A new manager inherits a team of unmotivated clock punchers. How can he inspire this team to greater productivity and talent?
This article originally appeared in the March 2015 edition of INVISION.
Dr. Sara Garner glowed this Monday morning as she addressed her staff. “Our practice has been without a manager for over a year now. I’m happy to welcome Henry,” she said. “His presence will take a lot of work off my plate so I can go back to seeing patients full time. He has worked in several optometry practices, so I feel comfortable letting him just jump right in.”
“Hello, it’s great to meet all of you!” Henry said with a smile, though it quickly became forced as he saw eight apathetic faces. Only half were even making eye contact with him. Meanwhile, Dr. Garner turned to Henry and said, “I’ll be at my desk — I’ll let you get to it!”
At Henry’s job interview, Dr. Garner said that although she was pleased with the practice’s performance, there was a steady decline in new patients. Garner Vision had grown at an average pace during its first years in a busy suburban strip mall near Boston. “I want to see more growth,” she’d said, “which is why I’m bringing you aboard. I’m retiring in 15 years, so it doesn’t feel like I should be coasting.”
Now on his first day, Henry had never seen a staff so disengaged, and he also found it odd that Dr. Garner had quickly excused herself. He decided he should keep this first meeting brief.
“As the new practice manager, my goal is to increase productivity, and I like to do that by streamlining tasks and taking each team member’s training to a new level,” Henry began. “Let’s start this way: Can everyone shout out why they enjoy their careers at this practice?”
A long silence followed, so Henry addressed the woman sitting next to him. “Why do you work here?” The woman blushed and cleared her throat. “It’s close to my house. I can be here in less than 10 minutes.” Two others at the table nodded in agreement. Inside, Henry winced.
An hour later, the office had opened and Henry walked through the office, observing staff performance. He saw receptionists check patients in and out quickly. The technicians worked in perfect sync with Dr. Garner. In the optical, Henry saw all three dispensing stations occupied and the opticians quietly engaged with patients. This office appeared to be a well-oiled machine!
Henry was perplexed. While there were certainly opportunities to further train each employee, he expected more problems from a disengaged staff. Yet he still sensed something “off” about Garner Vision.
Reviewing the employee files, Henry noticed that everyone was paid more than average for the region. Each had been with Garner Vision for at least six years, and everyone was between 40 and 60 years old. Most had worked for other optometry practices before this one. Henry was impressed; he was used to managing frequent turnover and inexperienced staff.
As he returned to observing the staff, something dawned on him: Not one employee showed any real passion for his or her job! They knew how to execute their tasks and had adequate customer-service skills, but much was missing. Opticians weren’t getting excited about describing new technology; technicians weren’t engaging and educating patients; receptionists weren’t using their personalities to create a memorable experience upon checkout.
The next day, Henry called each staff person in for a one-on-one meeting. While polite, the staff clearly felt they did not need a manager. A senior receptionist told Henry, “we are really past any need for frequent meetings or team-building. They’re a waste of time; just tell us what to do and we’ll do it.”
On the drive home that night, Henry’s mind raced. He knew the staff in other practices was the main reason for word-of-mouth referrals, and he wanted to see the same for Garner Vision. However, this team had a dynamic new to Henry — he felt like a bull in a china shop.
T H E B I G Q U E S T I O N S
1. What can Henry do to create a more engaged staff?
2. Does this team need fixing, or will Henry’s expertise be wasted in this environment?
3. Are there drawbacks to allowing the office to continue without an infusion of passion and engagement? Are there positives?
R E A L D E A L R E S P O N S E S
DR. DENNIS I.
DR. ANTHONY F.
DR. TORY M.
DR. SARAH J.
DR. MICHAEL D.
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