Building a Winning Chiropractic Team

Building a Winning Chiropractic Team

This section is compiled by Frank M. Painter, D.C.
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Thanks to Today's Chiropractic for permission to reproduce this article!

By Kim Klapp

The most successful people surround themselves with incredible teams. Yet so many chiropractors have a distorted attitude about their staffs. Some doctors hold onto ineffective team members because they shudder at the thought of hiring and training someone new. Others are virtually held hostage by their staff, as they don’t know anything about how to run their own office. Still others have the revolving door staff turnover scenario.

So, begin by retooling your attitude about your team. Value and esteem your team members for the right reasons: Not out of fear, but out of mutual respect about the incredible difference that they make in your practice. Your team affects everything from the office environment and energy to retention, referrals and collections. They can be your greatest asset or subconsciously sabotage your success. In order for them to become the former, it’s critical that you develop a R.I.C.H. foundation for your relationship. R.I.C.H. is an acronym for Respect, Integrity, Caring and Honesty. These fundamental components are an integral start to any long-term mutually-beneficial relationship. By focusing on a R.I.C.H. foundation, you prevent any potential power trippers, prima donnas or information hoarders from getting a foothold in sabotaging your success.

Communicating with Your Team

Once you have built that R.I.C.H. foundation, begin to cultivate it with communication. Communication is the only way to keep a team running smoothly. One of the most important tools to implement in every practice is a communication log. It will help to keep all team members on the same page. All too often one team member is not privy to an announcement or notice of a special circumstance. By creating a communication log, no one misses out on important information. Just get a three-ring binder and some loose leaf paper. Encourage any team member to make a dated and titled entry. Then, once each shift, each team member should read all entries and initial them. The communication log keeps everyone apprised of what’s happening, what’s changed, what’s being tried, any special exception that’s been made, etc. This tool prevents miscommunication, dropped balls, chaos and wasted time and energy.

In addition to the communication log, having two types of team meetings—daily and weekly—helps your office run smoothly. Have daily team meetings to set the tone for the day. At these daily team meetings, read the office and CA mission statements to help everyone refocus on their purpose. Check the schedule for the day in order to prepare and frame time management. Then, set goals and visualize those goals being met. Communicate the topic of the day to discuss with patients. Read the daily affirmations of your team. Make sure to express an attitude of gratitude for your team, and end with an inspirational quote, prayer or cheer. These daily team meetings take less than five minutes, but make such a difference on the intention, motivation and attitude of each member. They allow everyone to reconnect to their purpose and each other.

It’s best to alternate your weekly meetings between entire team meetings and position-specific meetings, if possible. For example, one week the whole team meets; the next week, the CA’s meet separately from the DC’s. The position-specific meetings offer a great format for re-training and honing skills. They allow team members to role play and work out any new systems. The complete team meetings should buoy everyone’s attitude, so be sure to keep them upbeat.

Since whatever you focus on expands, always focus on the positive trends and experiences. Tackle challenges as necessary, but focus on finding solutions and being growth-oriented. Take time for each member to share something positive about a co-worker, a patient, or the practice. If you report statistics at these meetings, assign each team member an area to track and comment on. Empowering each member to be in charge will facilitate more suggestions on improvement. Additionally, revisit practice, professional and personal goals. Help everyone to realize that focusing on the practice goals will enable many personal goals to come to fruition as well.

Reward and Review Team Members

To take the office to the next level, set up rewards for those team members who make it possible. Figure out how to create more win-win scenarios. Beyond hourly compensation, design other incentive programs to reinforce the behaviors you want repeated. Utilize a CA appreciation survey in order to individualize rewards. Have each new team member complete a survey on their first day of employment. This strategy sends a powerful message that you truly care about what they like and that you plan to demonstrate your attitude of gratitude. Not only will it help you to express appreciation for going that extra mile, but it also encourages CA’s to continue to find new ways to shine and repeatedly exceed expectations.

It’s also important to keep on schedule for employee reviews. Make sure to give new team members a copy of your office evaluation form so that they know in advance the bases of review. Allow each staff member to conduct a self-evaluation and compare it to that of management. In addition, give all team members an opportunity to confidentially complete a form to share their opinions of their teammate’s greatest strengths and challenges when it’s review time.

Maybe your office has been searching for a great CA to communicate with and reward. First of all, next time avoid a short-handed situation. If you lose a CA and become short-staffed, not only does the workload increase for the remaining team members, but it’s exacerbated by attempting to fit training time in, too. Most doctors have insurance for their offices, their homes, their health, why not your team? If possible, employ one additional CA—just in case. When someone takes vacation time or has a family emergency in another state, your patients don’t suffer. Plus, all those tasks like internal marketing, reactivation calls and insurance follow-up collection calls always get done.

Expectation Management

The next time you’re hiring, keep expectation management in mind. Expectation management is key in any successful relationship. It’s simply letting someone know up front what to expect, then delivering. Expectation management leads to job satisfaction for team members. The best results are cultivated from under-promising and over-delivering. Get clear on the position duties ahead of time. Give prospective employees a full description of duties to avoid the perception that you’re adding on jobs later. Formulate a personnel policy so that team members understand what is expected of them. Policies lay a strong foundation for the practice provided that they correspond to and support the office mission and goals. Furthermore, policies need to include both positive and negative consequences for compliance.

Staff Training Strategies

Once you’ve found the right team member, avoid putting her/him in either overwhelm or boredom mode by having an effective training system. Why reinvent the wheel? Unless you’re retiring soon, chances are that through growth or replacement, you’ll be in this situation again. Create scripts for everything that your team members do so that each new CA can communicate with your patients in the best possible way. Don’t stop once the scripts are written. That’s just the beginning. At that point, it’s time to role play, role play, role play. It’s better to make the mistakes on each other rather than on patients. Also, it’s important to continue to role play until the script is perfect. A performer would not practice until a song was mostly right, only to wing it on stage. Nor should chiropractic team members stop practicing short of 100 percent satisfaction.

Staff training should be organized in a very methodical way. A great tool to help keep on track is a training timeline. A training timeline provides structure for the team member responsible for conducting the training. It illustrates day by day what should be covered, so that nothing is inadvertently skipped. It goes beyond making sure that the new team member fills out all the proper forms and policies and becomes a new patient on day one. It also ensures that the training keeps on schedule so that it doesn’t just fall by the wayside when a new CA is only partially trained. The training schedule lets the new team member know that they need to help set the pace.

Another tool is to utilize an Office Systems Reference Guide which includes—in excruciating detail—how to do just about everything in the office. Note that it’s not just a “training” guide. It really should be treated as a reference guide to encourage veteran team members to consult it whenever necessary, akin to double checking how to spell a word in the dictionary. When it’s training time, merely give new team members the appropriate sections of the Office Systems Reference Guide according to the training timeline.

Still another component of an effective training system is to utilize a training checklist. The checklist should track the date that each duty was first demonstrated, when it could be accomplished with supervision, when it could be accomplished independently, and when the new team member was deemed proficient. It’s important to use expectation management here, too. Let new CA’s know exactly what to expect with training in each area.

One final strategy with training systems that really decreases stress and saves time in the future is to video-record training. No need to hire a production crew; just set up a camera on a tripod and record the training. The next time a new team member is hired, they can get a great head start on training without taking up any staff time.

Emphasize the role of a CA as being whole by encouraging proficiency in all areas, instead of maintaining different types of CA’s with different specialties. Consider rotating duties twice daily in order to foster variety, challenge, seamless transitions when a team member is off, dedication to better communication and a myriad of fresh perspectives. Cross-training is the best way to achieve a well-rounded team that appreciates the role of each member.

Finally, incorporate teambuilding strategies whenever possible. If there have been issues in the past, clear the air. Go out to lunch. Go to a comedy club. Start fresh. Learn how to problem-solve together by working on brainteasers or playing games. Consider taking a ropes course challenge together. Remember that it’s worth the effort. As Michael Jordan put it, “It takes team work to make a dream work.” A dynamic team can help yours come true.

Rewarding Your Staff

There are so many types of rewards to enliven your team. Here are just a few examples in addition to pats on the back, compliments and thank you notes:

  • Give each new CA a free cervical support upon becoming proficient in the job duties. This is obviously a win-win as it helps with product sales when someone can give patients their own testimonial.

  • Free Lunch Mondays anytime your team reaches the new patient goal the preceding week. Of course processing more new patients is extra up-front work for your team. Let them know how much you appreciate their efforts and impeccable first impressions.

  • Celebrate anniversaries with a sign at the front desk, flowers or a gift basket and a gift certificate. Not only does this reward loyalty and dependability, but it encourages new team members to stay on board to experience the same appreciation.

  • Pass around an office Atlas Award—for performance at the top! This award helps to highlight specific behaviors that are extraordinary and worth repeating.

Encourage your team to seize any opportunity to shine again and again.

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