What is a “TEAM”?
“The team” is likely the most used term to refer to the staff of a practice.
A practice built with a high functioning team really is the profitable, stress-free, and sustainable practice.
In this post, I will break down what a team is, and how to build it in your practice.
According to the definition standard - Meriam Webster, a team is:
Definition of team
1: a number of persons associated together in work or activity: such as
a : a group on one side (as in football or a debate)
b : crew, gang
2 a : two or more draft animals harnessed to the same vehicle or implement; also
: these with their harness and attached vehicle
b : a draft animal often with harness and vehicle
3: a group of animals: such as
a : a brood especially of young pigs or ducks
b : a matched group of animals for exhibition
For High Production “All-Star” Teams, you will need more than just a group of people on the same side.
BusinessDictionary.com has a much better classification of what a team is, as it applies to your practice.
A group of people with a full set of complementary skills required to complete a task, job, or project.
(1) operate with a high degree of interdependence,
(2) share authority and responsibility for self-management,
(3) are accountable for the collective performance, and
(4) work toward a common goal and shared rewards(s).
A team becomes more than just a collection of people when a strong sense of mutual commitment creates synergy, thus generating performance greater than the sum of the performance of its individual members.
Let's break these points down so you can create your own All-Star team.
1. Operate with a high degree of interdependence.
Since the publication of Co-Dependent No More, there has been a great misunderstanding of what dependence is. Let alone healthy interdependence.
Interdependence is the ability to work independently yet be connected and rely upon others. A great marriage is built on interdependence. Support, connection, advice, and consoling when needed with the independence to act without the other person's permission or direct involvement.
Consider the relationship between the pitcher and catcher of a baseball team. Fully independent in the respective role and duty, yet completely interdependent to each other in the execution of their duties to the team.
Without the expertise and excellence of the other, neither could perform their role to the best possible.
In a dental practice with an “All-Star” team, a dentist is interdependent with the assistant, hygienist to the dentist, front desk to the collections/billing and so on.
2. Share authority and responsibility for self-management
Management - the control or manipulation of the details or the parts. Spreadsheets, schedules, supplies, and details can all be managed well. People are not manageable from an outside force.
Teams that are allowed to self-managed have a strong understanding of the vision and why of the practice, their own role in that why, and have been given the respect to self-directed behavior within that role. They will perform better and be more productive than managed staff.
Shared authority and responsibility eliminates the necessity for constant oversight and micro-management. Management activities actually eliminate the drive and purpose of the “team” member creating more work for the manager.
3. Accountable for the collective performance
In a managed staff situation the ultimate responsibility falls back to the manager. Think about a chess game. Each piece has a specific role, and function but the decisions and the responsibility rests on the shoulders and intellect of the chess master who manages the board.
Many years ago, I wrestled in High School. As a member of that team, I won or lost my match independently of the success of anyone else on that team. As a team, we won or lost the meet based on the collective success of each individual match. All of us on the team knew that we were responsible for the ultimate success of failure of the whole. Earlier I used the baseball analogy.
When the Pitcher fails to throw the ball in an effective manner during an All-Star ball game, the sole responsibility rests on the Pitcher, but the collective outcome of the whole team rests on the performance of that pitch. This is why you might see the catcher walk to the mound to consult his interdependent partner. The same is true for the dental team. Each individual player on the team is interdependently responsible for the collective excellence - and empowered to rise to it.
4. Work toward a common goal and shared rewards(s)
A shared vision and common goal is the difference between a collective group of people working in an office and a High Production “All-Star” Team. Without a shared vision, there is no collective performance or nothing to hold anyone accountable to. This is what happens when a staff is led by a policy manual and not a vision.
Perhaps Seneca the Younger said it best:
“If you don’t know what port you are sailing to, no wind is favorable.”
As the practice owner it is your responsibility to set the port (vision) you are making for, but also to get the collective buy-in for that port. If there are members of your team who do not share the vision or embrace the values, there is no good that will come from keeping them on the team. When your values and vision are clearly defined, they will often self-select off the “ship”.
When your goals, values, and vision are clearly defined and collectively shared, the motivation to reach the port is automatic.
Consider the Chicago Cubs. Decades of loss and failed runs to the pennant, yet they continued to come together game after game and play as hard as they could for the collective desire to win the series. This is a true All-Star team. Failure after failure that took the field and did their best to reach the goal against the odds and reality.
To build true teams requires a transformation of the typical “structure” and “organization” that permeates business. Here is the fastest way to apply the for principles above.
1. Define each specific role that is on your team. Just like a ball team - Pitcher, Catcher, First base, etc. Clearly define the roles, duties, expectations, and the interdependent positions. Define the expertise required to perform that role.
2. Identify the people on your team and what position they are in, and more importantly where they ought to be - or - desire to be. What are their skills, potential, and their expertise? Don’t restrain someone from excelling because they are in a certain position today, but not where the could be.
If you find that someone is not in the right position, talk to them. Tell them what you have determined, seek feedback and understanding from them of their desires and their goals. Then get them on the field in the position that they will excel in. A manager would simply move the pieces on their chessboard, but a leader would empower the excellence from the team member.
3. Stay in the dugout. If you have ever watched a true All-Star team you will know that the leader is rarely ever seen on the field. The team manager for baseball is in the dugout rallying the players and controlling the details. The coaches for a football team are on the sidelines. The owners for both, are high above watching the play and waiting to step onto the field to receive the trophy and share the win.
Brett M. Judd MSW is the founder of Practice Leadership Formula and High Production Teams. He has been nicknamed "the Practice Therapist".
Brett is a licensed Master Social Worker with many years experience working with team development and human development. His programs bring the psychology and dynamics of human relationships into the organization and success of practices.
His mission is to end the burnout and stress associated with private practice so that individuals and families can thrive. You can learn more about Brett, his programs and get free resources at YourPracticeTherapist.com and ProfitableEthicalPractice.com