Putting together a personal growth plan — leadership, assertiveness and relationship-building skills in your office
ASK A CHIROPRACTOR AT A CONFERENCE WHY HE OR SHE BECAME A CHIROPRACTOR and the answers will center around wanting to help people, knowing how well chiropractic works, and making a difference. Ask that same doctor about his or her interest in disciplining employees or tackling tough conversations, and experience has shown there is likely to be a change of subject.
Many will even admit to these three areas feeling out of alignment with the expectations of one who runs a business and manages staff members. They went to school and began to practice because they believed they could help people.
When you’re a business owner or leader of a practice, no matter what your definition of leadership, there are a few common skills that fall into the leadership category. Coaching, communication, delegation, recognition and discipline are important.
If you have staff members who are performing at a minimal level and you have complained about their performance to the same colleague at the same conference more than two years running, your coaching and discipline may need an adjustment. There is significant conditioning, particularly for men, in the area of leadership. Our culture continues to expect men to be strong in this area and to lead in a way that is stereotypically masculine, in pursuit of ambition with results being paramount. Little regard is given to those who lead in a more laid-back fashion and with a softer voice than might be common. Regardless of personality or natural behavior preference, one can be an exceptional leader.
Consider starting with the team you have the privilege of leading, even if this team is only one or two people. Ask them what you could do better or differently in the way of leadership. Choose one or two areas at a time on which to focus and make these a priority for your actions. Leadership improvement takes conscious effort and much like treating patients, is not resolved or complete in one visit.
Seek out feedback on the desired improvements to your leadership skills, and you would be utilizing the second-most often lacking area: assertive communication. No one likes to ask for news of where they could improve.
No one likes to give bad news. Almost no one, though there do seem to be a few, likes to tell an employee who’s trying to improve that he or she still has more work to do. In each of these areas, your staff needs you, as much or more than your patients do.
Those you hire who have skills in areas other than you need clear direction, even clearer guidance and instructions, and need you to speak up when something they do doesn’t work for patients or for you. Instead, chiropractors frequently befriend their team members and staff. While this has great value for creating a practice with a family feel, it creates an issue with even more problems.
Keeping your assertive skills in alignment with your position and your own development entails speaking up when there is an issue. Speak up before bottling up. Speak up before you are compelled to speak out loudly in frustration. Use “I” statements about that which you would prefer or desire. Use requests instead of demands. Ask for modifications by a precise date, rather than be vague and general. Thank a team member in advance for their efforts to comply with your request. Bring the matter up again quickly if you’ve seen little to no change in behavior.
For many chiropractors who work with loved ones, friends and significant others, this is an area that appears all fine on the surface. However, beyond connecting on work-related matters, how often are you taking time to truly nurture these relationships outside of the office?
Running a thriving, growing or even mediocre practice is an all-hands-on-deck experience that requires at times tireless hours, weekends of catching up, and a devotion to growing patient flow that can cause these efforts to appear to take top priority over all other matters. Do they? Have these become a safe haven, or even an escape from what now feels disconnected? If the latter feels more accurate, much as you would do with patients, it’s time to take an assessment.
Examine how often you talk with your closest loved ones about subjects other than what goes on at the office. Take note of the frequency with which you ask questions about them and their ideas, plans and life happenings. Consider planning special days or occasions when the focus is about nothing more than each other. Set up a regular dinner date with your spouse or child that is rarely changed or broken. Make time for you and for them, to recharge, reconnect and re-energize your familiarity with why they are the ones you love most.
Adjusting for success
Leadership skills, assertiveness skills and relationship building are all common areas of adjustment for business leaders, entrepreneurs, and yes, chiropractors. All three skill sets are those we tend to take for granted, believing they’ll always be around and simply come naturally. There are a number of functions our body is designed to carry out naturally that when left ignored and not properly nurtured or practiced, keep you and your practice in business.
Don’t let your own lack of alignment in these three skill areas keep you from growing that business. Instead, create your own best practice of regular and consistent adjustments in your development.
MONICA WOFFORD is a leadership consultant and coach. As CEO of Contagious Companies Inc., a leadership training and consulting firm, she works with chiropractic practices, health care, retail, hospitality, technology and government industry leaders to develop their leadership skills. For more information go to ContagiousCompanies.com or call 866-382-0121.