If we aren’t growing and changing, we are stagnating
In any case of in-office change, it’s important to be able to coach your staff through that change. In the past, these changes may have been due to staff turnover, a new insurance plan or a new business strategy in the optical. Recent times have placed us in the midst of pandemic challenges. Office closure, staff furloughs, changes in policies and safety procedures, and trainings are just a few of the new challenges optometrists have faced or are facing.
Here’s what I’ve discovered are the key factors in coaching my staff (and I feel like I’m learning more on this every day):
During the office closure, I found various ways to connect with my staff: email, text, and phone calls being primary. Some staff members were very responsive and some not at all. I was concerned about those whom I hadn’t heard from. But several of my staff members were distraught with the panic COVID-19 created and had enough personal mental stress to not want to deal with job-related news at that time.
One resounding message I received, especially as heard once we were all back in the office, was my staff members’ gratitude for that communication. I would update the staff on the status of our office, what the plan was moving forward, how they would know what we were doing to protect them and how we were going to evaluate on a continual basis what was needed. You may think another email update is overkill, but the staff may feel lost due to not enough communication.
There are always tweaks and updates when figuring out a new process. Feedback from staff has been helpful in regard to what is working, what is difficult and what patients are saying. For instance, it’s good to hear that patients are grateful for the safety precautions we’ve put in place, but that certain masks seem to be working better for staff to wear than others. We just had our first official full staff meeting since reopening prior to my writing of this article, and the staff had mostly positive feedback. The consensus was they were grateful to be heard.
Something new often brings out realizations about yourself or your practice you may never have known had this challenge not come about. For instance, time away from the office helped me realign my priorities, both personally and professionally, and has thus given me more focused direction for my business.
An example of a more obvious in-office realization is the fact that we are scheduling our patient flow now for every single aspect: appointments, eyewear selections and dispenses. This control of flow is beneficial for safety with exposure and COVID risk, but also from a work-related flow perspective. We are also not taking staggered lunches now, but a “mass” lunch, leaving one staff member present to manage patient needs for 30 minutes. This has worked out really well for overall flow, since we also are managing patient schedules as previously mentioned. These changes may be permanent based on their current success. And we would have never known had we not faced a pandemic.
I’m grateful (usually and mostly in retrospect, but still grateful) for challenges that come my way. If we aren’t growing and changing, we are stagnating. Although I certainly wouldn’t have chosen a pandemic as my means of a challenge, I still plan on coming out ahead and am appreciative for all I’ve learned. I’m coaching my staff to realize the same and am highlighting the positives we’ve gained by having had this experience. OM