Managing Your Staff: The Office Meeting - E7
Let's be honest, one of the hardest things a private practice owner has to deal with is managing staff. Despite what we may think we cannot function without our staff, so we need them to be really good at what they do and keep them happy. Over the next few weeks I am going to write about ways to maximize our staff's potential and hopefully streamline some methods to make this as painless as possible.
To begin, let's focus on one of the easiest, yet often overlooked ways to get the most out of our staff: the office meeting. Office meetings are a great way to get the temperature of the room (know where your staff is mentally), make sure everyone is on the same page, and sell your message to the team.
On the other hand, office meetings can be a lot of work if they are not something you do regularly. They can be a pain to prepare for and administer. We already have no time to do the things we want and this is just another obligation keeping us from what we WANT to be doing. I understand this mentality, but have realized how wrong it is. Your staff is the tip of the spear, they are your hands and feet outside the exam room, and whether you like it or not, they are a representation of you and how people perceive you as a doctor. I am going to outline 5 keys to streamline your office meetings and help you get the most out of your staff.
Office meetings are different from “morning huddles”, one on one talks with a staff member, or memos you send out. These need to be done at least once a month and at maximum once a week. You should not have any other distractions (so that means no patients or phone calls). I have found 9 am meetings work well because the staff is alert and ready to go. In the past I tried Saturday meetings (GIANT FAIL) and Monday meetings after the work day. It’s pretty self explanatory as to why Saturdays were not effective and I found the end of the day made it harder to get staff participation and retention of what was discussed as they were just tired and checked out for the day. Meetings also need to be mandatory and paid.
Each Meeting Should Have Purpose and a Specific Focus
When conducting a meeting you need to make sure to address the day to day (housekeeping) issues. These are the routine things such as reminding them to get the patients drivers license when checking in, the new exam fees, or mentioning a change to the office hours. This is short and efficient but essentially the main purpose of the meeting. It's a good way to bring newer people up to speed and remind your veterans of the mundane details they may overlook as time progresses. The next portion needs to be where you SELL your message (the specific focus). That is to educate them about dry eye, macular degeneration, how to present frames or lens options. What you feel sets your office apart needs to have staff buy-in. If you educate them and can convey why these things are important, they will be your biggest cheerleaders. It gives their work purpose and they feel like their participation is necessary to achieve your office goals.
Do Not Stand and Lecture
Now I know we want to stand up there and tell everyone what they are doing wrong, and merely say “Fix it!”, but if that is your preferred method for running a meeting, you may want to see my previous posts about delegation! Your staff is going to mess up, often. You have to be able to address that and get it fixed, but also build their confidence and acknowledge their efforts (even if it is lacking).
To address mistakes, I will have a staff member teach or “review” something at the meeting. It can be something as simple as how to dispense a patient's frames or how to make an appointment. Pick the person that is struggling to present. They will never put more effort in to learn something than this. Make sure your manager or you is available if they have questions, but watch how they improve when they have to “teach” the other staff members. I recommend only one “presentation” from staff per meeting. Otherwise, they will ignore everyone else until they are done with their own “presentation”.
In regards to acknowledging effort, I like to use specific examples that I see during the month. I write down situations that occur and then bring them up at the meeting. I ask the staff how they would respond or what they would do where applicable, and then highlight the person that actually had it happen. For example, if there was a really difficult patient to please in optical, I will say “Kelli was working with Mrs. Jones and Mrs. Jones wanted a very specific frame style, but rejected anything Kelli offered. Kelli kept her cool and just killed her with kindness and by the end Mrs. Jones was super happy”. Now even if Mrs. Jones was not happy, but my staff member did everything she could, I would point this out as well. It shows that you see their effort and you are encouraging that behavior going forward. Now they have the confidence to do what you value.
Tell Them What They Are Doing Well
If you get any reviews on google or facebook or if a patient says something nice about the office or a staff member, make sure to share these with the staff as a group. Try to create a sense of pride in the office and in the work that everyone does. These little rays of sunshine go a long way in increasing job satisfaction and having your staff be proud to talk about the office outside of work. Happy staff members are worth their weight in gold when it comes to marketing your office.
Have Some Fun
It is an office meeting, we all realize this, but try to have some fun. When I held them at night, I would get pizza for the staff and now that we have them at 9am, we get coffee and doughnuts. I try to have some kind of “competition” going at all times. It can be how many diabetic patients remember their A1C (we tell them to know it when scheduling) or if we can see over 300 patients this month. I give updates at the meeting and give out Starbucks gift cards if we meet our goals. It does not have to be big, you just have to show you are trying.
Lastly, I give my office manager all the notes from the meeting and over the course of the week she will pull each staff member aside and review what we went over. This reinforces what we want them to know, it helps answer questions they were too shy to ask or clarify things they misunderstood, and it allows my manager to develop a more personal relationship with each staff member. I think the last piece is key to have a stable, happy staff for years to come.
There you have it, simple steps you can take tomorrow to maximize your staff's potential via an office meeting.
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