It’s that time of year, where hopefully you are either reading this while a) exercising, b) eating healthier, and/or c) goal planning. Although most New Year’s goals and resolutions fall away by February, statistically, I think there are small steps you can take to make new habits "stick."
When looking at change, especially in our practices, this can be daunting for many, including staff. The antithesis to growth is stagnation, and if you aren’t growing or changing…well. At my office, we hold regular meetings that cover specific office updates, policies, reminders, and trainings. However, the first Friday of every January is our Annual "Big" Meeting, where we meet for most of a full day to talk last year’s achievements, failures, and goal set for the upcoming year. I do spend several hours prepping the agenda for this meeting, and over the last ten years, have honed in on what I think resonates and results in actions. Here is a basic rundown of how the meeting goes:
We start at 8:00 am, and I provide coffee, pastries and fruit. We currently meet in the partially finished upstairs space of my building, but prior to this we would meet off-site. The office is closed for the day, but Fridays I’m open only in the mornings, so it’s not as great of a disruption. I also provide lunch, which we work through. Each staff member gets an agenda that’s a brief summary of the topics we will overview. I have a much more detailed agenda that I use to run the meeting.
This year, I incorporated more "fun" into the meeting by bringing prizes. These ranged from chocolate to $5 coffee gift cards to Yeti coffee tumblers. Staff would earn a prize by answering random questions correctly, or by earning a BINGO on a sheet I had created that included things like, "Dr. Wesley says okay 5x" or "Someone yawns" or "Someone gets a coffee." You can create BINGO cards that randomize these categories for free online. We also give awards during the meeting that recognize the positives in each staff member; other staff members contributed the comments in each award.
The agenda includes the following topics: Overview of office culture and our "Why," Employee Manual updates and any amendments from the past year (staff has to sign off on the manual every year), future of practice (this includes revenue statistics), office efficiencies, patient admin, marketing, patient experience, and then an overview of each of our departments, including specialty services. In each area, we talk about what new things we are looking to implement this next year, or any changes. Sometimes, all is just fine and nothing new need be done. Often, we are tweaking.
A big benefit from going through each area is that it gives staff the opportunity to talk about observations beyond the day-to-day grind. Staff bring insight that we as doctors may not consider, and I generally find that if we create a new plan with overall consensus, plan implementation goes more smoothly and has a higher likelihood of being successful.
As a follow-up to this big day, I will summarize the key points we decided upon and the plan for new implementation moving forward. This happens at our next "regular" meeting. I will guide timelines and deadlines for each area, some of which are immediate and many of which are stepwise and take months to fully execute. The detailed agenda sits on my desk most of the year, and is referred to often by me to remind me of what we need to address. Most years, we get through all goals and plans.
Does it all go well? Nope. Is each idea a success? Not at all. Is it easy dealing with staff? Hardly. But our successes are built upon our failures, and we learn from each experience. I hold myself accountable for staff failures, and my staff is accountable for their successes. But overall, we are a team, working on it day-by-day. My staff laughs when I remind them, "If you don’t like change, you probably shouldn’t work here." Growing due to change is sometimes uncomfortable, but great transformations don’t have to happen overnight. Now, finish out that workout and drink that smoothie. On to the New Year.
Gina M. Wesley OD, MS, FAAO owns and practices at Complete Eye Care in Medina, MN. Accolades include Minnesota's Young Optometrist of the Year in 2011 and the Early Professional Achievement Award from The Ohio State University College of Optometry in 2013. She is a member of the American Optometric Association, a fellow in the American Academy of Optometry and enjoys practicing, writing and lecturing in the industry. For questions or comments about this article, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.