Building (and Keeping) a Great Team
By Lori Dillon, MPA
Having the right team is everything.
Motivated, compassionate, smart, collaborative teammates not only make your life easier, but they consistently contribute to a great patient experience. That’s what we all strive for and what allows our businesses to thrive. I’m sure you’ve had amazing employees; hopefully you do right now. If you’re like the rest of us, you’ve also lost some good people or made a hiring choice that just wasn’t a fit. What does it take to recruit, hire, and retain the best of the best? Obviously there’s no magic wand to wave for this, but there are a few things that might increase the likelihood that you build and keep a great team.
Hiring isn’t likely among your favorite responsibilities. A fair amount of pressure comes with the process of promoting your value to prospective hires in a competitive market and “finding the right fit” for your team. And it takes TIME! In a world where every minute of your working time equals money (literally!), it can be easy to want to speed through the recruiting process. And yet, if your team truly is everything, you have to be thoughtful about who you hire.
Good enough is NOT good enough. Your clinic isn’t mediocre. Your team members shouldn’t be either. In an increasingly competitive landscape, you need to demonstrate excellence. The best way to do this is to deliver the highest quality care and customer service. Good teammates will do that. They’ll also come up with bold new ideas, promote your clinic in the community, and contribute to building your legacy. Don’t settle. Take the time to hire the right fit. A short-term wait for that right person will pay off big time down the road.
Involve others on your team in the recruiting process. If you have current employees, especially ones who already exhibit the qualities and behaviors that make your practice great, invite them to participate in the decision-making of new hires. Have them interview or co-interview, invite them to have a coffee (maybe virtual, in the time of COVID-19) with a candidate, offer to have your top candidates join your team in a group gathering (again, could be virtual, maybe a game night?!). Then, actually ask your teammates for feedback. Listen to their opinions. Clearly explain why you made your final decision. The final hiring decision is yours, and it will likely be a more thoughtful decision if you involve the perspectives of others. Plus, your current team will be grateful to have been given an opportunity to add their voices to the decision, even if the outcome is not the same as their personal opinion.
Have candidates shadow in the clinic. The pandemic has rightfully put restrictions on some of us when it comes to density in our spaces. Now might not be the best time to add more bodies to your daily schedule. But if you can make it happen, it’s worthwhile. You get another perspective on your candidate and they also get a chance to determine fit. This fairly simple gesture builds a lot of credibility and generally reveals good information for you and them.
MANAGE EXPECTATIONS AND CHALLENGES
So you hire that person who seems great, and then they make a few choices that aren’t great. Nothing truly terrible, but the stuff that makes you sigh. Or, much the opposite, you have that great new hire who keeps doing great on their own, with seemingly very little communication or contact needed from you. In both cases, it’s way easier to ignore things than to address them. You can live with a few sighs and those competent people are doing fine, right? While ignoring may allow you to focus more on patient care, documentation, a lease renewal, or those social media posts you’ve been meaning to do, it will most surely lead to issues down the road.
The book The One-Minute Manager1 acknowledges that most leaders don’t have a lot of time, and that consistent touchpoints with team members are critical to their performance and engagement. Praise good things often, and Redirect less-desirable things promptly and directly. Everyone appreciates recognition (and it’s especially important right now, when so much of our lives feel uncertain, out of our control, and just plain sad). Praising good work generally begets good work. Jumping into, getting curious about, and directly addressing “little” problems generally stops them from becoming big headaches.
Professor, author, researcher, and thought-leader Brene Brown promotes and demonstrates many great approaches to leadership. Among them: Clear is kind, unclear is unkind.2 Don’t avoid difficult conversations. Have them openly, honestly, and as early as needed. This approach also applies to goals and expectations – identify shared goals together with your teammates, set clear expectations, celebrate achievement of those goals, and have brave conversations when expectations are not met.
KEEP YOUR TEAM ENGAGED
While recruiting new teammates might feel like a big lift, we all know that keeping good people on your team is the work of true leadership. Trust, loyalty, collaboration, and relationships are built over time and through conscious (and sometimes less conscious) effort.
Staff meetings. Gather your team regularly. Invite them to actively engage in the meeting and share their ideas and thinking (don’t just use this time as a reporting session). You might even ask them to help you design the meeting.
One-on-one meetings. You can find out a lot in just 20 minutes when you sit down with someone and truly listen; not a fly-by conversation in-between patients or squeezed into a cancellation. A dedicated and scheduled, individual meeting shows you care and builds trust and relationship.
Celebrate wins. Find ways to honor when a teammate meets a goal, reaches an employment anniversary, or completes a professional accomplishment.
Empower your team. Let your team make some of the decisions! Allow them to creatively problem-find and problem-solve. You’ll be surprised by what they come up with, and they will be more invested in the business because of it.
Let people fail. If some decisions lead to a few flops, let them flop. Create shared understanding of what you learned from the failure and give your team the latitude to try again.
Ask them. Find out what motivates your teammates. It won’t be the same for everyone. Honor those motivations as much as possible by creating incentives that tap into their interests. And ask them what they would do differently or what could be better. They likely have good ideas.
Staffing your A team will take time, patience and creativity, but the extra effort will pay dividends for your business. Hopefully the tips I’ve included will help you in your recruiting and retention efforts. Cheers to you and your teams!
1Blanchard K, Johnson S. The New One-Minute Manager. Escondido, CA: Ken Blanchard Companies; 2015.
2Brown B. Clear is Kind. Unclear is Unkind. Brené Brown website. https://brenebrown.com/blog/2018/10/15/clear-is-kind-unclear-is-unkind/. Published October 15, 2018
Lori Dillon, MPA, is Director of Professional Development for Therapeutic Associates. She is based in Seattle, WA and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.