Have you ever felt that your private practice team is underperforming or lacking commitment and dedication?

Have you ever thought that your team had more potential, but you weren’t quite sure how to get more out of them?

Managing people in any business is a challenge, but managing people in private practice has an additional layer of challenges. Oftentimes, private practice teams are small (under 10 practitioners), often made up of independent contractors, and perhaps a couple of part-time admin staff. So, traditional people management methods don’t always apply, leaving you scratching your head about how to engage your team.

Lack of engagement in private practice can look like:

  • Practitioners not turning up to team meetings
  • Team members not participating in social activities
  • Practitioners doing the bare minimum for their work
  • Teams not being self-sufficient – e.g. they keep asking you for information

If you’re experiencing people management challenges in your private practice, rest assured that this is totally normal and common. In my years of working with private practice owners, the number one issue that continues to come up time and time again is team management.

Don’t worry, it doesn’t make you a bad or incompetent boss. Just the fact that you’re researching different ways to bring out the best in your team is evidence enough that you’re a reasonable boss, committed to learning and achieving the best outcome for all. It also doesn’t mean that your team members are incompetent. More often than not, it’s due to misaligned expectations, goals and style.

So, what can you do to get the most out of your private practice team?

 

#1. Be realistic and manage your expectations

Perhaps the most important thing to keep in mind is that while your private practice is your number one priority, it’s not your team’s. Yes, they should and often do care about their work and having a job. But your practice is not their little baby and something that represents their hard work and investment. Simply put, people don’t have to have a strong emotional attachment to their workplace.

Being realistic about the level of buy-in and passion from your team can help to manage your expectations as a leader. Now, don’t let this concept emotionally detach yourself from your team or assume that they’re indifferent about your success. Being a great leader is about igniting that passion in your team within the boundaries of reasonable expectations. And that starts with admitting and understanding that your business isn’t their number one priority.

 

#2. Get rid of the toxicity

Lack of drive or engagement, or underperformance, can be a symptom of a toxic work environment. If you notice that there is a negative undercurrent in your practice, pay closer attention to what’s happening between the team members and what things are being said.

Negative attitudes can be infectious and can spread throughout the team, impacting the atmosphere as a whole. If you recognise the source of the negativity, address it as soon as you can. Otherwise, speak to your team members to identify where it’s coming from.

Although these attitudes may end up with the dismissal of a team member, they can also be resolved if all parties are willing.

 

#3. Understand their challenges and needs

People don’t just let you down on purpose. Team members who are not performing to your standards most likely have a reason for that. It is your job as a leader to find out what the reasons are and how you can help them overcome them.

In a constructive and supportive manner, ask your team members about their daily challenges. And be ready to listen, and commit yourself to taking action based on their feedback.

To encourage honest feedback, and if your practice is big enough, you could send out an anonymous survey to your team. In this case, be prepared to receive criticism on your leadership style. A good leader is not born that way, but moulded to bring out the best version of themselves.

You might find that the answer is simpler than you thought. For example, your “slack” practitioner might be underperforming due to lack of sleep because they live too far away from the practice. Then you can brainstorm together and perhaps assist them in doing telehealth sessions in the mornings. Knowing their challenges means you actually have the opportunity to rectify their problems.

 

#4. Understand what drives them

When is the last time you sat down one-on-one with your team members and asked them about their dreams? Everyone has different goals and motivations. In order to get the most out of your team, engage them on a personal level and find out their drive.

What are they inspired by, and what are they striving to achieve? Perhaps it’s their family, a famous figure, a desired lifestyle, or a book they once read.

Or maybe they want to build a private practice of their own, just like yours. Again going back to the idea of being realistic, it is very possible that your practitioners are gaining experience in your practice so that they can open their own. If this is the case, then what would work in your favour – hiding your success secrets and alienating them, or letting them in a little and sparking their ambition?

Most practitioners won’t stay with your practice forever. They’ll go anyway, for whatever reason. So, helping them where you can and creating a culture of sharing is only going to benefit you now.

 

#5. Tap into their knowledge

Once your private practice reaches its growth stage, it is nothing without the people that make your ideas happen. It is no surprise then, that your team is one of your most important assets. And that’s not just because of the profit your practitioners bring, or because some do the work that you can’t or don’t want to do. It’s because they hold the knowledge and insights about the practice that you’re not privy to.

Your receptionist could give you important information about your clients’ behaviour in the waiting room and how you can help them feel more comfortable. They can also tell you about the questions they get asked most frequently from potential clients. Your junior marketing assistant can tell you the best software to use to speed up your marketing processes. Your practitioner who has used various practice management software can tell you about the features of various programs and their pros and cons.

While you can’t take everyone’s feedback on board, it is critical to understand the value of their knowledge. Get the most out of your team by inviting them to share how they feel about a certain project, your business processes or the brand image. Tapping into their knowledge is an important aspect of your practice’s feedback loop which, if utilised, can help you discover growth opportunities while ensuring team engagement.

 

#6. Recognise good work & give feedback on their impact.

Everyone likes rewards. If nothing else, people want to know that their work is part of something important. For business owners like yourself, this reward can show itself in your revenue, brand recognition or client feedback. You know the warm fuzzy feeling that you get when you see a 5/5 review? Your team want to feel that, too.

Different people enjoy different types of rewards, though. Some team members would appreciate a praise in a public setting. Some might want a more personal thank-you. Others might look forward to a bonus, benefit or some kind of professional development opportunity.

In order to get the most out of your team, use the knowledge you have gained about your employees to consider various ways of giving recognition. Positive reinforcement is a more powerful motivator than negative reinforcement. Commit to giving your employees something to look forward to.

 

#7. Teach them and show them the way

Nobody can be perfect. Everyone makes mistakes – even your best performing team member, and even you. To get the most out of your team, teach and coach them instead of getting frustrated with them. Great leaders are great teachers, and they help their team members learn from their mistakes.

When you feel that your team members aren’t performing to your standards, go back to the beginning. What are your expectations of them? Are they reasonable? Have you made your expectations clear to them? Have you taught them how to do things the way you need? Did your team have enough time? Have you considered that your way might not be the best? If so, have you provided an environment where your team can share that feedback with you?

Intimidating your team members with your visible dissatisfaction is a quick way to lose their commitment and loyalty. Instead, sit them down and explain to them what you were looking for. Ask them to show you how they did it. And going back to #3, learn their challenges and needs.

 

Getting the most out of your private practice team, especially those that seem unmotivated, can be a difficult task to do. Often, our clients find it difficult to find the balance between being a generous boss and still pushing their team to perform better. An outside eye can be helpful in this sense, to help you set the right strategies for your team. If doing this alone however, your best friend is an open mind to re-evaluate your own leadership style.