Leadership: Create a winning culture

The final part of our leadership series explains how institutional values and expectations can provide an environment for success.


Company culture is that nonmeasurable part of any organization — friendliness, flexibility, customer service, etc. — that sets apart and drives the success of any organization. Creating and maintaining your company culture is as simple as a few steps, but requires daily maintenance and prioritizing.

Identify your culture

In reviewing your organization’s culture, consider this quote: “Company culture is the product of a company’s values, expectations, and environment,” said Courtney Chapman, product manager at Rubicon Project.

Values, expectations, and environment are the components that make up any culture and can easily be identified and established, generally by the top-tier leadership in the organization. The first step to identifying your culture is to decide who will set it. I have the great pleasure of doing so for our organization.

At Mittleman Eye, we derive our company values from our vision statement: “Provide a lifetime of vision care in a setting of excellence.” A few key words are at play here. To achieve a “lifetime” patient, you need the patient’s loyalty and commitment. The characteristics to achieve loyalty and commitment include professionalism, integrity, respect, friendliness, access, and helpfulness. The other key word in our statement is “excellence.” The characteristics to achieve excellence include innovation, flexibility, commitment, ownership, passion, dedication, and purpose.

I also derive our culture with another simple statement: “Think about everything you dislike about going to the doctor, and don’t do it here.” It’s simple, powerful, and what sets us apart from our competitors.

Set expectations

The next step to take toward establishing your culture is to set very clear expectations based on your values. I developed a list, compiled from various sources, of what patients expect during their visits and established our patient expectations. Patients want:

  • Access
  • Their time respected
  • Simple language
  • To be able to help themselves
  • To feel cared about
  • Value for their money.

This list of patient expectations aids in setting priorities for staff members. These daily priorities maintain the focus of the practice on any given day. Our daily priorities, in order, are:

  1. Patients in the office
  2. Patients on the phone
  3. Charts for the next day (verification)
  4. Everything else.

Also, have established Basic Service Rules for the office. For example, “Set the expectations.” This means the staff member introduces himself to the patient, explains to the patient the amount of time she can expect to be in the office, alert the patient to any delays and explaining to her each step of the process.

The patient expectations, priorities, and basic service rules are posted throughout the office and as a header on our intranet site to serve as guiding principles for our practice.

Get the team on board

Next, you must create an environment where your team will live up to the values and meet the expectations and priorities that you have established. Your organization will never achieve any of the above without everyone’s full effort.

At Mittleman Eye, we meet monthly by department and quarterly as a group to review issues that have arisen and future goals. At these meetings, the doctors are required to attend and participate in the discussions. I usually assign a task or topic to the doctors to present such as education on a new medical technology or therapy.

We also celebrate our successes. When meeting our organization’s expectations, we have company outings such as mini golf, kayaking, and ballroom dancing.

Measure how you’re doing

Lastly, you have to determine whether you are living up to the expectations.

To establish these measurements, return to your values statement and what you hope to achieve. At our practice, to evaluate “lifetime” and “excellence” we track measurements such as referrals — patients’ willingness to recommend our services reflects their satisfaction and loyalty. We track every new patient and how they are referred to us, and we thank our referral sources and our patients for allowing us to take care of them.

To track patient satisfaction, we have a goal to survey 30% of patients who have visited. Additionally, we call every new patient to see how their visit went with a goal of reaching 80% of them. I personally review all negative feedback and negative social media reviews. We take appropriate action on feedback and reviews, positive and negative, which could include a phone call to the patient, response to the social media reviews, apology notes, etc. As I write this article, we have 4,404 reviews across all social media platforms. We report all the information we collect back to the team in a timely manner and discuss what adjustments we may need to make based on that feedback.

Ensure the right fit

To maintain a winning culture, you have to hire the right staff. I make an effort to hire people who represent the very diverse community we serve, who fit our values, and can follow our expectations. We also provide the necessary support to outfit those expectations. For example, we require all of our clinical staff to be certified and pay for the certification and continuing education. However, if your staff simply can’t measure up to the values and expectations of your organization, help them move on to an organization where they would be a better fit.

Make culture a priority

With our values established and guiding principles, priorities, and measurements in place to keep us focused, we can provide a “lifetime” of care for our patients. It’s your job as a leader to wake up every day with the determination to make things happen as it relates to your culture, realizing that a winning culture will reflect in the overall success of your practice. OP