So, how do you implement changes without staff resistance?
While it may be tempting to put in a “new program” with a catchy name and door prizes, you risk having your staff develop a “here we go again” attitude and not take you seriously over the long haul. It is wiser to make this a serious business issue that’s a part of your regular practice management agenda.
So instead of fancy programs, make sure you have taken care of the basics. This means that:
• You have a vision for your practice that has been clearly articulated.
• You have honed your leadership skills.
• You are willing to financially reward good work either through competitive wages, bonus programs, or other means that have real significance to your staff.
• You are willing and prepared to address legitimate obstacles that hinder performance.
Once you have done this, then you are ready to tackle needed changes. Here are some suggestions:
First, at your regular staff meeting, lay your cards on the table. Discuss your observations (the bad practice habits), the impact this is having on the practice, and how you would like to address it.
Give everyone a chance to participate in the discussion. Sometimes people are doing things a particular way for a reason of which you may not be aware. You may also get suggestions on how to improve, or obstacles that you didn’t know would need to be addressed.
Be sure to include in your discussion how everyone is affected. Sloppy habits do impact revenues, whether it’s from lost patients, poor collections, decreased productivity levels, etc. Lower revenues mean less dollars to pull from for raises, workshops, special request supplies or materials, new benefits, time off, or any other item staff members would like to enjoy as part of working with you.
Second, know what you want, but be willing to make adjustments as you learn more. Don’t leave the meeting without a plan of action. Focus on results. Your staff may have excellent ideas on how to achieve the results, but you must set the standard and define the result you are seeking.
Your office staff can – and will – follow your lead when it comes to levels of performance. Don’t set your expectations too low. Note that your staff members will not likely surpass the level of expectations that you set, so don’t use former complacency levels as a yardstick for setting your new standards, with the idea that you’ll gradually raise them. Set your performance standards at the correct level from the start.
Third, be prepared to recognize and reward performance both immediately and long-range. When you see a staff member implement a change, recognize it right on the spot (without unduly embarrassing them).
Thank them! Thank them publicly in your daily morning meeting. Thank them privately via written note. Thank them professionally in front of clients or patients (as appropriate and without calling attention to past problems). Long-term, recognize the improved behaviors in performance evaluations, raises, bonuses, opportunities, and other perks. Let everyone see your appreciation for a job well done.
Through these steps, you will build a critical mass of support for the needed changes. Nurture this nucleus of people. Keep in mind that there are various reactions to change, and just when things seem to be going well, there can be a perceived set-back. Stay on top of it. Support your staff members through the change, including their feelings that “things used to be easier/simpler/more fun, etc. Don’t let these temporary feelings turn into a permanent relapse. Stay focused on where you are going, acknowledge the positive behaviors (and their impact on the practice) and continue to reward and reinforce the new behaviors.
Fourth, stick to your plan. If nothing changes, don’t just keep waiting – call it to the attention of the appropriate person(s) right away. Be willing to let go of the person who makes it clear that they are not willing to support your vision and make the necessary changes.
By the way, if it’s only one person who is the problem, don’t insult your staff by involving everyone in a big training program, or bringing up an issue in your staff meeting as if the group must work to resolve it.
Speak directly with the problem person. Be clear and upfront about your expectations. Unless lengthy training is involved, change must be immediate. Reverting to previous behavior must be addressed immediately. Refusal to sustain change must be addressed by letting the person go.
If the truth is that you have avoided confrontation, then YOU are the problem as much as this employee is, and you must address your own hesitation if you are to have any real impact on your own practice. Working with a coach can help you to uncover where your hesitation lies and help you with specific techniques to move forward.
Fifth, and perhaps the most challenging, never forget the impact that your own behavior and approach has on the practice. You cannot have “good days” and “bad days”. You must be a consistent role model.
Your staff will watch to see what you do and how you respond. You must always be aware of this. A coach can help support you as you move to make the changes that are needed in your practice. Don’t hesitate to call on one.
Just like your staff needs to be held accountable for making the necessary changes, and needs your support in doing so, a coach can provide support and accountability for you, particularly for those times when you feel like throwing in the towel and just letting things “be”.
Click here to contact Dianne Dawson, Business Development Coach.