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Forget skill set. When hiring new employees, focus on coachability.
I’m not actually telling you to ignore technical qualifications. Whether you’re hiring a clinical director, a physical therapy assistant, or a front-desk person, you need new employees with skill sets that match the job requirements.
But focusing too narrowly on technical competence only often leads practice owners to overlook this critical skill, a skill that enables new employees AND your practice to grow.
In all my years of hiring new staff, first as a private practice owner, and now in my work helping other physical therapists in private practice, I’ve come to understand that the willingness to be mentored is the single most important characteristic to look for in prospective employees.
This is especially true for PT practice owners who want to grow their business and remove themselves from the day-to-day administrative headaches.
Coachability is a key attribute in new employees who go on to become successful team members, period. A 2015 study by leadership expert Mark Murphy found that a lack of coachability is the single most frequent reason new hires fail to succeed in their jobs. (It’s worth noting that Murphy’s study found issues with interpersonal skills—including emotional intelligence, motivation, and temperament—all lead to failure in new hires more often than lack of technical competence does.)
Coachable team members are essential to build successful, profitable businesses—businesses that can run without the owner’s involvement in the day-to-day operations.
As business owners, one of the biggest challenges comes when we realize it’s impossible to find carbon copies of ourselves—other people who will naturally communicate, make choices, and set priorities just as we do.
When you first started your practice, you had a vision of how your clinic should function, the level of care and the quality of experience you wanted to deliver to your patients. Over time, you learned from your experiences and began to realize your vision.
With new employees, you can’t afford for new employees to take the amount of time it took you to learn. We need new staff to be successful ASAP! We must have team members who can accept feedback, learn and grow from it, and align themselves with your methods, mindset, and values.
Talk Less and Listen More
Coachable people will reveal themselves more during the interview process if you ask good questions and listen. As an overwhelmed practice owner, I used to spend way too much time talking in interviews. I conducted interviews as though the point was to present myself well, and convince candidates they should want to work for me. This led me to hire plenty of wrong-fit employees—an expensive and time-consuming mistake.
You need to do your homework, and show up prepared with the right kinds of questions. I’ve talked before about how to conduct an interview that will help you qualify the right candidates—and disqualify the wrong ones. However, successful interviewing at its core is about listening.
Watch and Listen for the Coachable Signs
- They have an interest in their own professional growth. Candidates who care about their own learning and development are a natural fit for mentorship. The key is to make sure their vision for their own professional growth aligns with yours. That takes active listening on your part. It also requires self-awareness, and clarity, about what you and your practice can offer.
- They’re honest about their own weaknesses or challenges. People who can acknowledge their missteps and vulnerabilities tend to make good “coachees.” Pay particular attention to what prospective employees share with you about how they’ve met their challenges along the way. Do their answers reveal an ability to adapt, and be flexible? Do they demonstrate personal accountability?
- They ask questions. Beware the person who seems to have all the answers—but doesn’t ask any questions. Curiosity is a driving force behind our willingness and capacity to learn and to embrace new ideas. Prospective employees who show an interest in what you do—and have interests of their own beyond the workplace—are the future team members who are most likely to respond positively to coaching.
Chemistry, and a sense of connection, are of course important, too. Your gut can be a powerful guide in gauging whether you and a prospective employee are a right-fit for a mentoring relationship. If your instincts are throwing up red flags about a candidate’s coachability, don’t ignore them. Keep qualifying, until you’re sure.
As a business owner, mentoring your team is some of the most valuable work you’ll do. It’s an investment that pays you back, exponentially, with higher retention, greater productivity, and a seamless, consistent delivery of care and attention to your patients. You give yourself a tremendous head start in this important work when you make coachability a top priority during the hiring process.
I remember how difficult it was to run my PT practice as a business owner, while juggling all the day-to-day responsibilities of a busy clinic. Schedule your Get Laser Focused 30 Minute Free Call to talk about how you can step out of your business to start working on your business.