Imagine that you are the administrator of a practice (not a big stretch for many of you) and you hire a new clinical manager. This new manager gets off to a running start, has great ideas, and shows incredible enthusiasm toward seeing growth in the department. However, you soon begin to hear grumblings coming from staff. After some detective work, you learn that the new manager rolled out a whole new set of goals without first conversing with the staff. You review the goals and don’t see any red flags — in fact, you see merit in many aspects of them. Following conversations with various employees, you learn that they do not oppose the specific goals but rather the way in which the manager implemented the changes. What went wrong?
For many of us, this scenario is all too familiar. This begs the question: how could this situation have been handled differently? How can a manager create shared goals in a win-win scenario that benefits the practice while still allowing employees to feel respected and knowledgeable? When seeking to create shared goals with ophthalmic staff (or any group of staff), several key steps in the preparation, goal development process, and the follow up can greatly enhance your buy-in success rate.
First, you must lay significant groundwork to increase your chances of success when developing shared goals. You need to implement many foundation stones into your style of management to truly be effective — not simply throw them in at the last minute.
To start, establish and foster trust within your team. If your team doesn’t trust you or feel safe providing honest opinions, you will likely receive unreliable or erroneous feedback, which is counterproductive. Creating a culture of trust (a whole topic unto itself) includes actively listening, seeing each team member’s intrinsic value, acting with honesty and integrity, and following through — and this list simply scratches the surface. The crux of fostering trust, however, is that it requires time and consistent effort with your team. A culture of trust does not instantly evolve when you decide you want to develop shared goals.
Outside of laying the groundwork for a culture of trust, it is important to identify your key players. Who are you creating shared goals for, and who among that group are your influencers and informal leaders? (See “Your key players,” page 38.) If you are dealing with a small enough group or department, it could be beneficial to include all the team members instead of a select few. Once the participants are selected and are asked to participate, provide each of them a brief synopsis of the desired objectives. These objectives can be specific areas where you want to set goals, such as patient wait times, joint efforts with other departments, or education and training goals, for example. Also, it can be very beneficial to your outcome if you give your team time to prepare before starting these discussions.
Finally, as the leader, take time to prepare and determine your desired result. If this remains too ambiguous, it could derail the meeting and result in a poor outcome. Brainstorm your own thoughts and ideas of shared goals. Just as you have asked the team to prepare and bring their best to the table, so too should you. Additionally, in your preparation, establish a system to assess the proposed shared goals. Your organizational mission statement can be an effective resource and metric for determining the efficacy of shared goals suggested. As the leader, be prepared to facilitate the meeting and provide a road map for where you want to end up and a general idea of how you plan to get there.
Your key players
Influencers and informal leaders are individuals who are trusted for their knowledge or experience, their longevity within the organization that provides greater insight into the formal and informal culture, or those whose opinion is highly valued. The key to influencers and informal leaders is that their leadership credibility is not a direct result of their position or title, but rather something that organically evolves.
Any time you develop strategic goals, it is valuable to keep the organization’s mission statement and values at the forefront. Open your meeting by reminding the group of these key components, and use this as your benchmark for evaluating shared goals. How do they directly correlate to or support your mission statement and corporate values?
Shared goals are not cookie cutter from one organization to another; however, some beneficial areas to explore could be in regards to reducing patient wait times, formal certification or education, cross-training to support efficiency, increase patient satisfaction ratings, etc. By exploring the team’s strengths and areas that could use improvement, it often becomes evident what shared improvement goals would be constructive for your team.
Throughout the process, encourage participation from each team member. Some staff members will be eager to participate, others will be apathetic or indifferent, and some will even try to interfere with the process because they dislike change. One of the best ways to garner buy-in from all of those participants is to actively listen and seek their expertise, appealing to their desire to be viewed as competent and appreciated. Fredrick Herzberg is known for his groundbreaking studies in motivation factors during the late 1950s, and they are just as applicable today. Herzberg theorized that it is human nature for people to find satisfaction (and therefore motivation) when they receive an opportunity to experience growth, success, and a feeling of being valued, according to Modaff and DeWine’s 2012 book “Organizational Communication: Foundations, Challenges, and Misunderstandings.” In other words, by including even the naysayers in developing shared goals, you will create a scenario that provides individuals the opportunity to feel ownership in the success of reaching established objectives, which ultimately benefits the organization.
After you develop goals that stretch outside comfort zones but also remain achievable, put them in writing. Written goals have significant power and create accountability. Additionally, they create consistency and clarity in the expectations of the team. Give everyone a copy of the written goals and associated timelines, and communicate them with the rest of the organization, including physicians and management.
Garner as much support as you can. Healthy organizations do not function in silos; every department impacts the other and its ability to succeed.
Finally, make an effort to cele-brate success and encourage through difficulties. Most importantly, as the leader, follow through on your commitment to the established goals. If you want your team to put forth the effort to implement them, do your part and show your own investment.
No matter what specific shared goals your organization develops, you can increase your chances of staff buy-in and create a win-win scenario for both the employee and the organization by following the aforementioned steps. OP