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Motivated: Making the Most of Every Day

Medical practices currently operate in a demanding environment. During these times you certainly want to make sure you’re getting the best performance possible from your staff.


In this Pulse article, we offer suggestions to help keep staff motivated:

  • Basic principles of motivation
  • Sharing the vision
  • Addressing morale changes
  • Staff recognition
  • Shared responsibility
  • Incentives
  • Leadership motivation

View related pearls


It's no secret, medical practices are operating in a demanding environment; you certainly want to make sure you are getting the best performance possible from your staff. Try these suggestions to motivate your staff – without making major financial investments.


Back to Basics

In a busy practice environment, it's easy to forget the basics of staff engagement and motivation. Know and use your employee's names when you talk to them. Say "thank you" when a job is done well. Give immediate praise when you see someone who goes above and beyond what's expected. When you are frustrated, don't take it out on your staff.

Make a point to have at least one social discussion with each staff member once a month. You may often ask your nurses how their children are doing, but do you ever ask your receptionists or billing office staff about their kids? Take a few moments to interact with everyone in the practice; it will show them that you care.


Clear Vision

Often, staff is under-motivated because they don't have direction. Let everyone know the vision for the medical group and then make sure that job descriptions and position responsibilities are clear. And, let people know how they fit into the vision in their individual role. Tell your staff what's expected of them and be sure to let them know how they are performing. In addition to setting expectations about job responsibilities, try empowering staff to make decisions.

When someone comes to you with a question about an office matter, respond by asking how he/she would handle the situation. Staff members who feel they have a voice in matters will be more motivated, and their increased self-sufficiency will allow you to get back to seeing patients. And, make sure the staff has the resources to enable them to perform at their best – to meet the expectations.

Be Proactive

If you sense a morale problem or fading morale, don't ignore it. Instead, ask employees about the cause of the low morale. Seek their input as to what might be done to improve it. Simply asking does more than garner information; it also lets people know you are concerned and you yourself are motivated to help improve morale.

Make sure you also are committed to take action when there is a problem. Bring an attitude of a "bias-for-action" with you; oftentimes it is a signal for staff to take action. This doesn't mean you are committing to solving each person's problem; it does mean you are willing to work on issues that affect your staff.


Recognize Staff

A little bit of recognition goes a long way. Don't wait for 10-year anniversaries or other landmark events. Recognize good performance by presenting honors, such as "job well done" awards to one or more staff each month. Mention the name or names during a staff meeting, or post the accomplishments on a bulletin board in the break room. Put cardboard stars for star-studded performances by staff on the bulletin board. Try clever awards.

For example, present a hardworking staff member with a small token award, such as a large Tootsie Roll as a "roll of honor," for taking extra time to handle a difficult patient situation or help train a new employee.


Share Responsibility

Although it seems counterintuitive, giving employees more to do may motivate them. This doesn't mean just dumping more work on them, but rather providing a challenge for the worker. This is particularly effective with younger employees – from Generation "X" and Generation "Y" – who want more diverse responsibilities and the chance to learn new skills.

Challenge staff to handle more, either in breadth or depth of responsibility. Talk to your staff about what makes them professionally satisfied. If you can meet their goals, you will give them reasons to be motivated.


Provide Incentives

Use spot rewards when you see a job is well done. Popular incentives can include extra time off (approved ahead of time, of course), movie tickets, gas coupons, or gift cards. Small amounts, such as an extra 15 minutes at lunch, or a $20 gas card, are welcomed by staff.

To keep everyone in your practice motivated, commit to holding a surprise event once a quarter. Perhaps, you can be the chef at a "backyard" barbeque in the parking lot over lunch. Or, place a rose bud on everyone's desk with a note saying, "for all you do…" or have a rolling cart with ice cream and sundae fixings one afternoon. It will be fun for you – and for your staff.


Top Down

Remember, you, the physicians and leaders in the medical group, portray much about your own motivation every day. It's in what is said and in how things are said. Much is portrayed in your nonverbal signals too. Ask, "Am I motivated to be my best today?". It starts with one person – bring your best and it may just rub off on others.

Creating a motivated environment takes time, but the rewards are tremendous. An exceptional staff produces more – for you, your practice, and your patients.

Pearl 05/01/11

Talk the Walk
Starting with physicians and providers, have one or two people, at your next staff meeting, tell a positive story about something they've done well in their role. Be sure to encourage them to make their story brief and to-the-point. Let everyone have a chance to "talk their walk" during the course of the year. The story can be about a patient, a marketing event, positive feedback from a referring practice, a positive resolution of a billing issue, a new web-based feature, some new way to make work easier during room changeover... Certainly make sure there is a round of hearty applause or "high-fives" for each story.

These stories can be highlighted in bullet fashion, collected and remembered and re-celebrated at the annual employee meeting. It is motivating to know that together you are making a positive difference – and can "talk the walk" in order to hear what is working and by whom. Remember to take time to "celebrate what's right."

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