High-performing teams are the foundation to high-performing organizations. Whether you plan to launch or grow your practice, improve your cost efficiency, or find new ways to adapt to a fluid regulatory environment, the following seven steps will help you build a team that can rise to the challenges and opportunities you’ll face.
1. Identify your leader(s).
It takes great leadership to build high-performance teams. These individuals chart the course for the practice, develop the plans to reach its stated goals, establish professional standards, and model the behaviors to which all team members are held accountable. Leadership styles vary according to the type and state of the practice, the staff’s developmental needs, the clientele served, and the leaders’ individual strengths. A skilled leader may exercise different styles at different times or with different team members. For example:
- A transformational leader focuses on a series of initiatives to create substantive positive change for the practice and the individuals who support it in the interest of improving overall engagement and productivity.
- A democratic leader gives everyone “a seat at the table” on key discussions and decisions in the interest of giving team members a measure of control over their destinies and elevating their job satisfaction.
- A servant leader tends to stay out of the limelight and focuses intensely on meeting the needs of the team – supporting their professional needs, giving them credit for their hard work and creating a culture in which everyone thrives.
- A task-oriented leader defines the work that needs to be done, establishes the plan to get it done, and sets assignments and deadlines consistent with that plan. This approach may be useful for team members who have difficulty managing their time.
2. Establish a clear vision.
The team needs to understand how this practice plans to serve the community in terms of the services offered, the scale of operation, the quality of patient care, the patient experience, and the working relationships forged within the practice, with other medical professionals and with business partners. This vision should illuminate core values and principles as well as provide a sense of direction for day-to-day operations. It merits periodical review to account for changing conditions, opportunities or practice needs.
3. Define clear roles.
The high-level vision needs to be translated into well-defined roles and responsibilities. Team members need to understand what’s expected of them and how their work ties in with their teammates. Ideally, they’ll have the ability to tie their individual contributions to the vision for the practice. They also need a “road map” that tells them to whom they should go to address specific issues – e.g., practice management, finances, human resources and compliance. As with the vision, team roles should be examined periodically to see if they remain relevant and continue to suit the individuals to whom they are assigned.
4. Institute effective processes.
All of your patient care and practice management processes should be designed to ensure the team meets patient expectations, coordinates team efforts with appropriate “hand offs,” and uses supporting technology wisely. Focus on the end-to-end experience – whether it’s patient care or an administrative task (e.g., billing and reimbursement). Consider strategies to work effectively with third parties so tasks or transactions stay on track and are completed within a reasonable time frame. Of course, make sure your processes fit the size, structure and strengths of your organization.
5. Welcome diverse skill sets.
The modern practice requires a range of skills, experience and work styles to reach peak performance. In an appropriately diverse team, individual strengths play off one another in a complementary way. The more diverse the team, the more they are likely to achieve the range of thought-leadership, organizational and people-management tasks your practice requires.
6. Cultivate open and honest communication.
Strong leaders with great vision, well-conceived organizational structures and rock-solid business processes won’t get optimal results unless they establish a culture of trust within their practices. Transparency from the top and open and honest communication all around build trust. It’s especially important when managing a diverse work force as individual beliefs, assumptions, thought patterns, expectations, and communication styles can be all over the map. When you are intentional about letting the team in on what’s going on and create the space for forthright conversation, you stem the tide of suspicion, doubt and hostility. You create an inviting atmosphere that encourages loyalty and longevity.
7. Reward and recognize team contributions.
Your team will be motivated to perform at a high level when they feel they are seen, heard, and appreciated for what they bring to the table. You want them to feel passionate about their work and proud of the organization to which they belong. To that end, take the time to provide encouraging feedback for individuals, groups and the team as a whole. Open and close every meeting on a positive note. Lastly, make sure the compensation structure “puts your money where your mouth is.”
Teams are built, not formed, and team development is a process, not an event. Depending on your starting point, it may not be an easy process, but it can be an extremely rewarding and lucrative one.