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OWA Practice Series: Building Practice Culture

Women shaking hands at a business meeting

For the new quarter we have put together a “Practice Series”. This will include advice from doctors, opticians and administrative staff, on common and relevant topics that come with running a practice. Stay tuned for additional contributions each month!


How Do you Build Practice Culture?

Dr. Sampalis: As a leader in my office, I know my greatest asset is my staff! Three areas I focus on are:

  1. Transparency: I always say to my staff be straight forward and honest that way I know what you want so I can make the necessary changes. Transparency goes both ways in my practice. The staff knows where they stand and how I am there to support them.

  2. Connections/Relationships: because we are transparent and looking to make it a better environment we are able to have open relationships and work very well together. I usually take the staff out for dinners with industry reps and include them on discussions on practice additions, office remodel and empower them to make decisions. If there is an issue with a patient I usually back up my employees that goes a long way!

  3. Recognition: I recognize my staff for good things that they do or handling a difficult situation. They see you appreciate their hard work and dedication to your practice. Rewards aren’t always money, sometimes letting them leave early with pay or buying coffee for the office. People will always remember how you made them feel.

Culture is one of the most important aspects of keeping a healthy, happy, and functional team and your patients can tell when there’s a cultural rift. The important elements of building and maintaining a healthy culture stem from the development of trust and vulnerability among your team. This includes Leadership! We all want to do the best work we can, and oftentimes that means giving difficult feedback focusing on what’s not working or where improvement is needed directly to a team member. We’ve implemented Radical Candor© and Traction™, two impressive tools to give feedback (both praise and criticism) and conduct People Analyzers™ for individual team members on a quarterly basis. This communicates how they are actively aligning with the Core Values and Purpose of the organization. And, if your practice does not have a strong set of Core Values and a Purpose for why it exists, I encourage you to start there! We also design a Team Development Day (retreat) once a year for our team to grow and stretch beyond the day-to-day and plan outings and gatherings for our team to connect and enjoy each other outside the office. Christine Maiello

  1. Both regular and spontaneous contests, driven by our team leads and encouraged/cheered on by everyone in our business

  2. Planned annual team outing for staff and their family members

  3. Annual sales and training meeting for all staff (not just our retail or corporate team members)

  4. Read the room: anytime I haven’t seen someone in a while, or a new member joins the team, or achieves a milestone/celebration, I invite team members out for lunch or coffee to share more about what’s going on in their life so they know we care .

When hiring, our hiring manager sits down with the applicant and talks to them about our practice, business model, and our work family. Since we spend more time at work than we do at home, it’s very important to us that we can all get along. After the hiring manager talks to the applicant, she will bring the interviewer over to our Optical department and let us interview with them. We find out about their strengths and weaknesses. We then as a group discuss things we loved about the interviewer, things we were concerned about, and if we thought the person is a good fit for our teams. If we don’t feel they will fit within our optical department, we discuss if there is another department they would excel in. Employee engagement is also very important. We meet monthly with an all staff meeting and break up into department meetings. We are all a part of goal setting, and making clear, achievable goals. Being clear on what goals are set for individuals, departments and the company as a whole makes us all feel involved and more engaged at work. Checking in with employees and our managers is also another way we build culture. We have our yearly reviews that we all get, but our administrator makes it a point to check in with each of us throughout the year. We also know that her door is always open if we have questions or concerns. She is always willing to lend a helping hand and suggest solutions if we are unable to find them on our own. Having our administrator who checks in with us on not only a professional level, but a personal level as well. Again, we spend a majority of our time with our co-workers and they become our second family. Making sure that our employees are taken care of mentally and emotionally creates a stronger work team and environment. Our workplace empowers and inspires our employees to do our best work – to communicate, collaborate and solve problems. We deepen our engagement with our employees/co-workers which then spurs productivity and creates a more efficient workplace. Melissa Rasband
  1. Communication: A basic yet key factor. If all members of the team are on the same page and know what is expected in any aspect that affects their work, there should be no surprises and things are more likely to flow smoothly. Even if there are no hiccups, leadership should regularly schedule staff meetings or employee check-ins to make sure everyone feels included and that they are a valuable part of the team.

  2. Improvements: If something is not working as well as it should, not at all, or is a thorn in someone’s side, encourage staff to suggest process improvements. Not only will this promote teamwork and problem solving, it will relieve any pain points for staff members. Get past the things that are slowing you down or making you unhappy.

  3. Learning: Staff should never feel like they can’t grow. Sometimes this means reimbursing a employees for work-applicable educational experiences, it could mean sharing a unique patient case and care plan, or even what you’ve seen another practice/person do that was innovative. If you don’t have the means for something, at least be a helpful resource or help employees find what they need to succeed.

  4. Satisfied employees = employees who stay = amazing team = successful practice


How do you build culture within a practice? Let us know in the comments!

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