My practice isn’t perfect. I’ve had to fire staff. Staff has quit on me. But I do have staff that have been with me for many years. In today’s world of “doing what’s best for me in the moment” I can’t help reflecting and recognize that my value system I have in place aligns with these long-standing, valued staff members. (It does, I’ve asked them). Now, that doesn’t mean my office is the model to follow, as regionality, specialty, practice set-up and overall goals for each practice are different. But there is some insight to knowing what staff identifies with.
The one thing ALL practices can do is show their staff appreciation. It’s not that this is something most doctor-owners aren’t aware of, but like me, many of you are probably frustrated in knowing HOW to express appreciation. Each staff member seems to respond differently. I remember I always made it a point to say thank you at the end of each day for my primary, first-and-only staff member. She later told me that that thank you felt insincere (truly, I was very thankful) because I didn’t express specifically what I was thankful for. Sigh. You hear me? I know it’s hard. So, this is what I did this year to focus on showing appreciation:
Many of you may have heard of the book, “The Five Love Languages.” If not familiar, this book focuses on the premise we communicate and value appreciation in five different “languages:” acts of service, words of affirmation, physical touch, tangible gifts, and quality time. If someone we love is not communicating in our primary language (because possibly another language is primary to them), we will not feel loved, valued, and appreciated. It’s becoming aware of what “language” you need to speak to your significant other, or kids, that make them feel cherished and loved.
Now, the author of that book has created a "Motivating by Appreciation" inventory, or survey, to apply these same concepts at work. Minus the physical touch category, each area is represented. You pay a small fee (for my office it was less than $100) for each staff member to take an online quiz. The results of this quiz reveal the primary, and secondary, way they want to be appreciated at the office. If they think they already know their language because they are familiar with “The Five Love Languages,” the outcome may be different. Still, have them take the quiz. Work setting is not the same as personal. It only takes about 10-15 minutes to complete. I then tallied the results and went over each category of appreciation and what each staff member’s primary language is at an office meeting.
Moving forward, at each subsequent office meeting over the last month or so, we feature one to two staff members to give examples of how they want to be appreciated in their language. Just because two staff members “speak” the same language doesn’t mean they appreciate the same token in that language. For instance, quality time with team members for some staff may be in the office working on a project, but for other staff may be an outing or gathering outside the office. It was enlightening to find out what makes my staff tick, even the long-standing staff members I thought I knew really well.
Yes, this is pretty specific. But can you imagine how happy you and your staff could feel if they were encouraged and appreciated in their language at work? What does this do for office morale? How does this help in productivity? So far, we are working at appreciating one another every day in our languages. Yes, it IS work, but the benefits are tremendous.
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.