. First, you get your employee to make a commitment
to do the job right next time. Next, by letting her tell you how she plans to fix her mistake, not only will she be more committed to making the remedy work, but she may
well come up with a better solution than you would. Third, you give her some practice at problem-solving, which will help make her more effective and confident. Finally, she
won’t forget that you treated her with respect — even though she fumbled.
Interestingly, you can dramatically increase your own productivity by listening to the members of your care team . Ask them, "How would you do this?" or "How could I do this better?" Most doctors are so used to knowing everything and doing everything, that they forget to ask for advice and guidance of the real experts - those whom they work with every day. You can be much more productive if you share ideas with your coworkers and listen to their ideas - your staff wants to be listened to, and will be very happy to contribute ideas and effort – if only you will give them a chance to do so !
A common mistake most of us make is giving the most work to the best employees, because they are the most efficient. Ironically, we reward poor performance with less work, and end up driving away our best employees because they are overworked and burned out. Knowing how to work efficiently with your team is the "hidden secret" of
physician productivity; conversely, an inefficient doctor makes the whole team inefficient.
Turnover in the clinic is a constant challenge for all doctors. Thanks to low pay, poor organizational structure, improper staffing, and the overall high-pressure environment in a medical clinic, nurses, receptionists and other staff often leave after only months on the job, keeping the front office in a constant state of turmoil. Worse, steady turnover can cause a vicious cycle of employee paranoia. Plagued by what seems to be a revolving door of worker replacements, practices stop training (why waste the time?) and maintain low wages (why waste the money?). As a result, morale drops, other employees leave, and the turnover in the front office just keeps feeding on itself.
Smart doctors should put staff first and patients second. They know that when they take extraordinary care of their staff, their employees will take extraordinary care of their patients ! Successful managers combine the five "R"s and the one "F": Recognition, Reward, Responsibility, Rules, and Respect, and Fun to create a work environment that few choose to leave, even for more money.
Recognition: Do you give your employees the recognition they deserve? Recognition is simply giving praise where its due.
Rewards: Do you reward employees for superior performance ? This does not always have to be a bonus – you can also offer gifts in kind, or an extra holiday. Rewards add incentive to the workplace.
Responsibility: When you give employees the responsibility of making decisions and suggesting improvements, they are empowered to do a better job – and they may pleasantly surprise you !
Rules: Do you have rules in place that are fair and reasonable? Do your employees know the rules they are supposed to follow? Too few rules result in anarchy, because your employees don’t know what to do and how to do it . Too many stifle creativity and flexibility.
Respect: Do you respect your employees? Your staff will respect you, one another, and your patients only as much as you respect them. Respect creates an atmosphere where good relationships thrive. No one stays long in a job where they cant enjoy relationships with others.
Fun: Is your clinic a fun place to be ? Providing good quality medical care can be a very satisfying job, and your staff should have fun doing so ! While it is true that no patient enjoys going to a doctor, clinics which are happy places will attract far more patients than sterile boring clinics !
Your staff should be proud to work for you. If you want good employees, learn to become a good employer!