I was recently asked to speak at a large trade show about my strategy to improve a practice’s recall system. I watched as one particular doctor took down several notes and asked a stream of questions. I was convinced that he would implement the concepts immediately once he returned to his office. After my talk, this doctor approached me and said, “Gary, I really liked what you said and I agree with you when you said that if we execute this as discussed, it would work. All good there. However, my staff will never do this, so I can’t do it.”
It is bad enough when you feel like the admin tasks in your practice are so overwhelming and unending that they control you. But when you feel confined like this doctor—believing that you can’t implement new strategies because your staff won’t support you—that is even more troublesome. This situation is not about being a cruel, uncaring boss; in fact, I would advocate a benevolent dictatorship as the leadership style of choice to all practice owners. Instead, this situation highlights your need to build a team of employees that support your desire to improve your business. Simply put, if they don’t support you, they shouldn’t be on your team.
Let’s look at six steps that I recommend you implement when introducing new practice building ideas to a staff that is historically resistant to change.
• Start by defining your overall vision and goals for your practice. For example, a good vision statement might be: “I want us to be the ‘go to’ contact lens practice in our town. When patients think of contact lenses, they should think of us.”
• Connect the dots and explain how the new task you’re introducing will relate to your goals. Use this type of reasoning: “If we reinforce the need for ongoing care and can strengthen our recall system, our patients will be more successful with their lenses. This success will lead to more enthusiasm on their parts and ultimately, more friends and family referrals, which will help us reach our goal of becoming the premier contact lens provider in the area.”
• Be straightforward and concise when outlining how you want your staff to help. Be prepared to answer potential objections, but stick to your guns and refer back to your goals as you deal with objections. Remember, if objections are reasonable and credible, don’t stubbornly put your owner’s stake in the ground and be unwavering. Instead, listen carefully and modify your plans to include staff objections. On the other hand, if no objections are brought forth, move forward with your plans.
• Predetermine and announce a date to evaluate the success of your new strategy. Share a timeline of your strategy with your staff, including the length of implementation, and ask that they take notes through the process. At your next meeting, seek their guidance to discuss the program’s successes and failures. It is important to seek your staff’s support early and to nurture it by asking their assistance in measure the results.
• At your follow-up meeting, discuss the metrics you have collected during the strategy implementation and make any needed changes. I suggest repeating this process at least one more time to further tweak your program for maximal effectiveness.
• At each step, it is important that you stay focused on your goals. It’s normal in a busy practice to face resistance from an already harried staff, and it is understandable that this behavior might lead to discouraged comments (like those from the doctor at my last lecture). I suggest addressing those comments as soon as they are made and remember to deal with them in a friendly but firm manner: “Yes, I understand you might think this is not going to work in our practice and I appreciate your comments. However, we are going to move forward with this for the next three months and I’d welcome your support.”
Before you resort to telling your staff to “remember who signs your check,” try to implement your strategy through the six-step process outlined above. By fostering support from your staff, you will pave the way to implement new ideas and help grow your practice.