I’ve been thinking a lot about teams lately. To build a strong, thriving, profitable practice—and to do it quickly—your staff needs to work as a team. But so many owners are so busy being busy, they often view a team-driven approach as an extra, unnecessary step, or a luxury, rather than the essential that it is.
Here’s the truth about teams: every system, every innovation, every component of growth you want to implement into your practice will be easier, less expensive, and more successful when you have a team leading the way.
First in my own practice, and now in my work helping physical therapy and chiropractic practice owners grow their businesses, I’ve learned a lot about what make teams thrive. From small, single-clinician businesses to multi-office practices, there are six core attributes that successful team-led practices share:
Consistent, positive leadership. The character, energy, commitment, and values of your team start with you, as team leader. Over and over again, I see teams mimicking their owners, for better and for worse. Being a leader is more than being a boss or a manager—and that’s a distinction that often gets lost for busy, over-stretched and overwhelmed practice owners.
Leaders don’t only pay attention to process and results—they pay their most diligent attention to people. Get to know your team members, understand their strengths and their challenges, and pay attention to what makes them tick. Listen actively to their questions and concerns, and let them teach you about the work they do for you. Be available to provide direction, encouragement, and mentorship.
Trust. In my own practice, for many years I had a less-than trusting relationship with my staff—and I didn’t even know it. Or rather, I didn’t know it could be any other way. For me, the first step to creating an environment of genuine trust in the workplace was to engage in some serious self-reflection. I had to be honest with myself about all the things that weren’t working in the way I was running my business, and how they were affecting not only my company’s bottom line and my own well-being, but also the experiences of my staff.
When owners don’t trust their teams, teams don’t trust their owners. Practicing honesty, authenticity, and follow through in your own behavior—and demonstrating a consistently strong connection between what you say and how you act—are some of the key building blocks of trust in the workplace. One of the most powerful benefits that comes from taking the time to know and understand your employees as people? You open the door to establishing individual bonds of trust and rapport.
Strong communication. As team leader, you set the standards and tone for communication in your practice. Respectful, thoughtful, precise communication from you engenders more of the same, from your employees to you, and among your team members as a group. Communication isn’t just about having meetings. First and foremost, good communication is about listening. That said, regular team meetings are a critical element to strong team communication—and to your practice’s success. A well-organized staff meeting keeps team members connected to what’s happening across your practice, provides a forum to air questions and concerns, and offers valuable time to troubleshoot problems and brainstorm new ideas.
Accountability. This word—accountability—sometimes makes people nervous. It calls to mind confrontation, which is hard for a lot of us, including many business owners. Accountability in a team-centric practice isn’t about confrontational “gotcha moments”—it’s about empowering team members to take ownership for their work. Metrics can play an essential role in creating constructive accountability among teams. Establishing specific, well researched targets for the clinical, administrative, financial, and marketing spheres of your practice removes the guesswork, uncertainty, and wishful thinking from the goal-setting process. Metrics enable you to define success. They also alert you to problems before they become crises, and give you and your team the opportunity to work together to solve those problems. Employees want to know they are making a contribution. They want to be accountable for their work. As an owner, your job is to provide a framework for them to do just that.
Engagement with a mission. In an effective team, each member understands their individual responsibilities—the work for which they are directly accountable. They also understand the big-picture mission of your organization, and the way their individual roles contribute to those greater goals. A concrete, well-formulated vision for your business gives your employees a tangible mission to buy into, and a deeper connection to the meaning underlying the work they do every day. The vision for your business—embodied in a vision statement—inspires, motives, and sets the shared direction for your team.
Gratitude and appreciation. Gratitude is wonderfully infectious. When practiced routinely, it spreads like wildfire, and offers a powerful counterpoint to negativity and fear. I’ve seen it again and again: in a culture of gratitude, practice teams create deep bonds, and perform beyond expectations. One of the most important changes I made in my team approach as a practice owner was to implement Active Appreciation™. (You can read more about it in my book, which you can download free.) We started every meeting by sharing positive moments and successes from the previous week. This simple practice elevated my team’s energy and the mood, and brought some genuine fun into our work routine. Strong teams congratulate and celebrate individual and group successes and milestones. They actively seek ways to acknowledge one another’s contributions. Gratitude doesn’t cost a dime, and it isn’t complicated. All it takes is a willingness to be alert to positive moments and to speak up when you see them.
Take a good look at your practice. Do you and your staff function as a team, not only when things are running smoothly but also—and especially—when things get busy, hectic, and intense? Do you see all six elements embedded and alive in your team? Each one is essential. Without these components in place and working consistently well, a true team approach is difficult to achieve and sustain. And without a team, everything about running and growing your business is harder to accomplish.
I’d love to hear from you about what’s working—and what isn’t working—on your team. You can schedule a free strategy call with me to talk about working more effectively with your team members, or any other challenge or goal you’d like to troubleshoot.