Five Ways to Empower Staff

One of the hot topics of discussion at the recently conducted 2013 Private Practice Summit in New Jersey was the importance of staff management. The overwhelming topic of discussion was the importance of people and systems.

Besides marketing, there are two things needed for the growth of a private practice.

  • The right systems (technology, written policies, procedures)
  • The right people (the right hierarchy and the right roles for the right people)
When you start your practice, it can be a lonely road. In fact, I like to think of the practice practice owner as ‘the person dancing alone’ till others join him. Speaking of dancing alone, I played this video below at the event.

When you take a closer look at the video, you’ll see a lone guy dancing by himself, until a bunch of people start joining in.

That’s exactly how you grow a practice, and build a team. One at a time. You may be the only one dancing in the beginning, but soon, you’ll have others dancing with you. The right people in the right roles, with the right systems, can make all the difference in your practice.

In order to grow your time, you need to be able to do THREE things to grow a team.

  • Inspire people to join your team and share your vision
  • Aggregate people so that everyone works together
  • Energize them to help you grow your practice
To get your staff on your side, you need to be able to empower and motivate them. Here are FIVE ways to empower staff.
1. A Precise Job Description

Every staff member should know what their THREE primary responsibilities are, and the exact steps they need to take when they come to work, and before they leave work.

2. A Well-defined Hierarchy
There’s nothing more confusing and frustrating than staff members who don’t know who they report to. If your front desk has a question, whom do they speak with? If your biller isn’t sure about something, who can they talk to. Every single person in your clinic should know who they report to, and in some cases, who reports to them.

3. A Sense of Contribution
You want your staff members to feel like they have a say in the direction in which your practice is going. You don’t want them to feel like passengers in a bus that’s going nowhere. Ask for feedback about important questions like “What can we do better?”, “What are we doing wrong?” and “What is one thing we can do right now to improve the patient experience?”

4. Meetings and Accountability
I recommend a team meeting once a month (at least), with a clearly defined agenda. It’s important to remind staff members about the vision behind the company, offer suggestions for improvement and most importantly, ask for collective feedback and set goals for each team member. For example, “We saw ten new evaluations last week” can now be rephrased as “Our goal is to see twelve to fifteen new evaluations a week with this sustained marketing effort, and we expect to achieve this a month from now.”

5. Recognition and Appreciation
I’ve talked about ‘patient appreciation days’ and ‘physician profiling’ elsewhere on this blog, but it’s equally important to recognize and publicly appreciate staff members who are going above and beyond. One thing you want to avoid, is the tendency to depend too much, and place too much responsibility on one or two key people, simply because they are more reliable. You don’t want to become dangerously dependent on one or two key people.

On the flip side, it’s important to let it be known if someone is not maintaining the standards you expect from them. Nothing affects the morale of good staff members more than the practice owner tolerating the not-so-good team members. Be firm, yet professional and let staff members know what you expect from them. As a practice owner, it will make your life easier, and they will appreciate you more for it.


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Leave A Reply (3 comments So Far)

  1. Gerry Hanes
    12 months ago

    That video is like life. We lay around like many others and then comes somebody that would make us stand and shake off our sluggishness.

    It’s the same as inspiring your employees with the strength of your conviction that they start to believe in what you believed which gives them a sense of belonging and fulfillment which leads to increased employee morale.

    Speaking from experience, no amount of money can make me stay if I feel out of place. Eventually, a sense of dissatisfaction will creep in and the choice is to get out.

    However, empowering employees is easier said than done and I totally agree with you on these simple steps. They are so simple that we, as managers, tend to take them for granted until it is too late. Empowering employees is a continuous process but rewarding.

  2. Aaron LeBauer
    12 months ago

    Great post! One of the reasons I'm in practice for myself is because I do not thrive when micromanaged. I've had employment experiences where the owner or manager completely took away any initiative, "ownership", and power to make decisions. As a practice owner, I do not employ anyone yet, but if and when I do your 5 ways to empower staff is an great explanation of how to create a positive work culture where employees can feel a sense of accomplishment and pride in their work.

  3. Gary Thomas
    12 months ago

    Just as we aim for customer satisfaction, employee satisfaction is a crucial factor in the efficiency of private practice. Like a disease, disgruntled employees will infect others and will impact the work environment negatively. I agree with you that employees who feel that they are a part of the success of the business will make sure that the business grows. Even if there are clearly defined roles for each employee, they must also have the flexibility to step on other roles if the need arises so that when one staff member is not around, there will no disruption of operations.

    Thank you for reminding us that our employees, our human capital, are the most important asset of any business


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