Article Date: 2/1/2007

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If Running is Good, Then Why Shun it?
Problems arise when we don't recognize that mundane chores create value.

Even if you've never stepped on a playing field, you probably know that running fast is the key to success in most sports. If you can outrun your opponents, you can beat them to the net, goal or base.

Yet it's peculiar how most coaches approach running. They appear to disdain it. Running is a common punishment. Show up late for practice, and you'll run laps. Miss a shot, run a "suicide." Drop a pass, run a lap. Forget a play . . . you get the idea.

Coaches are happy to demonstrate how to shoot, dribble, kick, pass and defend, but when it comes to running, few participate. They would rather bark words of motivation from the sidelines. And no matter how well you run, coaches will tell you to run faster.

What they hear

This behavior sends a clear message to players: Running is bad. It's the low point of most practices. But as we've already discussed, running is one of the key activities for a winning team. So, we've taken an element critical to the success of the team and turned it into a negative — a task that any rational person would prefer to shy away from.

Now that we've diagnosed a new problem, we can do as any respectable consultant would do and label this defect with a fancy name, such as "The Running Syndrome," or the abbreviation TRS.

And the point of this is. . .

Fortunately, optometry doesn't rely on running, but coaches can still saddle practices with a TRS — that task that boosts the value of practice, but one that staff view as negative and will often try to avoid.

Most people don't enjoy fielding complaints, but this is an excellent exercise. Assuming that the patient is not a chronic complainer, the ability to resolve a complaint often is the first step in building a long-lasting relationship. Do you recognize complaints as an opportunity, or do you let staff see your displeasure?

Practices can lump any number of tasks into the TRS category. For example, is your staff happy when asked to stay late? Have you ever exacerbated the situation with a comment such as, "Sorry, I hate it too, but it's a necessary evil"? Or do you say, "I appreciate your effort! Mr. Saunders would have never bought two pairs of glasses if you didn't make him feel so welcome."

Get out and run

By focusing on the value of tasks rather than the perceptions, practice managers communicate that no tasks are trivial and that each staffer is running toward a common goal.

Optometric Management, Issue: February 2007