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How to cultivate teamwork in your practice


There is an old adage that states that there is no “I” in team. The most successful results can be achieved only when we all work together to obtain a common goal.

There is an old adage that states that there is no “I” in team. The most successful results can be achieved only when we all work together to obtain a common goal. I cannot express enough the importance of having strong leadership followed by dedicated staff members who are all in when it comes to running a thriving practice or business. While individual performance is important, combining the talents of each individual in areas best suited to utilize those talents can yield amazing growth and reach higher levels in providing patient satisfaction.

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Step one: Define the culture

How can a practice develop a successful team? Step one is setting a vision and a culture that can be adopted by all members. Have you ever visited a business and quickly understood the culture? Some offices feel warm and inviting, but others can leave you without a personal connection. Taking care of patients involves making positive connections. Staff members are following the example set by leadership or the management of the practice.

Next: Build your best team


Step two: Build your best team

Step two is making certain the right person is in the position that best utilizes her personality and talents. If someone prefers tasks rather than working with people, then that individual would thrive when matched to a task-oriented job that enables her to happily apply her skills without distractions.

While individuals who are task oriented accomplish tasks single mindedly, the people-oriented team members are out there interacting with patients and loving every minute of it. Useful team exercises or personality testing can lend insight about the best matchup of personalities to positions.

I find it better to wait for the right employee to fill a staff opening. Never settle just to get the vacancy filled by hiring the first available person. Having the qualifications for a position is good, but having the right attitude, work ethic, and team approach that lines up with practice culture and fits into the existing team is great!

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Cross training is the ultimate team approach. When everyone can flow to an area of immediate need-such as those times when there are more patients in optical waiting for assistance and the optical staff are already working with patients-you demonstrate the team approach in action.

Each team member may primarily work in areas that best utilize her strengths, but can also contribute in areas outside her comfort zone.

You are only as strong as your weakest link. In larger practices with a large staff, often jobs become compartmentalized. The entire team shares the common objective of taking care of patients. We must not become shortsighted and fail to see beyond an individual department or a single employee but look to the greater picture.

If we are going to achieve success overall, then we must understand and respect each individual and realize that every link must be strong and bonded together. The sum is greater than the parts.

Sometimes the fit may not work out if an employee fails to keep a good attitude or cannot buy into the desired goal and vision of a practice. It is better to break ties with an employee unwilling to foster the right care for fellow team members or patients.

Negativity can stall the forward progress of the team, and drama has no place in a professional setting. Sometimes, an employee who truly cares will join a team only to later discover that she carries the load and no one else cares about achieving success. When this occurs, good help is lost, and this directly impacts revenue and patient care.

Imagine a team of staff that work to earn a living but also truly care about the quality of work, about one another, and each patient. I am not talking about those who just show up for a paycheck but about folks with a passion for success.

Successful team members exhibit a great work ethic. Educate staff of exact objectives and share with individuals how you expect them to contribute in their roles.

Next: Be intentional


Step three: Be intentional

Step three is to remember that good teamwork is intentional, not incidental. An employer once shared with me his desire for his practice to reach the next level. I joined his staff with the intention of doing my part to achieve that goal. It started with the managing doctor being intentional in reaching that benchmark.

The greatest part was that our philosophies matched: take care of every patient every time, and success will follow. I was not initially hired into a management role, but my willingness to serve others along with displaying good work ethics led to a promotion. It is the attitude, not the title, that counts.

The success that followed that endeavor was accomplished by a joint effort of the entire team. Record growth and expansion followed. This was achieved by word-of-mouth referrals from patients. These patients were cared for in an environment that truly gave them excellent care in a warm and inviting culture. Happy and successful workplaces typically have low staff turnover rates.


Dedication to growth and change

Over the course of my career, I have been privileged to hear many wonderful motivational speakers and educators and to be a part of various practices and companies. The most important message when it comes to application is that each team member is dedicated to growth and change, and willing to be a team player. 

I watched some business models thrive while others failed. Some individuals who strive to perform and make a difference get frustrated when other staff do not care for change. Change is a vital part of growth.

To stagnate means you are stuck in the same place as yesterday, afraid to go forward or try something new. A business will not reach success if there is not a clear vision and effective communication from the leadership. Without direction, you can find staff members working with completely different goals and agendas that are not common or in sync.

Try applying this advice to improve teamwork among your staff. A well-synced staff helps your practice operate like a well-oiled machine. They’ll feel it, you’ll feel it, and most importantly, your patients will feel it. 

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