Written by Jeff Russell, Author of Secrets to a Successful Practice & Executive Director of the IAPAM
In order to have a successful practice, you need to ensure that you have an established rhythm of communicating with your team. This communication plan will include a daily meeting (or huddles, as some people like to call them), weekly team meetings and a monthly one-to-one meeting with each team member. As well, you will continually communicate your practice’s vision, mission, core values, and show appreciation for team member’s efforts. I know this sounds like a lot to do, but trust me, spending the time to stay on top of this will save you a lot of headaches later. The goal here is that you should be able to go on a two-week vacation and everything will work just fine without you. But for that to happen you need to do the legwork upfront.
The fact is, people and their behaviors are critical for a successful practice, not systems, processes or standard operating procedures (SOP’s). In Patrick Lencioni’s book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, he identifies the five root causes of a dysfunctional team, and without trust, you cannot have a functional team. Trust is the key to a successful practice, and one way you build trust is by talking to your team members about things that matter to them. As you did in the on-boarding process, you need to stay current on the major issues going on in their life. This doesn’t mean you are their best friend, but you need to be genuinely interested in them if you want to build trust with them. Otherwise, you are just a boss, and they will not go over and above with you.
I am going to give you a meeting process to follow; each meeting has its own specific purpose. For example, you are not going to bring up personal goals during a team meeting unless they achieved a goal they want to share. These rules/guidelines may seem a bit much at first, but as you consistently do them, you will find them to become easier and easier and not take very much time up at all. They will become second nature to you for you to run successful meetings.
One of your goals is to encourage your team members to do more positive behaviors and do less unproductive or negative behaviors. No news is not good news; it’s very bad news. You need to be constantly encouraging the behaviors you want to see in your practice. If someone stays late for a patient, make a point of thanking them for going above and beyond for the patient. If someone finds a cheaper supplier, and you are going to save 20% on your supplies, thank that team member!
Establish a Meeting Flow
There are three types of successful meetings: daily check-ins, weekly team meetings, and monthly one-to-one individual team member meetings. I’m going to cover when and why you are doing each of these meetings. Depending on your setup, you may not be able to do all of these meetings, but you need to establish a consistent communication schedule with all your team members.
The goal of the meetings is to have a cohesive team that works well together. If you fail to communicate regularly and consistently, you will find the fabric of your team will quickly evaporate. Earlier, we covered the mission, vision, core purpose—these need to be constantly communicated to your team. Especially the purpose. If the team doesn’t feel as though everyone is headed toward the same goal, then infighting and conflict are sure to arise. Try not to make these meetings too “corporate” and feeling sterile; try to have some fun with them. You don’t want your team members to dread these meetings. When setting up your successful meetings, you want to create a two-way communication so that you clearly understand what is going on with your team members, and through them, your patients. As well, your team members need to clearly understand where the practice is headed and how they are contributing toward achieving that goal.
Daily Check-in Meetings
The purpose of these daily meetings is not to get a laundry list of what everyone is doing for the day. The purpose is to ensure everyone is clear on the quarterly priorities of the practice and that they are focused on doing what needs to be done to accomplish those goals. This is a quick meeting, only five to ten minutes. It should be done at the same time every day, ideally early in the workday so that it sets the tone for the day. It’s very important to not let this meeting drag on past the deadline; you may want to use your phone or an app to keep you to the time limit. I also like to do these check-in’s standing up. This signals to everyone that the meeting is going to be quick and focused.
Having these short daily check-ins should eliminate a lot of emails going back and forth throughout the day, saving you much more time than the five or ten minutes you will spend doing them.
If you have urgent problems that can be easily dealt with, this is a great time to quickly discuss and make a decision regarding them. However, larger problems should be part of the weekly meeting, not the daily check-in. This gives you an idea of what is going on and if you have any VIP patient or potential problem patients coming in that day. It also reinforces to everyone that you are all working as a team and that everyone’s role is a critical part of the entire practice’s success.
The format of the meeting is that you spend a minute or two covering what is new, or the focus for the day. Maybe you want to pick a core value and remind everyone to consciously practice that core value throughout the day and week. Next, you want to highlight the quarterly metrics they should be working toward. For example, if your goal is a certain number of procedures per day, let the person responsible for that number announce it to the group. Finally, you give each team member a minute or two for a quick check-in, where they can list their metrics and identify where they may be having troubles. This is when each team member may bring up something they are having a challenge with, like getting help converting more consultations to booked procedures, or getting better results from a particular procedure. And finally, you should end the check-in with some words of encouragement and a reminder to have a great day. Always end on a positive note, since that will set the tone for the entire day.
By having everyone part of the daily check-in conversation, they will not only feel part of the team but not feel as though they are alone. In some cases, by simply verbalizing your challenges team members end up solving their own problems. If someone is saying everything is going well, you may want to challenge them. In most businesses, there are always improvements that can be made. You are looking for your team to help you improve your practice and make it more successful.
Weekly Team Meetings
Weekly team meetings are longer meetings, which could be 30-90 minutes, depending on what needs to be covered. By having these weekly meetings on issues, you will often find less time is needed when you are doing the daily check-in meetings since many will have been resolved as they occurred during the week. If bigger issues come up during the daily check-in meetings, this is when they should be identified and hopefully resolved. That is why the weekly team meeting length can vary so much; you may want to tackle two or three major issues—or there may not be any major issues.
These meetings should be scheduled in advance to ensure they get done. If you don’t schedule them, your team will book patients, and you may find there just isn’t enough time for the meeting. It’s important that you stress the importance of these meetings. I find if you have a slower day of the week, it’s best to book them at the same time on the same day every week. Get your patient care coordinator or receptionist to book them in your electronic calendar and send everyone a recurring invitation for these meetings.
Start each weekly meeting with a review of the practice’s vision, mission, core values and quarterly priorities. Then you should deal with the most important issues since if you put them at the end of the agenda, they often don’t get covered. Some of your meetings will be team-building meetings, where you may want to watch a YouTube video of a new procedure you are thinking about adding to the practice or review a procedure you already do. You may want to give out a short book and ask them to read it in the next month. I like to give out the book, The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. It’s a short read and has some great communication tips your team can use for both in business and in their personal lives. The Four Agreements are:
- Be impeccable with your word
- Don’t take anything personally
- Don’t make assumptions
- Always do your best
To me, those are very good agreements to live by, both when interacting with patients as well as in your personal life.
These weekly meetings also give you an opportunity to discuss future trends, patient procedure requests, and competitors. It’s a great idea to get your entire team to help you in thinking about the practice’s future, growth, and about what your competitors are up to. One comment about competitors: make sure your team doesn’t spend too much time and energy focused on every little nuance that your competitors are doing. However, since your team members are talking directly to patients every day, and your patients have probably called or visited your competitors, this is a great opportunity for you to learn about what your competitors are doing well and not so well.
Weekly check-in (five minutes) – Go around the table and have everyone share some personal and business good news. You want to continue to make everyone feel part of the team, and that includes sharing personal news as well. This is the time to share your personal highlights of the past week or upcoming week. Also, share any positive news from the practice; maybe it was a positive interaction with a patient, or you learned a new technique for a procedure you perform at the practice. Don’t hesitate to have fun here! Laughter certainly helps shift everyone’s energy levels and often makes it more likely that you have a productive meeting.
Quarterly priorities (10 minutes) – Now go through the current metrics of your practice’s quarterly priorities. Take some time to discuss where you are with each of your practice’s metrics. For example, if your goal for the month is 20 “x” procedures, and this is the second week of the month, where are you? If you are halfway through the month, this may signify you have a problem and may not achieve your monthly goal. If this is the case, find out why you are at that number and get the team involved in coming up with a solution.
Patient Feedback (10 minutes) – I want everyone to be connected to the patient and to be aware of any positive or negative trends that may be happening in the clinic and with local competition. One of the metrics is that I like to track our online reviews. If you are seeing twenty or thirty patients a week, then you should expect to have two or three reviews posted. If you are not seeing any reviews, this is the time to find out why. First, only ten percent of patients typically post a review, and secondly, they only post when the experience was exceptionally good or very bad. If you don’t have any reviews, that indicates your services are just average, which should not be your goal! This is also an opportunity to learn what procedures your patients are asking about that you may want to start offering at your practice. As well, maybe a procedure doesn’t have a high happiness rating with your patients; this may signify either additional training from the manufacturer is needed or you may want to stop providing that treatment.
Issue Processing (20-60 minutes) – If any bigger issues were uncovered during the daily check-in, and they are important to the practice, you should cover them. They should be scheduled as the most important issue first since often you will run out of time in this phase of the meeting. You have your entire team together, so this is a great time to utilize their perspective and experience to help solve your biggest problems. Sometimes people get focused on their advice, so it’s a good idea to re-focus on the solution that is equally good for the patient and the practice. You are looking for a win-win solution, not one where one side clearly wins and the other side clearly loses. Since this is usually a known issue, you may want to send some pre-work or background information on the issue to the team so they can think about it before the meeting occurs. This will optimize your meeting to be more productive. In some cases, the solution or processing of the issue may take more than one meeting. If this is the case, make sure at the end of the meeting that everyone knows where you are on the issue and what is expected at the next meeting. If anyone is assigned work to do, make sure you document it on your meeting worksheet. You want to build that culture of accountability and taking responsibility.
Some CEO groups like to end the meeting with a one-phrase close to the meeting. Here, you spend a minute going around the room and having everyone give a one-word description of how the meeting went. You may hear words like hopeful, encouraging, energized, conflicted, etc. If you have a concern, you may want to talk to that team member individually to better understand their thoughts and feelings.
I like to end the weekly meeting on a positive note, so thank everyone for their contribution and tie in how their contributions are going to help everyone do their job better and make the practice more successful.
Monthly One-to-One Team Member Meetings
The single highest driver of engagement, according to a worldwide study conducted by Towers Watson  is whether or not workers feel their managers are genuinely interested in their wellbeing. Less than 40 percent of workers felt so engaged.
If you have a small team, you will be doing the meetings with everyone. However, if you have a large practice, you should only be doing them with your direct reports, those who manage your other team members. Those managers should be doing one-to-one meetings with their team members.
There is some debate as to the frequency of the one-to-one meetings with your individual team members. I like to do them conducted monthly, which is primarily due to my schedule; however, others like to do them weekly or every two weeks. Choose what works best for you and your individual schedule. Just keep in mind the more frequent, the better!
The purpose of this meeting is to keep in touch with each team member—not only on how things are going in the practice but in their life as well. You should know what is going on in their lives, know their spouse and kid’s names, favorite team, and hobbies—find out their story! This is how you build loyalty. Most likely, they have never experienced that with another employer, so you will stand out as a culture of caring. The meeting is not a time for them to gossip and be complaining; if they do, that is a red flag for you!
Your focus will be to identify each team member’s strengths and then work on those strengths. It is much easier and faster to build up strengths than it is to eliminate weaknesses. If you want a high performing team, you need to identify their innate strengths and work on them. Of course, you should also be aware of any weaknesses but try and minimize those, since it’s almost impossible to turn a weakness into a strength. You should have a listing of their strengths and weaknesses from the interview process, but if they are an existing team member, just ask them what they think their strengths and weaknesses are. Identifying and placing focus on people’s strengths also acts as a strong motivator for them, since when working on their strengths they will usually see quicker results.
The length of this meeting should be thirty minutes. If you are doing a monthly meeting and find the time is increased to an hour, you may want to change the meeting time to thirty minutes every two weeks. It is also important to have these meetings in your schedule, and try to have them on quieter days, the same day(s) and time each month. I typically hold them once a month, right after one of the weekly meetings.
It’s very important for your team members to have regularly scheduled one-to-one meetings. It shows them that you value them and think they are important. They also don’t keep stuff bottled up inside, as they know they will have an opportunity to bring things up to you. The more you know about your team members, the more they will trust you and the harder they will work for you.
We have created a meeting template for the one-to-one meetings, which you can follow, or you can come up with one that works best for you in your situation. Click here to download the template. It’s important that you have an area where you can take notes. People feel more listened to when you take notes. Plus, it gets hard to keep track of who said what, when, including the commitments you promised to your team member.
If you are ready to grow your practice or are preparing to start your first practice, check out the IAPAM’s Practice Startup Workshop.