At Practice Growth Agency’s recent London seminar for practice managers and owners, a recurring theme was how to ensure team cohesion. It seemed in the case of one practice that issue was almost insurmountable, and for another practice it appeared to be a relatively obscure subject. For both those attendees, however, the issue of failing teams rang loud bells and they wanted to know more.
Our Managing Director Kevin Coyle, touched upon several principles to ensure practice teams coordinate well and run a smooth business. He emphasised how good teamwork under a strong unifying vision means success. A business figuring out its particular ‘glue’ for holding its team together results in eliminating staff retention problems and, in turn, the difficulties in making ends meet.
With over three decades of collective experience in service, we at Practice Growth Agency outline here six ways to rescue limping team relationships so that growth becomes a reality for you.
Clarity on your direction
Not to mince words, a practice has to make money to survive. But do your current staff really understand what that means? We suggest you encourage conversation and really listen to what staff have to say. At the same time, holding onto to your vision of what you want your practice to eventually be. Discussion and generating ideas, while really valuable, need to be separated from the decision-making, which is ultimately your job. When you have made your decisions, communicate clearly how you arrived at them and how the new ideas will work. Short, daily ‘stand-up’ meetings with staff and a more detailed weekly meeting will give that clarity consistency.
As with every team situation, whether classroom, factory floor or army camp, there have to be some basic rules that everyone fully grasps, and that are enforced. Basic rules around, for example, time-keeping, mobile phone use and customer service must be put in place and must carry consequences if flouted. The impact of not adhering to them has to be articulated in an agreement or policies that staff sign and you keep on record. Practice processes have to be unambiguous and staff need to know them before need arises. This will give the team certainty and confidence in itself and also a firm belief in the practice management to deal with any problems that arise.
Prepare to share leadership
Leadership is largely based on trust in two ways: one is in trusting others to get on with their job, the other is trusting yourself enough to trust them!
Here is where you separate the ‘what’ from the ‘how’:
You know clearly what you want to happen in a certain area of the business, let us say, in the area of dental product sales. So you have established the ‘what’. If you are confident that you have employed the right person to work in reception, for example, you can give them some product knowledge training and then allow them to use their customer service and selling skills to do the rest. They now have a clear ‘how’.
There is strength and value in delegating tasks to people you trust. Although it is up to you to train and monitor how they perform on their assigned tasks and responsibilities, you will only know if your trust will be repaid by fully committing to giving over control of part of the process.
Boundaries and respect
Boundaries relate to groundrules but they differ in the sense that they are more fluid and belong in the area of social mores and the culture of both outside the workplace and within it. Often managers and owners will have ‘inherited’ a workplace where standards have slipped. By all means listen to concerns and descriptions of how staff relations work or don’t work, but do so in confidence with each individual. Do not allow remonstrance in front of customers and by no means ‘triangle’ any complaints. Treat everyone with the integrity you wish them to show you and each other.
Boundaries, like trust, are set at the top of the business and proliferate right down to clients. It doesn’t matter how long someone has worked there. What matters is that everyone feels considered, is on an equal footing and can expect to be treated without prejudice. Equally, boundaries must be set so that if someone oversteps them, you can handle the situation with authority, because expectations have already been set out. You may have to introduce a Code of Conduct if it is very apparent that the situation has degenerated badly. There is little that is more off-putting to a customer than unprofessional, rude behaviour. If respect walks so does much needed revenue.
Communication, Agreement, Commitment
There is a process to make relationships more harmonious when it comes to day-to-day work, introducing new processes or information, or instituting big changes. Firstly, communication. The bare facts, the action plan and expectations have to be laid out and all staff concerned need to know. Secondly, give your staff an option to agree to the changes, to jump on board voluntarily and discuss anything they see as negative or confusing. Lastly, get them to relay back to you THEIR understanding and ask them to commit to the new phase. It is useful to them and the practice as a whole to have this commitment in writing. You will have a record that they understood and agreed to carry out necessary tasks: your ‘no quibble guarantee’, if you like!
Metrics: Relevant, Visible, Timely
There are aspects of business that must be measured. How else will you know you are progressing? However, make sure how you measure helps and does not hinder. Try to have only a FEW indicators for staff – too many means you’ll have trouble tracking them. The metrics you discuss with staff need to be relatable and staff need to be able to see them as relevant to their own work in order to understand them, and ultimately be able to work with them too. Secondly, make them highly visible and if possible, make them visual for instant impact, maybe a simple chart in a staff area or a graph in an email or memo. Lastly, give the information out on time and ensure it isn’t too abstract or old. Anything too far into the past loses its potency and value. Also ensure targets or performance indicators are regularly reviewed and staff are reminded of them consistently. Again, relevance is the key word.
We hope these tips resonate with you. They’re here to help you to see how clarity that emanates from management helps staff to come together, helping you achieve the aims you have for your business. At Practice Growth Agency we rely on good business practice ourselves, so we understand the need for a co-ordinated approach to staff matters, particularly as staff are a business’s greatest asset.
For detailed advice on what your practice needs, you can enquire about our services here.