Developing a Resilient and Adaptable Team
Build a team that can handle anything.
By Adam Roggia, PT, DPT, MS
One of the realities of practice management is that change is both frequent and inevitable.
The constant daily challenges of new market threats, updating compliance measures, changing state and federal employment laws, and certainly life challenges all create conflict which requires both resilience and adaptability in order to sustainably succeed. When combined with low employee resilience, these challenges can lead to poor clinical performance, fatigue, burnout, and high turnover rates. In extreme cases, it results in therapists leaving the profession altogether. This reduces the financial effectiveness and sustainability of the company, as well as the potential for future leadership development.
It is possible for practice directors and employees to enhance team resilience and adaptability. Resilience, “the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness,”1 and adaptability, “the quality of being able to adjust to new conditions,”2 require time and strategy to develop. Once developed, the long-term sustainability of the company and its employees is more secure. This can be done by focusing on four key principles and behaviors.
First, seek to establish a common cause within the team. Practice directors, team leaders, and employees need to know what their core purpose is so they can latch onto this in times of challenge. Begin first by asking yourself questions such as “Why does this clinic/team exist?” or “What is the problem this team is trying to solve and why?” The common cause should be brief and simple. When teams begin to understand their common cause, they also increase their feeling of belonging and contribution to that cause. This helps them stay on target through hard times, knowing that all team members are in it together and their contribution matters toward a cohesive objective.
Second, seek to solidify trust with the team. There are few things that slow the progress of a project or a clinic more than a lack of trust among employees and management. On the other side, the most powerful marketing, retention, and production tool in any clinic is the engaged, thriving, and progressing individual employee. Transparency in these dynamic environments is critical. Leadership and teams must learn to be open and honest in feedback, failures, and successes, and be willing to act on objective feedback on both ends to create the outcome they seek. This can be done through establishing frequent one-on-one meetings with staff, reviews, mentoring, and goal setting with specific and timely follow-up. Leaders who actively seek to enhance individual team member competency, encourage value-driven decision making, and demonstrate commitment to values help create a wider support system for employees against long-term obstacles and industry shifts.
Third, create an atmosphere of accountability. True entrepreneurial thinking thrives in an atmosphere of intentional, provocative change surrounded by accountability. It seeks changes in order to inspire creative thought and innovation. This does not come without challenge or difficulty. This is, however, the energy-producing behavior that binds individuals, teams, and managers together. Teaching teams to face opposition together with accountability helps each to understand how their individual action contributes to the whole cause. When individual team members are given a clear responsibility, however small, they must also be held accountable to their leaders and their team on a consistent basis. This can be done through simple task delegation with deadlines (e.g., creating a clinic equipment ordering list, or setting a department goal as a team) or more complex work, such as teaching experienced employees fundamentals of business creation through a mentored project.
When team members are exposed to their successes and failures with timely feedback, they are more likely to see success as a result of sacrifice and dedicated work, and failures as temporary setbacks rather than total losses. When individuals learn that the rate of success increases with making, keeping, and reporting on their commitments, they learn to be empowered by their choices. This encourages proactive and innovative behavior which can carry teams and individuals through difficult situations. It also clearly and quickly identifies who is actively choosing not to contribute to the team. When team members recognize that their leaders have clear dedication to accountability, and are willing to take action to maintain the common cause, they are more likely to reciprocate. Resilience is then increased in the team.
Fourth, develop a galaxy view perspective. Often managers and teams may concentrate emotionally rather than objectively on a single problem or metric (e.g., visits, new patients, referrals, profit), a personal desire, or a belief that there is only one way to get things done. This is a little like focusing a telescope to one star, choosing to believe that no other star exists. In doing so, team leaders often begin to miss all the worlds of innovation and potential development left to be explored. Sometimes this can be done at the cost of new ideas, and can lead to disengagement in their teams. Failure to recognize and encourage employees’ ideas and creativity can hinder the team from developing future resilience. By being honest in feedback about those ideas (rejecting or accepting them), and following up with additional specific individual development direction, leaders help employees learn to handle rejection with trust. Teaching your team how to use their individual talents to problem solve, while still maintaining purposeful leadership decision making, can help teams realize that they have a unique and valuable contribution to share. This broadened perspective within the parameters of accountability enhances team adaptability to changing situations, helps them to learn how to overcome immediate obstacles, and take on sudden changes with confidence. It can also begin to develop your team leaders and employees to espouse thinking that may guide your organization into the future.
Developing resilient and adaptable teams takes consistent intentional effort over time. By using these fundamental principles, leadership and individuals can better weather the coming storms, uncertainty, and challenges with the purpose, trust, atmosphere, and perspective they need to be highly successful.
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1Resilience. Lexico website. https://www.lexico.com/definition/resilience. Accessed September 22, 2019.
2Adaptability. Lexico website. https://www.lexico.com/definition/adaptability. Accessed September 22, 2019.
Adam Roggia, PT, DPT, MS, is a clinic director for Texas Physical Therapy Specialists in San Antonio, Texas, specializing in operations and clinic revitalization. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.