Category Archives: Continuing Education

Three Basic Leadership Skills and How to Have Them

I once worked for two oral surgeons who had decided to make changes in a benefit that their employees had enjoyed for many years. Prior to any official announcement to the team, rumors began to circulate, leading employees to panic because the changes sounded drastic enough to affect our paychecks.

The manager of the office alerted the doctors to the quickly sinking morale in the office and suggested that rumor may be worse than reality, and that they should make an official announcement. The doctors set aside time from the surgical schedule to gather for discussion about the amended policy.

At the appointed time for the meeting to commence, the team members gathered in the front office waiting for the doctors to join them. Then, through the front window of the office, we noticed that the doctors were leaving the office, getting in their cars and driving away.

The office manager sheepishly entered the front room and was greeted by angry team members who now knew that the rumors were true. Rather than courageously face their team and respectfully explain why changes were to be made, the doctors had delegated the ugly task to the office manager. We all felt betrayed and belittled with no chance for open discussion to ensure understanding. It was obvious that the doctors knew they were hurting their employees, and didn’t care.

Being a leader, CEO, business owner, or manager is not easy. And if responsibility for such a title is taken lightly, the role becomes even harder.

I suggest three basic skills that all leaders should strengthen in themselves. They are COMMUNICATION, DELEGATION and APPRECIATION.

Communication:

  • After one airplane mysteriously disappeared and another was tragically blown up, Malaysia Airlines tried to appeal to travelers’ sense of adventure in a year-end promotional campaign this past November: “Want to go somewhere but don’t know where?” the airline tweeted.
  • As the SARS super-pneumonia swept Hong Kong, the local tourist board continued to use the slogan, “Hong Kong will take your breath away.”

We’ve all made communication blunders. The key is to minimize mistakes.

As a leader, you must have the ability to concisely state your vision and mission so the team sees it as clearly as you do. Communication is less about the words you use, and more about the way you use those words, and the actions you take to illustrate your words.

  1. Write a vision and mission statement. Introduce these statements to your team; allow time to discuss; encourage understanding and buy in.
  2. Use simple words and ask your team to explain your vision and mission in their own words.  Clarify any misunderstandings.
  3. Communicate in person more than email. Email cannot relay emotions and is a communication method that will most likely lead to miscommunication. Discipline in private and praise in public.
  4. Behave as you want your team to behave. Be consistent, positive and available.

Delegation:

Peter Drucker said, “Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things”

What is the right way to do the right things in leadership when it comes to delegation? You must supply the WHAT, WHY, WHEN and HOW to those to whom you are assigning tasks. In other words, a leader clearly defines:

What the task is.

Why the task is important, and the risks to not doing it.

When the task needs to be completed, and when to report back as specific milestones are met.

How the task is to be accomplished. This means that the tools to implement and complete the task must be supplied.

Part of making sure your team has the right tools is by providing training and opportunity for advancement. Show them that developing skills to do more will be rewarded with more – more pay, more benefits, more responsibility – whatever makes sense in your case.

Delegation requires follow up and feedback.

Appreciation

In a pole given to employees around the nation in varied genres of business, they were asked to rate what’s most important in keeping them engaged at work. You may think that number one would be wages, and you’d be wrong.

Clearly defined job descriptions, recognition and appreciation all rank higher than salary when employees are asked which aspects of work are most likely to keep them engaged at work.

Most recent stats in the American Workplace Report tells us that only about 17% of the American Workforce is engaged. Imagine how this lack of engagement affects profitability. Imagine how much company profits would increase if employee engagement was increased?

Appreciation is the key. Showing appreciation is done through listening, understanding, giving feedback, mentoring and team building. The most successful companies are those who focus on their TEAM ahead of their CUSTOMERS. When the team is happy, your customers will automatically happy. When the focus is reversed, the outcome is not as predictable.

Three basic skills of leadership are COMMUNICATION, DELEGATION AND APPRECIATION. You may readily see how you can improve in these areas, AND I’m sure you can identify employees who would be more effective in their responsibilities if they were to improve in these areas. Empower them to do so by showing them how.

The Tricks and Treats of Staff Turnover


Happy Halloween!

Today is the day in America when we have come to expect more treats than tricks.  Tricks are fun sometimes, but treats are much more appreciated!

It is the same in business.  We’d much rather get treats than be tricked.  “Tricks” are the cause of employee turnover.   Staff turnover can be the worst, most expensive “trick” for any business.  Turnover realistically cannot be eliminated, but it can be reduced greatly when you provide staff with more “treats”

By treats, I don’t mean more money.  In a list below of 12 items that contribute to greater satisfaction on the job, adequate compensation is 10 on the list.  There are 9 other items that staff members view more valuable than pay. (Find the complete list at the end of this post) 

“The back office staff does not need training (staff meetings) because they just do what we tell them to do.  It is the front office team that can benefit from consistent conversations and idea sharing”.

The picture above depicts my reaction when I heard a doctor actually say the quote above.  (blood-curdling scream)

This was said by one of two partner doctors who I have discovered think very differently from each other, but who also think very differently than what experience has taught me will bring them the greatest success in business.

These business owners were inadvertantly playing “tricks” on their staff members by non-verbally making three statements:
1. “Your ideas are not necessary, and probably unrealistic”
2. “Your abilities are just not that important to your job”
3. “Your role in our business is to show up and shut up”

I also learned that salary increases were being made arbitrarily.  The senior partner (who handled payroll) would occasionally say to an employee “I’m giving you a raise”.  There was no further conversation.  No reason was given for the increase, and no explanation for the amount of the increase.  Because the senior partner had decided on a “cap” for salaries, this pay increase was very rare.

Besides the arbitrary pay increase, no employee had ever had a performance review at this practice.  There had been no protocol for either praising or disciplining employees.  There was no vision, no mission, no values to align with.

I could imagine a group of 6 people coming together, and an assignment being given “we’re going to build a house”.  Without any instruction, the work would begin.  How do you think the “house” would turn out? 

It had become very clear to me why the staff at this particular practice were not communicating well with each other, nor well with their patients.  I also understood why the competence level seemed so low–there was no set criteria for a level of competence.  Even if there had been, without feedback and performance review, how would you ever know if you were measuring up?

The unspoken rule in this workplace was, “Do your job, get paid, and don’t try to improve anything.”

If this practice would just incorporate 3 “treats” into the character of their employee communication standard, the practice would have greater productivity, increased teamwork, and greater profit.

1. Have a written personnel policy manual stating expectations, protocols and communication standards.
2. Develop a written job description for each team member–highlighting the strengths and abilities needed to perform up to the defined standard.
3. Provide opportunities for training and collaboration to enhance a sense of ownership.

These changes won’t happen overnight–especially when expectations are introduced.  There will be some resistance.  However, those who resist a better work environment, better communication, and accountability are probably not the employees who are loyal anyway.  These are the types of employees who play “tricks” on their employers.   Let them go!

If you are an employer, and identify any of these characteristics in yourself, think about your outcomes.  Are you making the profit you’d like to?  Are you happy with the performance of your employees?  Do you recognize that a change may be the difference between success and failure?

“Oh, Bee-have”! says Jackie the Bee.
When you “bee”have like a leader, you will have greater success in business!


Based on surveys by Bent Eriksen & Associates of hundreds of staff members, here is what employees indicate would contribute to their productivity and sense of satisfaction on the job (“treats”):

1.     Ethically sound business principles and quality services. 
2.     A consistent and fair management style where policies are friendly, frank, fair and firm, consistently applied and clearly explained in writing.
3.     A pleasant and harmonious work environment with minimum stress. 
4.     Adequate facility, instruments, tools, equipment and supplies. 
5.     Competent, supportive and compatible team members. 
6.     Assistance in learning: to become more skilled, develop communication skills, make decisions and take initiative. 
7.     Clearly defined job responsibilities and expectations. 
8.     Recognition as an individual and as a team member. 
9.     Knowledge that their efforts are being appreciated and that inadequate work performance will not be tolerated.
10.  Adequate compensation and benefits. 
11.  Evaluation and feedback by the employer.
12.  Worthwhile staff meetings.

Continuing Education: to pay or not to pay?

Do you follow labor law rules for paying staff for travel to and attendance at seminars, lectures, or workshops?

WATCH THIS!

The question that comes up most often in healthcare when discussing employee benefits and legal obligations is about Continuing Education.  It’s no wonder that there are questions about the subject because the language of the law can be often times misleading and hard to understand.

To begin with, there are 4 criteria that, if all 4 are met, the employer does not have to pay an employee for time spent in lectures, meetings and training seminars.

  1. The employee is going on their own initiative
  2. The training takes place outside of normal working hours—on a Saturday for instance
  3. The training is NOT directly related to the employees current job description
  4. The employee will not be performing any productive work during the course

ALL 4 of those criteria need to be met for the employer to be off the hook regarding obligation to pay.

ALSO, if the training is being taken for the purpose of maintaining licenses or certifications, such as dental hygienists or nurses, the employer IS NOT required to pay.

That means, doctors and employers, you will be paying for Continuing Education if even one of those criteria is not met.  And if attending the seminar will require the employee works more than the Federal or State Maximum regulations, you will have to pay overtime for non-exempt employees.

However, it may be appropriate for you to pay your employees attending Continuing Education courses a DIFERENT CAPACITY WORK RATE for dissimilar work.  This means you can pay your employees a separate straight-time rate of pay for dissimilar types of work during the same workweek.

  • That rate must meet or exceed the minimum wage requirements
  • Employees must agree in writing that any overtime pay will be at the special rate.

This will require that you keep meticulous records documenting the what’s, why’s and how’s.

It’s worth it, however.  Continuing Education is an important function of a well-run healthcare practice, and is advantageous to both employer and employee.   Therefore, give your employees opportunities for learning and self-improvement, and know your rights and obligations.

If you still have questions, and I know you will…comment on this blog and I’ll be happy to help you out!  You can also contact my good friends at Bent Ericksen & Associates who specialize in Employment Law Compliance and Human Resources Management.