and the Art of Improvisation
practices follow standards, but what happens when there are no rules?
THE EXECUTIVE EDITOR Jim Thomas
matter how many rules you establish in your practice, you still face situations
that don't fall neatly into the parameters you've set. For example, one of your
top performing employees may request extra time off to take care of a family member
who is ill.
It's not only a question of "breaking" the
rules for unique employee issues. Your office manager might propose switching to
an automated billing and coding system or adding new equipment. Your optician might
suggest a new, and perhaps costlier, approach to marketing a particular line of
frames or lenses.
Just following the rules
In each of these examples, you can choose
to follow the rules:
"I'm sorry, but our policy clearly
indicates that you receive 15 paid days off this year."
"We can't afford it."
"We don't have the marketing budget
to promote a new line."
Or you may determine that it would
be best to go beyond the rules to improvise and discover creative solutions. Improvisation
can improve communication, foster a creative approach to problem solving and develop
staff trust and cooperation. (Note that improvisation is never an excuse for ignoring
the rules, a situation that causes serious damage.)
first rule of improvisation
The key to improvisation is agreement.
When you agree, you open the lines of communication and show support and trust.
In the example responses, the answer was no no, you can't have more time
off, no we won't follow your proposal and no, we can't accept your marketing suggestion.
What's the quickest way to deflate anyone's spirits? Just say no.
Agreement isn't an automatic yes to
any proposal, rather it's the recognition that the other person or group has a point
of view that isn't necessarily addressed in the current standards. Here's an agreeable
response to the issue of paid time off:
"Let's see if we can work together
to create a solution that will be fair and allow you to take care of your family."
With this response, you've not only
shown that you care, you've emphasized the need to work together so that the employee
also bears responsibility for finding a solution that's fair to both the practice
and staff. In a similar, real-life case, the entire staff came together and ultimately
arrived at a solution, which included a combination of working alternate hours,
work at home and unpaid leave.
Once you agree to improvise, then the
hard work begins. But it's the kind of work that can add real value to your practice.
Optometric Management, Issue: May 2006