Training, coaching, and development are all important professional activities in your practice. These are the tools that transform your staff from being “employees” to being “team members.” And yes, there is a big difference between the two; the research shows that people who regard their positions as “careers” or “professions” are more likely to bring positive focus to their workplace than those who just show up for the paycheck. They tend to do higher quality work, make fewer errors, call out sick less frequently, and they’re even less likely to leave. How’s that for a big win? Lower turnover, better service for patients, happier workplace, and reduced costs for the practice. You’d think everybody would get on board with coaching, right?
But the fact is that many practice managers and owners struggle with these specific functions for a variety of reasons. Training is too complicated, coaching is too expensive, and – here’s the most common complaint – there’s just not enough time in the day. There are a lot of reasons people choose not to undertake team development, but those that do often see tremendous, positive changes within their team, and within their practice.
Job or Career:
Which one yields better results for the business?
This is my Job
This is my Career
|Do the bare minimum||Go above and beyond|
|Collecting money||Collecting experience|
|Disinterested in working||Energized to get to work|
|Uninterested in the company values||Aligned with the company values|
During our recent webinar series “Proven Strategies to Drive Your Practice Revenue,” one of our guest speakers, Dr. Steve Vargo of IDOC, introduced a great strategy for training and developing your team: a five-minute, daily professional coaching model. He suggested that ODs and managers actively look for teachable moments throughout the business day to educate their team members. Talk to them about why you perform a specific screening, why you use a particular piece of equipment, why you want your patients to remove their contact lenses every night, or why UV protection is so important. In regular, five-minute blocks, you are basically helping your employees change the way they think about their jobs, as well as the way they interact with your patients.
His suggestion makes a lot of sense. First, it completely overcomes the “we don’t have time for that” objection. Everybody’s got five minutes. Secondly, it generates a lot of positive outcomes for the practice. Thirdly, it promotes employee engagement, that mystical “something” that shapes workers into active participants in your business growth. When you become the coach for your team, you are taking control of your practice environment in a whole new way.
Communicate the “Why”
Employees who understand why they are performing specific tasks or using specific language are able to “buy in” to your office policies, your product choice, and your patient messaging. There’s a strong correlation between a lack of clarity about why they do something and employees who simply won’t do it. Interviews with 25,000 managers over a 2-decade period found that “They don’t know why they should do it” was the number one reason employees don’t do what they’re supposed to.1 That’s pretty telling. Give your team the reason why.
Instill Professional Pride
Your practice performs important services for your patients that can significantly improve the quality of their lives. You know this as a doctor, but do your team members know it? When you coach your team, and educate them on the impact of their own work, you are helping them to understand their value. When your staff believes in the professional worth of your practice (and their place within it), they feel empowered to speak more confidently and authoritatively with patients, an attitude that subtly validates the importance of eye health and quality eye care.
Build Cohesive Messaging
Nothing tanks a good outcome in the optical more quickly than mismatched messaging between the doctor’s chair and the optician’s counter. If one party is subtly undermining the other, even if it’s unintended, the patient is left questioning the overall competence of the practice. That doesn’t translate to quality outcomes, patient retention, effective prescribing, or good reviews. In five minutes a day, you can help your team learn and deliver cohesive messaging on a wide variety of topics.
Most doctors have a particular way that they like to speak to their patients, certain concepts they want to communicate accurately, or language they prefer. So, give your team the opportunity to learn it “your way,” but also take the time to listen to their feedback or ideas on other good communication dialogue. Words count, and developing your messaging is a great team-building exercise; it gives your entire staff a sense of participation in your practice.
This is one of those topics that’s super-hot right now. Everybody’s trying to figure out how to get employees to fully engage with their jobs. There are lots of tools, tricks, and strategies that you can try, but don’t overlook the simple concepts. Employees who understand the value of what they do, who feel like they are working in active partnership with their employer to accomplish important goals are miles ahead of the curve.
You’re the Best Coach
This is your practice, these are your patients, and this is your team. If you actively coach your staff on how, and why they perform their duties, you are not just building a business, you are actively promoting great healthcare and better outcomes for everyone concerned. Invest in your team, seek out those teachable moments. You really can significantly improve your business in just five minutes a day.
1 Fournies, Ferdinand Why Employees Don’t Do What They’re Supposed To and What You Can Do About It. (2nd edition, 2007).
About the Author
Cathy Firman, ABOC, CPOT
Customer Success Manager
Cathy has an extensive background in optometric management. She managed several professional teams in the Titusville, Florida area before joining GPN Technologies in 2018, where she currently leads our Customer Success Team, assisting our customers in maximizing their practice management efforts. Cathy’s been a presenter at the AOA, teaching para-optometrics the finer points of successful patient and practice interaction.
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