5 Value Goals
By Larry Briand, PT, MS, ATC
Physical therapists (PTs) guide patients in their “road map to recovery” every day. Most PTs are comfortable in the role of “leader” and “motivator” in developing plans of care directing patients to their previous level of function. However, we sometimes find clinical staff lack leadership and motivation acumen in other arenas. To be an effective leader, managing a team and practice that will withstand the test of time, you must understand how to empower your employees through core value goals.
First, begin by viewing your practice as a triangle with three levels (Figure 1). The top level contains your financial triggers, your positive cash flow and growth in profitability. The middle level contains your operational triggers, the number of visits seen by each provider, patient compliance, cost per visit, reimbursement per visit, and average charge per visit. However, the area of most importance is your base level, your practice’s attributes. Without a strong base, your triangle will not withstand the test of time. Think of the base as a chair; take away one leg from the chair and it becomes wobbly. A 3-legged chair cannot hold a person’s weight and will ultimately fall. The same is with your practice’s success. If you do not have strong attributes guiding your team, your practice will falter.
The base of your triangle—your attributes—can also be defined as value goals. These are core goals that you build your practice around, which will ultimately lead to performance results. As a leader, you must expect your staff to live and breathe these value goals. In addition, you must practice what you preach. The only way to build a strong team is by setting the example. Listed below are five value goals that every physical therapy owner or director should integrate into their practices:
Focus on the Guest Experience
Being in private practice, we have one thing and one thing only to leverage—the guest experience. Therefore, we must leverage it well. We must create a culture and community centered on the patient experience to show the true value of our services. Apply the concepts of branding to the “guest” experience. A practice as a whole must make a unified goal to “wow” the patient by taking a 360-degree approach to every interaction, providing a consistent message among what patients see, hear, and experience emotionally.1 Every little detail and touch-point counts, even ones that may seem miniscule to us. Attention to this detail shows patients you care. Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care, and cost is only an expense in the absence of that value. By offering patients this 360-degree experience, you show the true value of your services and the benefits your practice has to offer. In order to be successful, this value goal focusing on the “guest” experience must be a practice-wide effort. We all know it only takes one bad apple to ruin the entire bag. Therefore, set the example yourself and expect the same level of commitment from your team–anything less is unacceptable.
“Teamwork makes the dream work.”2 It involves connectivity and working together for a common global goal, the success of the practice. Being a leader in your practice does not mean that you work solo. It means you encompass yourself with talented individuals who enhance your strengths. Do not keep your team in the dark. Empower them by sharing accurate and confidential information about the practice. After all, “people without accurate information cannot act responsibly. [But] people with accurate information feel compelled to act responsibly.”3 Empowering your team with this information shows them that they are capable of making the proper decisions to make your practice successful, and holds them accountable. This sense of “power” is exciting and motivating. Keep your staff continuously informed of your practice’s success and benchmarks, and share vital reports such as weekly referral statistics, code utilization, payor mix, and the cost of doing business. Allow them to reflect with you on areas that need improvement and together, create a solution to enhance your systems. Align your team on a common goal and work together seamlessly to achieve it. Remember, “one of us is not as smart as all of us.”4 You can accomplish more by working as a team.
Ongoing Education and Training
We all thought that once we completed school our learning was over—wrong! Ongoing education and training are necessary to excel. When a new employee joins the practice, he or she comes in with a high commitment and enthusiasm and low competencies. He or she is excited to become part of the team, but is not yet aware of how the practice is run. However, as time progresses, if the opportunity to continue one’s education and training is not available, the employee’s commitment and enthusiasm begins to plummet. Staff members become complacent, knowing that every day will be the same and there is no room for growth or advancement (Figure 2).
To keep your employees’ energies high, offer ongoing education and training, not only in their professional fields, but also within your business. Once again, educate your team by sharing confidential information about the practice. Guide and support them on areas for improvement and help quench their thirst for knowledge. This will release their excitement and lead to proper decision-making for the practice while at the same time fostering their competencies.
The road to success is a journey, not a sprint. Realize that there is always room to improve and success will always be “a work in progress.” Do not be discouraged by the minor setbacks that come your way, but instead embrace them as learning opportunities. Each day, strive to enhance even more than the day before. Instill this message in your team and work together to continuously improve the guest experience and your internal systems. If you are not moving forward in life, you are going backwards. Do not be afraid to move forward and take risks. Empower your team by welcoming feedback and ideas on how to better grow the practice.
Cheer Each Other On
When working with a patient, do you wait until graduation to praise improvements? No, you continuously praise your patients’ efforts throughout the entire plan of care to motive them. Do not wait until employee annual reviews to praise them for their hard work and dedication. Cheer them on every time you catch them in the act of improving the patient experience or your practice. Spontaneous recognition and reward are key, emphasizing the positive, building trust, and promoting empowerment. On the other hand, if you catch a member of your staff participating in non-desirable behavior, do not reprimand. Instead offer a re-direction, first focusing on something positive about the person, then discussing the wrong behavior and re-directing it. Always explain the reasoning behind your re-direction. Follow up by recognizing and complimenting the employee when you see evidence of learning. Always, always, always praise and reward positive behavior. Celebration in each success motivates a staff and creates an award-winning team.
According to Jack Welch, former chief executive officer of General Electric and now head of Jack Welch, LLC, leaders:
- Make sure people not only see the vision, they live and breath it
- Get into everyone’s skin, exuding positive energy and optimism
- Inspire risk taking and learning by setting the example
As a leader, live and breathe your value goals. Make the five core goals of focusing on the patient experience, teamwork, ongoing education and training, continuous improvement, and cheering each other on a daily ambition. By focusing on key value goals and setting the example, you can boost your team’s empowerment and enthusiasm and, in return, drive successful performance results.
Larry Briand, MS, PT, ATC, is a PPS and APTA member and the founder and chief executive officer of Rehab Management Solutions, located in Sturtevant, Wisconsin. Larry owns and operates a nationwide network of private practice physical therapy clinics and has more than 25 years of experience leading clinics. Larry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at www.rehabmgtsolutions.com.
1. Mefford, Chuck and Lori M. Lovett. Brandsformation: How to Transform Your Good Healthcare Practice Into a Great Brand. U.S.: Lighthouse Communications. 2010. Print.
2. Maxwell, John C. Teamwork Makes the Dream Work. Nashville, TN: J. Countryman, 2002. Print.
3. Blanchard, Kenneth H., John P. Carlos, and W. Alan. Randolph. Empowerment Takes More than a Minute. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler, 2001. Print.
4. Maxwell, John C. The 5 Levels of Leadership: Proven Steps to Maximize Your Potential. New York: Center Street, 2011. Print.
5. Welch, Jack, and Suzy Welch. Winning. New York: Harper Business, 2005. Print.