In my practice I place goals at the top of my priority list with my staff. I focus on setting goals that help our team, our patients and the community. By doing this I ensure that the whole team is on the same page. I also better align my group with what I need and want from them every day, and make it well known what we are working toward as a group, and why.
The second part is critical. People like to have purpose when doing something versus just doing it to do it, or because someone told them to. People also like knowing what's going on, understanding how it contributes to the greater whole, and having input into the process.
When this is going especially well, you as the leader can put any program-such as how to boost new patient referrals or increase successful patient outcomes-into play, and get good cooperation from the group. This then results in growth and expansion.
Coordinating yourself and your staff toward meeting your goals will surely result in you having a happy, efficient, productive, organized, cohesive and winning team. Below are six strategies that you need to put into motion now to get things rolling toward your goals.
Use surveys. Staff surveys are a proven means of gaining agreement from your group and to help them feel ownership and to be a respected, necessary part of your practice. Make sure they fully know their roles and purpose on the team. It's important to grant them importance as individual members of your team. They have ideas and opinions-listen to them. Create the safe environment that rewards them through communication.
There are two easy ways to incorporate the power of surveys. First, have weekly staff meetings that allow for two-way communication-make it well known, however, that these are not "gripe sessions." Keep a priority on what they are doing as it pertains to forwarding the goals and production of the practice.
Second, proactively elicit feedback from your staff via an objective survey. Don't think of surveys as necessarily distributing a piece of paper with questions. Sometimes it can be as easy as asking everyone the same questions, and then keeping track of all the answers.
Surveying is essentially coordinated, specific communication. You desire input and data about a particular thing, program, service or staff issue. For those times that you do feel a more formalized survey would be appropriate, there are free useful web resources to assist you, such as www.surveymonkey.com.
Assemble a winning team. Surround yourself with like-minded, great people. Hire staff with whom you feel comfortable communicating, as well as those with whom you share common philosophies, morals and goals. Surround yourself with positive team members who have a "can-do" attitude toward life.
Be picky. You don't want to hire "downers" or people who don't have any fight in them. Hire people who are up for a good challenge; people who view challenges as an opportunity to shine, grow and get better.
I don't know one successful person who didn't have to overcome some sort of obstacle, adversity or challenge-why would anyone think it will be different for them? In order to achieve a goal, one must be able to push through whatever comes their way. Hire strong, able, positive people. As an added bonus to your business, these are the same staff members who are adept at generating patient referrals, improving patient satisfaction, and being strong team players.
Promote your goals. How many times have you tried to roll out a program and then felt like you're the only one who cares about seeing it get done? How well did you promote why you are doing it in the first place, how it will strengthen the group, the shared purpose, and how it will ultimately help them better reach their goals?
The same thing occurs in patient care. Aren't your most compliant patients the ones who are fully informed and educated? Aren't they also the ones who fully understand what your treatment rationale is, and know that if they precisely follow the plan of care, how it will improve their conditions? Don't you communicate short-term goals each week, and then re-evaluate the progress every four weeks?
Your staff operates and thrives just like this. Keep your communication open, set short-term and long-term goals that help the entire team, patients and community, and re-evaluate your progress. Then when you reach your goals, set new, bigger ones-that's expansion.
Foster communication. Create an environment that promotes collaboration and communication among the group. Make it comfortable and open for your team to share ideas and solutions to advancing the whole practice. Allow your staff to have a voice.
In my experience, some of our greatest ideas and programs have come as a result of my staff. Remember, they are all "in it" every day. Assuming that you've followed Step 2 above, and have surrounded yourself with great people, you'll see that they have the entire practice's best interest in mind. They want to see the practice do well too. In doing so, they essentially share "a piece of the pie" with you.
Create a "goals worksheet" for each leader in your practice. Create a guide on what you would like set goals toward, such as technology. Then, incorporate these goals into a strategic plan each year. Work together as a team to complete these goals.
Sharing these completions and successes in staff meetings brings positive reinforcement and a sense of accomplishment to the key players. Getting things done and feeling productive raises morale.
Stay current. Keep up to date on emerging technology to help improve your clinic's efficiency. Focus on setting up as many things as you can within your practice to help your clinicians focus on patient care. There are great electronic medical record systems (EMRs) available now to help run your practice.
Additionally, make it a priority to stay current with evidence-based medicine. As a profession, we are quickly advancing and evolving. We must remain current and up-to-date with the latest assessment and treatment techniques available for patients. Look in your area for continuing education courses that are endorsed by the American Physical Therapy Association.
Lead your team. Finally, understand as much as you can about what it means to be an executive, manager and leader. The degree to which you "rock the house" in this department will determine how successful you'll be in coordinating your team toward their goals.
Bottom line: Effective practice management can best be summed up as having the know-how to plan, coordinate, organize and execute all the necessary activities among your group. It's not, and can't be, all on one or even a few people's shoulders. If you really want to surpass your goals and achieve practice excellence, leverage the power of your team to achieve maximum efficiency with the least amount of effort.
Michael Nula is owner and founder of Elite Physical Therapy Inc., a five-location practice in Rhode Island that earned the ADVANCE Practice of the Year Award in 2009.