January 16, 2014

10 Tips for Building a Self-Managed Practice

Team building a puzzle pyramid

Practice management is stressful for doctors and office managers alike, but positioning your business to thrive starts with knowing how to build and maintain a great team – a team that works together to provide top-quality patient care and helps you to run the practice smoothly.

Whether you have 2 employees or 20, incorporating a few simple team building tips and practices into your routine will streamline your operations and bring you closer to your goals each day. Here are ten areas where improving your management focus will rapidly make a positive impact within any practice:

  1. Identify current strengths and weaknesses in your team and practice. Does your staff have trouble staying on schedule? Why? Are patients thrilled with the level of service they’re receiving? Does the office run smoothly? Don’t just list the issues, pinpoint the causes so you can start to address them.

    Team huddles should be organized to allow the group to come together and offer solutions to perceived weaknesses. When you identify an area that needs improvement, you create an opportunity for solutions to be discussed, implemented, and adjusted.

  2. Hire stronger from here on out. Dealing with employee issues is a lot easier if you take the time to hire the best workers in the first place. This starts with a well-written job description and a strategic, thorough interview process. Think about specific traits that are essential to succeeding in the position. If you don’t have a clear idea, then it will be difficult to spot the right fit.

    Behavioral interview techniques can reveal how candidates dealt with key situations in the past, and how well suited they are to the position and practice. After hiring, use a “getting acquainted period” to make sure you were right about this person being a great fit. This will reduce any issues that may arise or make it easier to let the employee go if they turn out to be a bad hire.

  3. Build upon a firm foundation. A rickety foundation will never stand tall in the long term. If you take the time to prepare yourself for potential problems, then you’re less likely to run into a crisis down the line. This begins with your employee handbook.

    The employee handbook and policies that underpin your management must be sound: up-to-date, compliant with all state and federal employment laws, and tailored to the needs of your practice so they can make your job easier. With clear policies in place, you reduce any confusion over the rules of your office and establish your intention of abiding by the law.

  4. Know what employees want. What do team members love and hate about their jobs? What do they think can be improved? Employee insight is crucial to team building, and may uncover situations that can be improved right away.

    Again, ask employees to suggest solutions (at least one of which does not cost money), and not simply point out problems — and pay special attention to what great employees love and hate about their office environment.

  5. Be quick to provide positive feedback. Sometimes, all your employees need is to hear that they’re doing a good job to motivate them. Many of us tend to be highly critical about our own performance, so it can be surprising how much a positive comment can perk someone up.

    Don’t wait for evaluations or use positive feedback only to soften criticism. Instead, let employees know that their hard work and skills are noticed and appreciated — this will help them care about their own performance and feel a part of the larger goals of the practice.

  6. Retain great employees. Employee turnover can be one of the most damaging issues to team morale. When employees constantly see new faces, only to have them leave a month later, they start to wonder if they should follow out that revolving door.

    Do strong employees stay with your practice, or do they tend to become unhappy and leave? Are you seeing a common need for more constructive feedback, educational opportunities, flexible schedules, or something else? Providing good employees with a positive environment and room for growth is essential to retention.

  7. Set a good example yourself. Employees can usually sniff out hypocrisy at the first hint. If you want a top-notch team, you’re going to have to display a top-notch work ethic yourself. We tend to mirror our superiors, so be aware of how you conduct yourself through the workday.

    You expect team members to arrive on time, stay on top of duties, follow procedures, and show a high degree of professionalism, so make sure your own attitude and work habits are inspirational. If your employee see that you’re taking personal phone calls throughout the day, or taking long lunch breaks, then they’ll be influenced to do the same.

  8. Document employee issues one day at a time. Documentation will always be your best friend in managing issues with an employee. But with the blurring pace of an average workday, it’s easy to forget documenting in the moment and putting it off until a later time. Our memories aren’t perfect, so putting off documentation until later puts you at risk of recording inaccurate information.

    Jotting down a quick note each time something happens is better than paragraphs of vague complaints put together just before an evaluation. It’s hard to take the right management steps at the right times unless you have a record of what’s going on and how often.

  9. Strengthen your coaching. No one likes being lectured to, but sometimes it’s necessary to lay down the law. However, this can be done in a way that’s both positive and effective. Corrective coaching balances the line between being firm and setting out clear expectations moving forward.

    Wrap up any discussions about problematic behavior by expressing belief in employees’ capabilities and making a measurable request for improvement. (“I know you don’t mean to throw our schedule off by being late, and that you share our commitment to a smoothly run practice and excellent patient care. Going forward, I expect you to be here 5 minutes early to set up your station for the day.”)

  10. Don’t keep “bad apples” around indefinitely. Some employees are simply not willing or able to correct problematic behavior. Keeping a “bad apple” employee around only risks eroding office morale, as bad attitudes tend to spread like a virus. It may not be fun to be the “bad guy” and terminate an employee, but putting it off too long only makes things worse.

    Recognizing when it is time to let them go is far easier when you’ve been documenting problems all along! Consult an expert if there are protected-class factors involved, but do not indefinitely avoid terminations that need to occur.

Whether you’re hiring, coordinating, coaching, or firing, recognize that the management and team building decisions you make are some of the strongest forces that can keep your team cohesive and your patients and practice well cared-for and thriving.

Tough issues come up from time to time in any practice, so if you have a particular question or an employee problem that’s ongoing, just give CEDR a call – we’re here to help! As a healthcare practice owner or manager, you are entitled to have one issue solved for FREE by the attorneys and experts in our HR Solution Center. Contact us anytime at 866-414-6056, or email info@cedrsolutions.com.

Friendly Disclaimer: Tips presented here are general in nature, and are not intended to replace good counsel about a specific issue with either your attorney or your favorite HR expert.

Friendly Disclaimer: This information is general in nature and is not intended to provide legal advice or replace individual guidance about a specific issue with an attorney or HR expert. The information on this page is general human resources guidance that is believed to be current as of the date of publication. Note that CEDR is not a law firm, and as the law is always changing, you should consult with a qualified attorney or HR expert who is familiar with all of the facts of your situation before making a decision about any human resources or employment law matter.

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Please note: CEDR Solutions specializes in providing expert HR support to owners and operators of independently owned medical and dental practices.