Creating a urology practice 'dream team': How to motivate your staff

November 1, 2010

Motivating staff members to give their best isn't always easy, but it's definitely worth the effort.

Start with understanding your employees more and taking an interest in them. This pays big dividends. Too often, busy urologists forget to pay special attention to employees. Be sure to say "good morning" to everyone, and when an employee hits the mark by meeting your expectations or overcoming a problem, acknowledge it and let him or her know you appreciate it.

Physicians create the practice culture and work ethic. If you start on time, work hard, and honor both patients and staff, the staff will model this behavior. It begins with hiring. Hire good staff and treat them properly, with kindness and respect.

Make a habit of observing behavior and performance on an ongoing basis. Be visible to the staff and show a willingness to assist them. Look for opportunities when encouragement or constructive feedback will support improved productivity and top performance. Staff will feel their contribution is important, and they will have a sense of purpose that stimulates pride in their work.

Involve staff in problem solving

Things may not be perfect, but before analyzing a situation or offering a solution, find out how the staff member involved sees the situation, what his concern is, and what course of action he envisions. When staff's input is valued, confidence increases. This will also give you a more realistic picture of what issues staff must deal with at work. Gathering information from different perspectives encourages open dialogue and can head off problems and contribute to reaching acceptable solutions. It may seem like Terri's having a bad day, but you have the ability to turn it around and make her feel better and become more productive.

Be realistic about the changes you can expect from employees. Change is difficult. It is important to manage change one step at a time. This allows you to evaluate progress, hold staff accountable, and reward progress at measurable intervals. If you expect too much too soon, staff will be overwhelmed and feel doomed for failure.

If you are working though a major change, such as a computer conversion or adopting a new appointment scheduling system, develop a written action plan. Include a time line of activities and identify the primary person responsible for each line item. Include appropriate staff members in each step, so they agree on what resources are necessary and what is a realistic time frame to achieve the desired result. This is the best way to guarantee that staff supports your efforts, accepts responsibility for the outcome, and is motivated to succeed.

Think positive when communicating

Strive to be a positive influence with the way you communicate. When Mark is taking on a new task, be sure to let him know you are confident he will succeed and that you're available if help is needed.

Be careful with the words you choose. Use positive messages to frame reminders, instructions, or suggestions. For example, it is better to say, "Remember, we're doing a chart audit next Monday" instead of, "Don't forget, you need to get ready for the audit on Monday." It's important to use words like "we" instead of "you" so staff won't be put on the defensive. Also, watch your body language. Pointing a finger and crossing your arms sends a signal of disapproval. Good eye contact and a nod of the head will keep the listener attentive and encourages open dialogue.

These tips are basic to the simple principle of treating people the way you want to be treated. Most of the time staff has the desire to perform well, but they don't always know how to go about it. Give them the tools and resources that are required to do the job at the highest level-then get out of the way. Have confidence in staff, provide them with guidance and support, and you'll be on your way to achieving peak performance. You hired employees for the right reasons-now let them show you what they can do!

Judy Capko is a health care consultant and the author of Take Back Time- Bringing Time Management to Medicine . She can be reached at 805-499-9203 or judy@capko.com
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ModernMedicine NETWORK

EDUCATION
Proper investment in staff and technology can improve the impression your practice conveys, according to one practice management expert. Read: http://www.urologytimes.com/investment