As clinicians and business owners, we rely on our team members to serve specific needs for our practices and patients. After all, how can we perform our best orthodontics without someone to help us? We rely on our team members from the moment the phone is answered until the final recall visit. But, do you view your team members as integral parts of your practice or as replaceable cogs in a wheel that will spin no matter who is there?
I remember hearing someone once say: “If my team member can’t show up for work on a regular basis, I have no use for them.” I can understand the sentiment, but it has to be looked at from different angles.
On one hand, every member of our team needs time and energy invested into their training. We simply can’t hire someone (or shouldn’t) and tell them to go do the job. It takes time to hire and train the right person and if we view them as expendable, we’re in for a lot of work, while we constantly hire, train and fire workers. Sure, there are a lot of practices out there who view their team members as expendable parts of a bigger machine, but I’ve never looked at it that way.
I’ve always considered my employees to be much more than folks who just show up, work and get a paycheck. They’ve been invited to my family celebrations, they know my kids and wife and I care about them as people, first and foremost. And when the work relationship ends (usually because they’ve moved on to bigger and better things in their lives) we’ve stayed in touch. I invest in them well beyond their job responsibilities. Note the word “invest”. I’m not talking about parties and going drinking with them, but rather, spending the time and energy to help their lives outside of the walls of our practices.
YOU have to make the decision of how the employer/employee relationship will play out, but I couldn’t imagine working with my team and not helping them grow and become better in their daily life struggles because it makes ME a better person along the way.
It starts with finding the right employees and if you spend the time hiring people you know you can count on (more on the hiring process in another post) and let them know that you care about them beyond what they can do for your practice, you’ll create a culture where people feel taken care of. But, you need to “walk the walk”, which means that if you tell your team that you want them to feel like family, but fire someone the second they make a mistake, you’ll be seen as a charlatan and you’ll get back what you put in.
I recently visited the practice of Dr. Jim Stork in Iowa. It’s an example of a successful, fun and team-oriented practice. I watched his team work like a really well-oiled machine. It was evident that a lot of time had been put into training. During lunch I and had a chance to sit with his team and ask them about their jobs. Each and every one of them said that they loved the fact that Dr. Stork showed how much he cared about them and that they knew he wanted to see them succeed. It showed and they were successful because of it. They would do anything for him and his practice was successful because they would go that “extra mile” without being asked. Sure, he could have hired less capable and less positive people and treated them like employees, but he chose to treat them as a part of his family and their work ethic showed his investment in human capital.
Your attitude will show beyond those fun team building bowling nights or holiday parties. I’ve seen teams go through money management courses together and do book clubs as well as having speakers come in to help the team learn skills to help them succeed in life. I remember my dad paying to get a phone installed for an employee who didn’t have one, just because he knew how it would help her in her day to day life.
The less experienced and corporate bosses tend to talk about team members like they’re pawns on a chessboard with no lives outside the office, with no realization that those who have committed to us rely on our practices to pay their bills, take care of their kids and meet financial responsibilities. I’ve always felt a personal responsibility to my team members and while a mean or dishonest employee loses my emotional investment, I often realize that it was my missing something during the hiring process and it was generally my fault. So, I live and learn and keep taking care of those around me, not letting that previous failure ruin it for the rest of my team.
As Herb Kelleher, founder of Southwest Airlines used to say: “Your employees come first. And if you treat your employees right, guess what? Your customers come back, and that makes your shareholders happy. Start with employees and the rest follows from that.”
In this age of instant gratification, it’s important to remember that we’re put on this planet to make an impact and leave the world a better place than when we got here. If your goal is to take and take and take and not help those around you, I’m sure you can do that, but I couldn’t imagine living like that. For me, the value of my team members goes way beyond anything I’ll see on a P & L and making sure that those who care about me and my success get tenfold in return.
Wishing you an amazing day,
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