One of the more challenging aspects of owning your own business is that the proverbial buck stops with you.
This aspect of owning a practice frustrates many chiropractors, but being the owner requires you to exercise your skills in leadership in order to get your team to work together.
But you can’t lead others unless you’re in a good position to lead. The proper care and feeding of your team begins with proper care and feeding of the team leader—you.
Burnout is a serious threat
You need to be aware of how sharp your sword is before you try to sharpen someone else’s. Burnout is a serious threat. It steals the passion that inspired you to go into practice in the first place. Without passion, your ability and willingness to do what it takes to make your practice a success quickly diminishes.
Symptoms of burnout
Are you at risk of burnout? See if any of the following sound familiar.
- You find yourself resenting your patients instead of wanting to help them.
- You dislike your employees because you think they’re making constant demands.
- You snap at your spouse when asked how your day went.
- You feel constantly pressured and unable to relax.
At first glance, these descriptions may seem far-fetched, but unfortunately they are indicative of a way of life for many chiropractors. They’ve become stuck in fast-forward and are so entrenched in their practices that they “don’t have time” for relationships, having fun, being creative, or simply resting.
They have difficulty relaxing enough to sleep at night. When they do wake up, they speed through their morning routine and rush to arrive at the practice on time. By the time they arrive, they’re ready for a morning break. This is a classic indicator of burnout.
You have two simultaneous roles in your practice. You are both an employer and an employee. If you worked for an employer who expected you to work non-stop, never allowed time off, and paid less than you are worth, you’d soon have your résumé updated and be out the door. Although you would never consider treating your employees this way, many practice owners work themselves harder than they would ever ask someone on their team to do.
Faced with the increasing pressures placed on all healthcare practitioners, it’s not uncommon for practice owners to take on more than they can handle. They increase the number and speed of their activities, raise their goals, and introduce new systems at a furious pace. And after initial success, they often try to make this furious pace the new normal.
What began as an exceptional burst of achievement becomes chronic overloading—with dire consequences. Not only does the frenetic pace sap your energy, it can zap the motivation of your entire team.
Stay fresh and engaged
Begin by outsourcing the tasks that are draining you. If insurance billing and collections are sucking the life out of your practice, consider delegating these functions to a billing company.
One of the most useful things a practice management consultant can do is provide an objective evaluation of what’s working (and what isn’t) in your practice. Like a fish that isn’t aware of the water it is swimming in, you may be too close to your practice or too emotionally engaged to spot critical problems.
Take regular time off
Some doctors insist that they can’t take time off or can’t afford to hire a covering doctor. Whatever point your practice is at, you are the pilot of your ship. If you feel that you can’t step away from your practice, start putting a plan in place so that you can take time off in the future.
Learn to take care of yourself by taking the time to relax and unwind. Clearing your mind is not only good for reducing the stress of everyday life but it also provides an opportunity to step back and reassess the direction you are heading.
Take care of those who take care of you
Be aware of the work environment you’re creating for your employees. Make sure that you’re treating your team the way you would want to be treated.
Preventing burnout must be part of your business plan. Begin by scheduling short weekly meetings with each team member individually. This will provide you with the opportunity to acknowledge and praise them for their successes, and to perform a “gut check” to see if problems are brewing.
Use cross-training to build your team. Give each team member the opportunity to share their role with another member. By learning each other’s responsibilities, individual team members become aware they’re not an isolated component of the practice. This helps ensure that everyone gets the big picture and understands how the work they do helps the practice succeed.
Cross-training makes team members more valuable and often provides job security. Sometimes people don’t want to learn new skills because they’re afraid or they don’t want to teach others their skills because they fear of becoming less valuable to the practice. In reality, the more each team member knows, the more valuable they are.
To make cross-training work, identify the critical skills that make your practice function. Set up a schedule of activities to train team members in key functions and give them an opportunity to grow in a safe environment. You can build upon this idea by holding monthly in-services where each team member has the opportunity to showcase their role in the practice.
Acknowledge and reward success
Reward your team members for a job well done. There are countless recognition programs in place in chiropractic practices. The most successful are tailored to what inspires the individual members and the team.
Ask each team member to create a wish list of those things that would motivate them to hit their goals.
Rewards do not always have to be monetary and could include things like being thanked publicly at a team meeting, having lunch with the team member of their choice, or receiving an extra day off.
The desired outcome of a rewards and recognition program is to improve performance. Build a culture in your practice that encourages accomplishment. Take the time just to say “thank you” for a job well done.
Share your goals with your team
To achieve your goals, write them down and verbalize them. Share them with your team and ask each individual to help hold the others accountable.
Practice visualizing your goals vividly and communicating them with energy and enthusiasm.
If you want them to help grow your practice, you must share your vision of what you want the practice to be. Establish beginning and ending points so they understand where you are today and what crossing the finish line will look like.
Mark Sanna, DC, ACRB Level II, FICC, is the CEO of Breakthrough Coaching. He is a member of the Chiropractic Summit and a board member of the Foundation for Chiropractic Progress. You can learn more about Breakthrough Coaching by visiting mybreakthrough.com or by calling 800-723-8423.