How one OD communicates with her team amid COVID-19

June 29, 2020

Melanie Denton Dombrowski, OD, MBA, FAAO, shares how she stays in touch with her team during office closure during the pandemic and how she offers support.

Hi, I'm Dr. Melanie Denton Dombrowski. I own a practice called Salisbury Eyecare and Eyewear. It is in Salisbury, NC. And we have a YouTube channel if you want to check that out. But this video is for Optometry Times®, I wanted to talk a little bit about my amazing team and how I have handled keeping in touch with my team throughout this whole pandemic, COVID-19, and all the closures that have occurred because of it.

So, first of all, a little bit about my team.

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Background

My team (I have 4 of them) and I started 4 years ago. It has been quite a ride to get to this team of 4. But I can honestly say this is the best team I have ever had. They are so well trained. I have natural-born leaders within my team, and they are just kind and wonderful people who love working together, who do so very, very well. And we have worked really hard to train them both in the technical aspects and kind of the service aspects of our business. They are just great people.

When COVID-19 first started, I would say the first thing that made a difference with my team was communicating from the very, very beginning. It is so critical as a leader to talk to your team to let them know what is going on.

Admittedly, I think they saw a lot of my fear and uncertainty. But you know, I think it is OK to be vulnerable sometimes. Your team needs to see that you are a person, too. One of our great strengths is that my team, I think they will tell you that they respect me greatly, and they trust in me and know that I am doing my best for them and for our practice. So, we can have that foundation as a core but when this all started, I was very forthcoming with all of the information I knew.

Related: COVID-19 means I’m a full-time, stay-at-work mom

Answers, support, connection

I knew they wanted answers right away. And I could not give that to them. But I was as open as I could possibly be. When we did have to close down again, I had personal conversations with the folks who were going to be affected more greatly than others. Then, a team conversation and I reiterated what our goals were, what our mission was at the office, and that we would be back. This has to be temporary.

The second thing I did was, and continue to do, is support them throughout. So, it is critical to me that they know the resources that are out there, that I am helping with that actively. I know nothing about the unemployment system. I know nothing about the stimulus checks, and they don’t either, but I am traveling that road with them and helping them throughout every step of the journey.

Most of the time I do not know the answer, but I think the fact that I care makes a difference.

The third thing is that we have initiated team Zoom calls. And we do that every single Friday. It is pretty short and brief. But I tell them what has happened during the week, what I have come up with; usually it is not much. It has been a lot of, “Oh, I have tried everything, and we are not getting that grant, but at least we can get together.” And I think that gives them sort of a sense of solidarity and they still feel like a team, and that they have a place on this team and that we will be back. It is just a matter of time.

Related: Video: How I have been using telemedicine amid COVID-19

Keeping staff in mind

The final thing, and this is still in action, still in process, is that as I reopen, I am really keeping them in mind. I understand that my team is probably a bit apprehensive, especially those who have been at home the entire time. And it is really hard to step back into an environment you have not been doing your job for like 4 or 5 weeks. You do not know this environment, it is a totally new normal.

There is, all of a sudden, these shields everywhere. We have to wear masks, our patients have to wear masks, all the rules have changed. And so, what I plan on doing is not seeing patients for those first couple of days.

Paycheck protection program

Now, I have kind of a Plan A and a Plan B.

If I get the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), they are all coming back. And we can spend a lot of time acclimating to our office, our roles, each other, and getting used to the new way of doing things.

But even if we don’t get PPP, my plan is to take several days and to spend that time with my team and make sure everyone is extremely comfortable before we get started again.

That is what I have done so far with my team and what I plan to do going forward. I would love to know what you are doing with your team, how you are choosing to lead them through this time, little tips and tricks you have for me. Feel free to comment. I would love to start that conversation, and I will see you next time.

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