To be completely honest, there was a time, early in my career, when I rejected the idea of establishing practice values and a practice vision.
The whole idea struck me as being some kind of “hocus-pocus.” “Don’t waste my time!” and “Let’s talk about what really matters,” I told my first practice consultant. And so, like many of my colleagues, I avoided this seemingly meaningless exercise and instead went about the task of establishing manageable systems that I successfully micromanaged for my first few years of practice.
Within a short period of time, I began to experience staff-related issues; the kind of issues that keep us awake at night. Moral was low and turnover was high. My first reaction was to blame the staff; obviously I had chosen poorly when hiring. My next reaction was to blame the problem on bad luck; as if luck had anything to with it. Finally, I decided that quality staff was just nowhere to be found.
What I couldn’t understand was how some of my colleagues (the “lucky” doctors) were able to continually attract and retain competent, reliable staff. I envied these doctors and could not help but notice that they also had the most enviable practices. It wasn’t until I knew more and looked deeper that I discovered their secrets to success. To my surprise and dismay, I soon realized that these successful doctors had embraced the very concepts that I had previously rejected. Their willingness to embrace and emphasize practice values and vision were fundamental to their success.
What I now realize is that an organization without values or vision will eventually descend into anarchy. It is also important to acknowledge the distinction between written values/vision statements that exist in obscurity on an office wall from those that are referenced daily in a healthy organizational environment.
As leaders, we create essential, internal guidelines for our staff when we bring our values and vision to life. Vision drives our teams toward a common goal, while values provide the guidelines for how we work together to achieve the goal. Organizations without demonstrable values and vision exist in a state of chaos, because team members, having no shared guidelines, are left to their own interpretation of what is valued and what must be achieved. In the absence of shared guidelines, each team member creates their own internal operating system, which ultimately dictates their actions. It is this inconsistency of thought and action that creates anarchy within organizations.
Imagine, if you will, a football team trying to score a touchdown with no set plays and the entire team blindfolded. Imagine the extreme degree of chaos and eventual disillusionment of each player as they are motivated to win but lack a vision of the goal and the guidelines for team interaction. Now apply this analogy to our organizations and we, hopefully, can begin to understand why we lose staff.
More importantly, we can begin to question our previous assumption that quality staff is nowhere to be found. Perhaps we have found them. Perhaps we have them working for us at this very moment. Perhaps we are not giving them what they need. Perhaps we are creating the problem!
Take a look practice. Do you have demonstrable values and vision or do you exist in a state of chaos?