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Team building for success

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  • 1. TODAY’S PRACTICE Team-Building for Success Just like in sports, success in refractive surgery depends on the strength of your team. BY SHAREEF MAHDAVI Over the years, I have had the pleasure of working closely with a number of refrac- tive practices. It’s always a privilege to get “Hiring well is the first step in build- a look inside the practice and learn what ing an all-star team. Simply finding issues are hindering its success. Beyond good people isn’t enough, however.” the numbers and behind the programs are the people—whether called staff,employees, or team members—upon whom the surgeonand administrator count to get the work done day in I’ve observed complex interviewing processes involvingand day out. Without question, staffing the organization outside hiring firms that, in retrospect, were not muchis the number one issue in virtually every refractive sur- more successful than a coin toss. I have conductedgery practice I’ve come across. In this column, I’ll exam- numerous interviews myself and find my predictive bat-ine four critical elements of staffing. ting average to be less than desired. With the baseball season upon us, indulge me as I It’s extremely difficult to predict how well a personsprinkle this column with analogies from America’s might perform as an employee from a sheet of paper andfavorite pastime. a 20-minute discussion. It’s much easier to meet the per- son, find him likeable, and then offer him a job. But a newBATTING PRACTICE: THE HEARTACHE OF HIRING hire can be very costly, not just in terms of lost perform-Strategies for Finding the Right Person ance, but also the potential ripple effect on the morale of Simply stated, hire well. Finding employees who can hit the entire team. Like the Four Seasons hotel chain, youthe ball is a complicated process. Of all the employee- should hire for attitude. Attitude is the one skill you can-related concerns, I find hiring to be more art than science, not teach. Furthermore, the right attitude can often bestbecause luck indeed plays a role in finding good people. be found outside the traditional sources of potential employees. Look beyond those who have “oph- thalmic” attached to their resumes and you will find people from other industries (for example, airlines) who have well-developed personal and organizational skills. I also favor allowing current staff members to participate in the interview and hiring process. It gets them more involved in the organization and gives them a say in who joins their team. Such shared responsibility boosts teamwork and morale. It also sends a strong message that you want your employees’ help in developing your own all-star team. One way to test the fit of an interviewee is the occupational tryout or minicamp. Invite a strong candidate to spend a few days working in MAY 2005 I CATARACT & REFRACTIVE SURGERY TODAY I 89
  • 2. TODAY’S PRACTICE your practice and pay him for his time. This investment SIGNALS FROM THE DUGOUT on both his part and yours will tell more than the first Practicing Good Communication impressions gathered in an interview. Don’t forget to ask Poor communication is responsible for so many of the all of the staff members who will work with him what foul balls your players hit. As a leader, have you clearly they thought of the new person. defined and relayed your expectations for conduct in the practice? Do you follow these values yourself? Once again, these seemingly simple tactics often get left behind in the “The best means of communication wake of a busy day. The best means of communication I know of is the regularly held staff meeting. It need not be I know of is the regularly held every week, but once per month is often too infrequent staff meeting.” to successfully reinforce the practice’s goals and priorities. A great meeting occurs when everyone attending knows what to expect and what is expected of him. It is a great opportunity for your staff to raise issues and for you to SINGLES, DOUBLES, AND TRIPLES acknowledge great contributions and announce upcom- Training and Job Descriptions ing events. It’s the one forum where everyone, regardless Hiring well is the first step in building an all-star team. of title or tenure, should be encouraged to speak up. This Simply finding good people isn’t enough, however. They habit, once developed, becomes another essential means need to be trained, and that training process must be of enhancing employees’ performance and morale when formalized. I fear that most new employees get placed it comes to communicating key news in your practice. next to a current staff member who is then told to teach the new one the ropes. This approach doesn’t suffice in CELEBRATE THE VICTORIES today’s fast-moving workplace. Formalized training pro- Acknowledging Performance grams should be developed for each position. These pro- Perhaps you don’t need to spray each other with cham- grams should list goals for the first 30, 60, and 90 days of pagne as some teams do after a victory, but you should employment by which the new employee may measure celebrate your staff members’ successes within the prac- his success. The key to developing a training program is tice. Recognition can range from a small gesture of appre- to create formalized job descriptions for each position. ciation for work that goes above and beyond the call of Such descriptions are lacking in even the best practices I duty to shutting down the practice for a day and taking a encounter. I’m not sure why, except that everyone is too trip somewhere. I think most employees tire of the annual busy to put them together. Far from bureaucratic, job holiday party or monthly birthday cake. Put some pizzazz descriptions can be simple, 1-page “living documents” in these events (or let the person on your team who that help define each person’s responsibilities. They give enjoys doing this type of thing have the opportunity to team members accountability and enable management show his stuff!). An element of surprise is what can keep (ie, the doctor and/or the administrator) to ensure that these celebrations fresh, meaningful, and impressive over the workload is balanced across the team. the long term. Even if you aren’t a baseball fan, you can’t help but notice how the game uses statistics to measure every IT’S A LONG SEASON aspect of pitching, batting, and fielding, with the goal of Your practice has no off-season. Every day, you have a improving those averages over time. As a refractive sur- game to play. The baseball team’s manager can’t win gery provider, how well are you measuring the perform- games by himself, and neither can you. Surgery requires a ance of your team? Are you able to create performance team effort, and it takes your leadership in hiring, train- standards that are objective and measurable, or are you ing, communicating with your employees, and rewarding left with offering only your subjective impressions (which them consistently to play the game well … day in and can be biased and misleading)? Adequately measuring day out. ■ how well employees perform should be a combination of task completion (ie, did they perform to their job Shareef Mahdavi draws on 20 years of medical device description?) and an assessment of the quality of their marketing experience to help companies and providers performance. Judging the latter can be accomplished by become more effective and creative in their marketing and surveying customers as well as fellow employees. These sales efforts. Mr. Mahdavi welcomes comments at (925) data points allow every employee to work on his batting 425-9963 or shareef@sm2consulting.com. Archives of his average. monthly column may be found at www.crstoday.com.90 I CATARACT & REFRACTIVE SURGERY TODAY I MAY 2005