If you haven’t defined your practice culture, you need to — it counts more than ever
Economic crises, civil unrest, extremism and violence, inequalities and racism, natural disasters, humanitarian catastrophes and pandemics are just a few of the realities in our increasingly complex world. These experiences and circumstances have re-defined “business as usual” in your practice. Recent events have tested practice owners’, leaders’ and team members’ commitment to their patients and staff, and the power of their practice culture to support compassionate care, dynamic teamwork, patient engagement and resilience.
Culture is the system of learned patterns of behavior and ideas that results in shared values, beliefs and attitudes that knit the members of an organization together. What separates the highest-performing practices from the rest is not clever strategy, superior services or better people. Instead, it is the practice’s culture that determines how well a practice does what it does. Your practice culture shapes how your people work and interact, and how they meet the challenges they confront.
Establish a conscious culture
A well-established “conscious culture” is a strong driver of consistency and performance. Bain and Company research found that nearly 70% of business leaders agree that culture provides the greatest source of competitive advantage.
More than 80% believe an organization that lacks a high-performance culture is doomed to mediocrity. Research conducted by Harvard Business School over an 11-year period found that organizations that focused on shaping their culture outperformed their competitors: Revenues were 4.1 times higher and net income was 756% higher.
Resilience is more important than ever
Everyone who works in health care has been challenged to juggle their work, their own health and the needs of their family. A culture of caring, and people-centered care, positions practices to deal with the stresses of change.
Even in challenging times, no matter how difficult, we must honor the essential role of our practice team members. Caring for your team is imperative. Practices can only do a great job by going all-out to care for their staff. A commitment to caring communication is not a “nice-to-have,” it is essential to connecting with patients and providing compassionate, quality care.
When the pandemic first hit, some practices set aside their culture initiatives because staff members were consumed by other practice and personal challenges.
Eventually, practice teams became resilient and learned that people-centered care and caring communication are more important than ever. They actively applied what they learned to ensure their care remained extraordinary, even under exceptional circumstances.
A focus on caring communication with purpose creates a tremendous amount of energy in a practice. When your team members are under stress, you must remember they are human beings first. And they are not only working for you, but are also working with you. Remember, people working in health care are special because they have something special inside them.
Support your team members
Even practices with strong and long-standing foundations of supporting their team members discovered they were challenged to uphold those commitments during the pandemic.
Human connections and relationships are so important in health care. Flight attendants tell us, in the event of a crisis, put your oxygen mask on first before you attend to your children. They know that ultimately, the child’s well-being depends on your own.
It is of pivotal importance to attend to your staff’s needs, as well as your own, to foster employee health, morale, teamwork and effective care. Successful practices do a great job of touching base with each other, connecting with one another, and listening to each other’s needs and ideas so they can keep improving.
The ultimate test of leadership is a crisis
It has been fascinating to hear perceptions from practice leaders and staff alike about the most critical actions taken to nurture a trusting and caring culture. Common elements include projecting honesty and confidence, communicating again and again (and again!), being decisive yet adaptable, staying positive and keeping everyone on the team tethered to a shared purpose.
Practices under stress need to show that no matter what’s happening, they are not going to change the culture their people have come to rely on. For practice leaders to be successful in the present and future, it is not a matter of “white-knuckling” or “holding on tight” through change. They need to harness the power of the people who represent their culture. In the face of change and unexpected challenges, healthy cultures enable practices to adapt and remain resilient.
Your practice culture is an anchor
During tumultuous times, people-centered practices pay attention to the essential elements of human compassion and human connectedness, caring communication and transparency. These elements are not developed in response to a crisis; they must be intentionally and mindfully cultivated over time.
Investing in conscious culture is a wise strategy during times of stability, and most important during unpredictable times. Simple rules like cultural norms and underlying values are important because they provide guidelines so people have the autonomy and trust to respond, innovate and adapt to unpredictable events.
Culture must be led from the top
The task of nurturing and changing culture is an important responsibility of practice leaders. Many of the teams I interviewed for this article talked about their practice’s focus on “caring” as the No. 1 value, providing the cultural strength that helped them navigate through the turbulence of the last few years.
Instead of hunkering and panicking, they embraced their caring purpose more than ever. The best practices to work for are those that consistently have a culture of putting people — especially their patients and employees — first. The COVID pandemic may be nearing its end, yet other surprise events are likely in the future.
Practice team members need to prepare for the future by becoming more adaptable and flexible, learning as they go. The simple rules? Above all, be people-centered and caring.
MARK SANNA, DC, ACRB Level II, FICC, is a member of the Chiropractic Summit and a board member of the Foundation for Chiropractic Progress. He is the CEO of Breakthrough Coaching and can be reached at mybreakthrough.com or 800-723-8423.