In a busy work environment managing and motivating your team to success, while juggling all other elements of your role, can be difficult. Chris Dyer, author of The Power of Company Culture, analyses how to carry your team to victory by developing a winning work-culture and building a cohesive team driven by your power hitters
Like any other enterprise, delivering healthcare begins with the people who are charged with making the wheels turn – you and your practice team. Get any group together, though, and you get a social structure that can make or break your efforts. A poor dynamic blocks progress, while an energised team, all moving in the same direction, propels performance. So, how can you get the whole team to play ball?
Developing an energised work-culture
There are three stages to this culture game; it starts with a clear idea of why your people do what they are employed to do, continues with you leading the charge, and it is sustained – ideally, well into the future – with the help of team players who are fully on board with your mission. Not only that, they can demonstrate how to connect with each other, with those you serve and with the things that make work meaningful.
In American baseball we call these people ‘power hitters’. If you’re looking to leverage work-culture to achieve your objectives, you want them on your coaching team – a manager can’t just issue a memo to change a social dynamic, they need power hitters to carry forth their message. Look at your team; who can help you? How can they help you? Do they have what it takes to draw other players to support a new programme? We’ll answer these questions after we make sure that you’re swinging at the right pitches.
Name your game
Building a more cohesive team depends on defining what’s important to your organisation and what it will take to achieve its goals. Effective practice managers will already have formed a set of core values and a vision through which they pursue their ultimate mission. As you set out to improve your culture you’ll ask your people to use these ideals to perform their work.
In turn, your team will feel part of a vital group and share a purpose beyond the day-to-day duties of their jobs. They’ll boost their skills, which will give you the winning performance you need. How can you, as a leader, move organisational ideals into the realm of what your people do every day? This is where culture-building gets specific.
I have identified seven operational elements that support good culture. To bring your message of change to the team, take an honest look at how your administration works. Does it have all seven? Here’s a checklist:
- Is communication transparent?
- Are problems approached as negatives or positives?
- Do you measure performance and act on the results?
- Do you acknowledge great work to foster more great work?
- Do you capitalise on unique group strengths?
- Do you listen to understand and respond to issues?
- Are mistakes vehicles for improvement, or grounds for being ‘benched’?
Analyse your weak spots and focus your culture fixes there first.
Find your best hitters
This next step is both tough and easy. Tough, because you’ll only get one chance to make your initial pitch. Easy, because tell-tale clues will guide you to the people who connect with it. Let’s say you’ve chosen problem-solving as your team’s greatest challenge. Over time, the office atmosphere has been clouded by negative people or negative experiences with bureaucratic problems; now, each time one arises your staff goes into crisis mode. Punishment for past mistakes might contribute to this collective anxiety.
Starting in a negative atmosphere and facing issues for which they fear being harshly sanctioned, your staff may be hard pressed to effectively address problems. They may play the blame game, eroding morale and slowing progress. Let’s suppose that your solution to this cultural flaw is to implement a positive operational system that will increase accountability and your team’s ability to fix problems together. When you hone that message and bring it to your them, pay close attention to how it’s received and by whom. You’ll likely get feedback that the status quo is just fine, or that the new system is unproven, but you’ll also see heads nod and hear additional suggestions that are in line with your new direction.
Lock onto the most enthusiastic supporters; these are your power hitters. They are probably already playing the game you’ve described – finding better ways to approach difficulties that also serve to improve the work experience for all concerned; they will help you bring that approach to their teammates.
Rally the team
Follow up with these power hitters in a dedicated meeting, or one-on-one, to invite them to your coaching team. Repeat your game plan – your new operating system or whatever positive change you’ve decided on – and talk about what a win will look like. This should be twofold, benefitting both team and practice. Your goal in working on culture is to fulfil the people whose jobs exist to further the practice’s values, vision and mission. Your specific focus on problem-solving is a means to that end.
Your power hitters will need to know what lies behind the game plan – that way, they can overcome opposition by stating the larger benefits of the effort. Armed with clear goals and a great strategy, your fellow coaches can show – not just tell – the team how it will all work.
Take part in any new training programmes yourself, but don’t take over; people learn best from peers. Single out individuals who are already skilled in positive problem-solving techniques and let them show everyone how it’s done.
You can’t quit now, though! Remember, we get our cultural imperative from the top. Assure your team that you will be there with them, swinging away!
Chris Dyer is author of The Power of Company Culture: How any business can build a culture that improves productivity, performance and profits, out now
Published by Kogan Page
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