The key to any improvement starts with a good leader (this is YOU) that can easily define their vision, but vision alone will not get you anywhere. Leaders need followers and, in this case, that would be your staff. It is not enough for you to see something that needs to be changed for a brighter future if you cannot muster the troops to act on that vision. Staff change is the key component to going from vision to reality.
Most of the doctors I speak with struggle in this area. The doctor sees the need and agrees with a strategy, but falls short on getting commitment and follow through from the staff. Compliance via forcing the staff to do something will never get commitment, and without commitment you do not have sustainable change. So the question has to be: Why is there disconnect between the doctor’s vision to change and the actions the staff take? Allow me to give you the top five reasons causing the struggle to continue.
- Lack of real leadership: While your staff will drive the culture of your business, you, the leader, must create that culture. The first job of a leader is to define what is core: What is your vision? Without active engagement and action from you, there will be a failure to launch. You cannot abdicate this role of leadership. You can delegate some of it, but you are still the leader and the buck stops with you. You cannot be an absentee owner and expect radical results. Your job is to model the behavior you expect from your team.
- History: Most staff members don’t believe you really want to change. Why would they? Your actions in the past don’t support your ability to stay the course and follow through with any project. They are at a point of just coasting for a couple of weeks until you forget what it was you wanted to change. At that point everything returns to the familiar and comfortable “same old same old”. The best predictor of the future is the past. It takes engagement and perseverance to break out of the rut called average.
- You tolerate marginal staff: I have yet to encounter a doctor that when asked: Is there anyone here that if they quit, you wouldn’t be upset? There is always one. Keeping marginal staff tells an otherwise great team that you don’t care. The result is that everyone adopts the attitude of that marginal staff member. Bad attitudes are contagious. Keeping that person drags everyone’s “deserve meter” way down. You will never go any further than the one staff member with the lowest commitment to your vision: The proverbial weakest link. They either need to be retrained or have their future freed up by letting them move on and destroy your competitor’s practice down the street
- Systems and Protocols: If you stay at this long enough, you will realize that great teams don’t need to be managed. They only need to be told what result you want. Reproducible, scalable, learnable systems and protocols are the foundation for great practices and team building. A lack of systems, characterized by not enough new patients, high overhead, high staff turnover, and Dentist/Owner burnout, is the number one reason we fail to take a group of people to a higher level in the form of a true “Team”.
- Allowing staff to do whatever they want without consequences: I had a doctor come to a seminar we were giving without his staff. All doctors had been encouraged and cajoled to bring the staff “or else”, so I asked the doctor why he did not bring them. His answer: “They didn’t want to come”. Here is a doctor that will never be able to experience change in his practice. He has abdicated his leadership role and let the staff do whatever they want. Take back your practice and make change the key to staff and practice growth.
When it comes to staff change, you must expect an orchestrated path of vision, inspiration, action, and consequences. Then do it again. You create a change cycle of orienting your vision and defining the actions that will take you there. The bottom line is that you either need to create “staff change” or you need to free up the future of your staff by “changing staff”.
There seems to be a rhetoric-reality gap in most offices I see. This is a direct contradiction between your words (Rhetoric) and your actions (Reality). Your actions, rather than words, provide meaning to your team. It is not a matter of saying things right; rather it’s a matter of consistently saying and doing the right things. This is how you Summit.
Michael Abernathy, DDS