Expression of Appreciation; It’s Worth More Than Words
The leadership skill of appreciating your employees.
By Connie Ziccarelli, COO
In the many years I’ve been in health care, especially private practice physical therapy, one thing has been certain: Very little stays the same. The ever-changing environment of health care is a constant reminder that change is inevitable, and we must adapt or risk going out of business. With all the rapid movement of the health care world, one constant has been that employees need to feel appreciated.
Of all the leadership skills, showing sincere appreciation, in my opinion, is the most important, and all other leadership skills are built on this foundation. Taking time to appreciate another’s effort is an outward act that speaks to your inward character as a leader. Expressions of gratitude are the most powerful words in making another feel needed and appreciated. Employees’ best efforts will be given when their contributions or tasks are recognized with positive feedback, which will inspire greater effort in future tasks.
The secret sauce for a leader is recognizing the worth of each staff member. If your team is struggling with the demands of the health care workplace, taking time to recognize the smallest of accomplishments will prove to motivate your team and bring positive thoughts to other tasks. In my experience, daily recognition of accomplishments empowers the team to find solutions to problems versus complaining about them. And the end result is a happy, functional team. When your team is happy, so are your patients and referral sources.
A pervasive feeling of discontent in the practice is a sign of a dysfunctional team. Nothing is more devastating than having a patient witness employees complaining and not engaged with their work. If you notice that patients are not showing up for their scheduled appointments and your patient arrival rate is slipping, think about the morale of your team. Then take a hard look in the mirror; the negative atmosphere in the practice may be a symptom of a bigger problem. The team may be dissatisfied with their workplace.
Bringing in a culture of appreciation takes time and discipline; it will force you to step out of your comfort zone to examine each member’s worth on the team. This is not a time for shallow thank yous but a time to recognize the depth and meaning that each team member contributes to the big picture. You hired them to do a job; it is your responsibility to recognize and acknowledge when they are giving positive energy to the team.
It is impossible to change an individual’s behavior when time is not given to building trust with that person. Taking time to appreciate their contributions will begin to develop trust that can then be the foundation should you need to redirect behavior or suggest new ways of doing a task. A leader’s main role is to increase the inner power and confidence of each member of the team.
There have been many role models in my career who have taken time to recognize my contributions to the practice. That behavior has carried over to how I interact with my team. A culture of appreciation is contagious; it spreads throughout your organization and can become your legacy. Appreciation can be practiced anywhere; it is a timeless act and skill.
It is vital that your team members in your practice know what they mean to you. I encourage each of you to take a moment to reflect and measure your skill in expressing appreciation on a daily basis. Among the many good resources available on this subject, a few I have found to be insightful and clear reads include: The Carrot Principle, by Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton, along with their companion book, Managing with Carrots; and the Little Book of Leadership by Jeffrey Gitomer.
The winds of change will continue to blow us in all directions. Our resilience will be tested as owners of busy PT private practices juggling government regulations, budgets, margins, and paperwork. But the one constant will be our employees. With their salaries and benefits as the largest expense on the balance sheet, without your team being engaged, happy, and truly motivated we will not recognize the full measure of our work. The time and effort you put into mastering the leadership skill of appreciation will be rewarded not only in your business but also in the way you are remembered by others. It will become your legacy. “As a leader, you have the power to influence, and you have the choice to either influence negatively or positively.” Jeffery Gitomer.
Connie Ziccarelli, is the chairperson of the PPS Administrator’s Council. She is also the cofounder, principal, and chief operations officer of Rehab Management Solutions in Sturtevant, Wisconsin, where she manages, grows, owns, and operates a nationwide network of private practice physical therapy clinics.