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Stop Demotivating Your Staff

Legendary football coach Vince Lombardi, when asked how he motivated his players, replied:  “My job isn’t motivating my players.  My job is keeping 11 motivated players on the field at all times”.  From doctors, I constantly hear that they can’t find or keep good staff.  From staff I hear all of the complaints about the doctor and his/her lack of focus on leadership and on improving the practice.  Two different perspectives yet one common symptom: High staff turnover in a practice with poor systems and a lot of stress.  It’s time to stop demotivating your staff.

Most often, when you read an article about staffing, you discover how the doctor feels about this or that shortcoming from one or more staff members.  Today, I want to take a little different perspective.  Let’s see how the employees feel about their bosses.  One recent survey showed that 65% of workers would choose a new boss over a raise.  If your team is underperforming, take a close look in the mirror.  The problem is probably staring you in the face.  Do you know how to coach your employees so that they can excel, or do you make the people around you feel alienated and stupid?

Noted business book author and speaker Jim Collins has pointed out that if you’re asking “How do I motivate my employees?” you’re going down the wrong path.  The right question to ask is, “How do I stop demotivating them?”  When it comes to management I see six mistakes we all make in leadership.

1.    Not enough guidance.  Every employee needs to know their standing in the performance of their jobs.  There should be a policy manual, job descriptions, and graphs to measure performance, and personal guidance from you the doctor.   No one has ever taken a job just to do it poorly.  If you have staff that perform poorly, you or your lack of systems are to blame.  Every staff member wants to know when they do well and needs to know when they fall short. 

2.    Too much guidance.  Micro-management is your effort to control every job in the office.  Do this and count on a practice wide mutiny.  You have to hire talented staff, train them, and then you need to let go.  High producing offices all have learned how to help their staff grow in knowledge and application.  Micro-management robs your people of the opportunity to grow.  No one can do every job well, much less while being the owner.  You will find that your patients will bond to the practice and refer more often when you let go and partner with your staff through trust to deliver the best possible service.

3.    Feedback that is too negative.  Too much correction steals the spirit from your staff.  If all they hear is how poorly they perform, is it any surprise that you cannot keep staff?  If you consistently have staff turnover, you will find it impossible to deliver consistent service to your patients.  What do you think your patients think when they see another new face every time they come in?  They notice, and they think something is wrong in this office.  Next will come a spiral of diminishing new patients and few if any direct referrals.  Leadership and management show in every practice benchmark there is. 

4.    Misinformed feedback.  Failing to be correctly informed will cause you to go off and thump someone that had nothing to do with the problem you were trying to solve.  We have all done this at least once with our own kids.  How did that work for you?  You have to make the time to be a well-informed leader who is willing to make the right choices as well as the difficult ones.

5.    Vague feedback.  Nothing is worse than not being crystal clear in your feedback and directions with staff.  We need to consider with larger staffs that we will need to teach in different ways with different staff members.  Everyone learns differently.  Don’t beat around the bush.  Clearly let staff know exactly what you want and be sure they have the training to give it to you.  One bit of homework would be reading or re-reading Ken Blanchard’s “One Minute Manager”.

6.    Delayed feedback.  Yes, I am guilty here.  We non-confrontational doctors tend to put off giving feedback for fear of rejection from the staff.  We want to be liked, but we need to understand that we cannot be everyone’s best friend.  We have to be the boss and the leader.  This requires letting staff know precisely what we want and we must act quickly to correct any shortcoming in performance.  If you think about it, the sooner you confront an offence the less pressure there is.  If you wait for a month or for multiple problems to occur, it is almost an insurmountable obstacle to fix.

Short and sweet:  We have to be good leaders.  At Summit we pride ourselves on helping you grow as a leader and your staff to grow along with you.

Michael Abernathy, DDS
[email protected]