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How a medical practice manager can nurture a successful staff

December 15, 2010

A physician or a medical manager can most effectively oversee an efficient, pleasant practice by being fair with and trusting of their employees.

According to Dr. David Zahaluk, M.D. of Medical Economics, employees are happiest when their managers spell out clear expectations, evaluate staff at least once every quarter, provide an opportunity to address negative feedback and recognize good performance.

“There are three main keys to effectively managing your staff: clarity on what is expected from each staff member, recognition and reward, and learning,” writes Zahaluk.

Clear expectations are vital to the success of a medical practice’s staff because motivation for improvement does not exist without a clear measuring stick on performance, Zahaluk says. Staff members should be told exactly what the expectations are and must be given a forum to address negative feedback they receive about their work. In addition, Zahaluk warns that physicians must be willing to hold staff members accountable if they fail to accomplish the tasks required of them or if they are not an asset to the team.

On the contrary, a successful manager should also make sure to recognize and reward good performance from his or her staff. Zahaluk has found that this positive reinforcement is often lacking.

Something as simple as taking a staff member to lunch in recognition for good performance will reward that particular person, but will also speak volumes to the whole group. Physicians should make sure they are giving out a few encouraging words to every staff member each week. Zahaluk says that people crave feeling good about their contributions in the workplace.

The learning aspect of management refers to being in touch with what each member of the staff wants to learn over the next quarter. A physician can stretch staff members a little and watch them achieve their goals. In return, the staff as a whole will build a busy, fun and profitable practice, guarantees Zahaluk.

Dr. Walt West, as part of his Practice Management Academy, suggests that practices choose guidelines over policies to foster a better work environment. Rather than focusing on rigid policies, promote guidelines. For example, instead of mandating that patients who arrive 15 minutes late be rescheduled, guide your staff into doing their best to accommodate the late patient -as long as it will not negatively impact the flow of patients who were on time.

“The happiness factor diminishes if you’re constantly directing them on their specific tasks and requiring them to follow them to follow detailed guidelines. By giving them greater responsibility, you create more valuable and valued employees,” says West.

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