Managing a Successful Team for a Successful Practice

By: Charles E. Ward, DC

In the world of athletic competition, most seasons climax with a Championship Event. One team will at the end bask In the warm glow of victory. What about the team in your practice? Will your team make it to the series? How about the league playoffs or the “Big Game” itself? Will it at least have a winning season? Better yet, do you even have a team?

As a coach for a long time now of literally thousands of Chiropractors, I have always been a “team” advocate. I know that winning is, more than anything else, a team endeavor. I have said many times that I have never known a good doctor with a less than favorable team experience anything more than just a mediocre practice. I have, however, witnessed many mediocre doctors supported by outstanding teams experience much better than average practices. Today, more than ever, our profession requires good players and outstanding teamwork orchestrated by an astute, demanding coach.

Championship practices function as a deeply-purposed, well-trained, highly-motivated team under the direction of a winning coach (the doctor). A team where the front desk, finance, associates and principal doctors are constantly performing together in a pleasant office environment toward a well-defined, common goal. In other words, the entire team shares a common purpose. That purpose is getting sick people well and keeping them at the highest possible level of health. It is paramount that the goal be achieved in the most professional and caring way possible. Of equal importance must be the conscious and constant pursuit of a profitable business. Let’s face it, unless your practice delivers adequate financial profit it will not exist to perform the more noble task of delivering healing through Chiropractic to the thousands in need in your marketplace. Surely no one could argue that the better the team performance, the better the reality of the bottom line.

The Chiropractic profession is far from the dynamics of the marketplace. To be sure, the constantly-changing healthcare environment challenges even the most organized practice. However, the synergistic benefits of working as a team provide the framework for consistent and positive performance. Geese can fly 70% further in an orderly formation than they can individually. So, again I ask: How well is your team doing? Or, I suppose, how fast and far is your flock flying?

In close examination of a successful team-oriented practice, we would find six key characteristics. To what extent do the following characteristics exist within your practice today? The dominant characteristic is first and foremost a sense of patient orientation. Are you excited about seeing new patients? Does the entire team—whether patient contact people or not—understand the tremendous importance of the new patent? Does everyone on your team realize that the new patient is the lifeblood of any practice? How often do you do a good job of getting the new patient through the door, only to see the relationship fail to grow or even disintegrate because of the way the patient was treated or mismanaged internally? Much more important than how your team feels the patient is being treated is the way the patient feels about your services.

Numerous respected studies have clearly shown why patients discontinue care prematurely. Following is an approximate percentage breakdown:

  • 4% Move away.
  • 5% Leave for competitive reasons (high fees).
  • 16% Develop other professional relationships (find another doctor they perceive more             beneficial).
  • 13% Perceive no value in the service while still in active care.
  • 25% Perceive no value in care beyond third-party pay benefit.
  • 38% Quit because of an attitude of indifference or poor management technique by one or more employees of the practice.

(Thinking collectively as to where and how you might be allowing the patient to think you do not care or don’t care enough Is an excellent topic for almost every staff “team meeting.”)

Second, there must be a positive, caring attitude that permeates every position, regardless of responsibility. In our “ULTIMATE COACHING” program we are constantly telling our clients, “Selling the benefits of Chiropractic is not just the job of the doctor or the immediate front desk person. Keeping patients in compliance and ASKING FOR THE REFERRAL must be the responsibility of every team member, all of time.” How good is your team in this area? Why not throw It around in discussion at each and every team meeting!

The third characteristic of the championship team is often lacking: QUALITY, MEANINGFUL COMMUNICATION—communication among the team and communication with the patient. In my work with Chiropractic teams across the nation I frequently hear the comment, “We talk all the time, but I’m not sure it is doing much good.” Do you find most of your communication being subject to a lot of interpretation? Could the information your team is providing the patients also be open to a lot of interpretation? Is it possible that your message is not being understood as presented? My suggestion: discuss this possibility at each team meeting.

Fourth, there simply must be a sense of team (practice) pride. Everyone likes to be associated with a winner. Winners cluster. These people more often than not also tend to sell others on affiliating with the winner they have come to know and trust. TEAM PRIDE is apparent the moment a prospective patient calls on the phone or enters your practice for the first time. Team pride makes an excellent topic of discussion at the team meeting. My suggestion would be to require each team member to describe his or her role on the team and how it makes them feel. Each should be encouraged to express their professional pride.

The fifth key characteristic is a highly-visible management commitment on the part of the doctor. Actions speak louder than words, and the impetus for any team is generated by the role model at the top. Just how good a role model are you? Fact: Every practice takes on the personality of its leader. Every team member, regardless of how large or small, is a direct reflection of the principal doctor. Take a real close look at your team. Do you like YOURSELF as the reflection of what you see?

Last, and certainly not least, an effective team must have universal faith In one another. Each player must believe all others to be equally competent in what they do and that each is contributing equally toward the common goal. The very best of intentions are significantly undermined when lack of faith and confidence exists within the team. If asked individually to measure these characteristics, what do you think each team member would have to say? Why not do just that at your next team meeting?

Successful team-oriented practices do not just evolve by accident. They are the direct result of the attitude of a coach following proven development plans and working toward goals. A team will not win any championship without everyone understanding his/her position and its relationship to all other positions. Every player must first be properly assigned. He or she must then play his or her position well while trusting and encouraging all others on the team to do the same. The result is almost always a victory, and with victory, fulfillment and pride in this great healing art we know as Chiropractic. Here’s to a winning season!