What your staff (really) wants from you

October 8, 2010

A medical practice has a lot of moving pieces, so the management function-the integration of the parts-is especially important.

Key Points

Has there ever been a day in your practice when you wondered: "Who is steering this ship?" A medical practice has a lot of moving pieces, so the management function-the integration of the parts-is especially important.

If a small medical practice is struggling, chances are it has some management challenges, maybe some really, really big challenges. Truth be told, we all have the same challenges. The only thing that matters is what we do about them.

There are 3 main keys to effectively managing your staff:

CLEAR EXPECTATIONS VITAL

More important than money is setting clear expectations; this task is a fundamental part of effective management. Even so, many staff members complain that they aren't told exactly what to do, or they are not given an opportunity to address negative feedback. Motivation for improvement does not exist without a clear measuring stick of performance. Quarterly evaluations (at a minimum) are mandatory. The only thing worse than muddy or unclear expectations is failing to offer regular feedback.

It is much easier to manage your staff if you establish a clear system for measuring work performance and open the floor to frequent communication as a group or individually with the office manager. In addition, you have to be willing to hold your staff members accountable if they fail to accomplish their tasks or are not effective team members.

The surest way to perpetuate staff problems is to ignore them. Such issues never conveniently go away by themselves.

RECOGNIZE GOOD PERFORMANCE

The second important element of effective management is recognition and reward. This element is essential to good staff management. Unfortunately, it is highly overlooked in most practices. People in general are starving for recognition. Count the ratio of "gotchas" to "attagirls" in a typical day in your practice. You'll learn a lot about your culture.

Something as simple as taking a staff member to lunch in recognition of doing something positive will speak volumes to the whole group. Make sure you give a few "attaboys" every week to everyone. Mention individual achievements in front of everyone else. People crave feeling good about their contributions in the workplace. If you give them permission to do that, then you'll have a happy group of lifetime employees.

Surprisingly, the last item on the list is learning. Do you know what each member of your staff wants to learn in the next quarter? Will they commit? Will you hold them accountable to reach those goals? If you stretch them a little, you'll be surprised by how much more helpful your staff will be in achieving your goals of building a busy, fun, and profitable practice.

FRESH THINKING

Einstein said: "We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them." We need fresh thinking and methods to attain our goals.

Are you prepared to do things differently to get a better staff? Are you prepared to work on your staff development plan every single day for half an hour to secure the results you want? Are you organized to go after what you want? Believe it or not, you can have exactly the staff you want for an affordable price. The key is to find a way to manage your staff needs and expectations, not just their paychecks.

The author is founder and chief executive officer of Ultimate Practice Builder in Dallas, Texas. Send your feedback to medec@advanstar.com