“The single biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” Selina McGee, OD, FAAO, of Edmond, Oklahoma, said that she refers to this quote from Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw when thinking about effective communication. “We all think it goes well, but on the receiving end, it may not go as well,” Dr. McGee said. “It’s a lifelong skill, and some people are more natural at it, but truthfully, we have to work at this and practice every day with our patients and our team.”
Dr. McGee was joined in conversation by Jennifer Chinn, OD, of San Diego; Ann Hoscheit, OD, FAARM, FAAO, of Gastonia, North Carolina; and Laurie Sorrenson, OD, FAAO, of Cedar Park, Texas, who each brought unique perspectives to the table with the common agreement that a better understanding of the people around you can make all the difference.
Educate yourself on effective communication. Dr. Hoscheit said that she attributes a great deal of her success in practice with both patients and staff to discovering the Myers-Briggs personality test. The lessons learned also applied to recruiting, hiring, training and team-building. Many practice leaders have not yet invested the time to grow their own communication knowledge and use it consistently, Dr. Hoscheit said. “That little bit of investment in communication trickles down to the bottom line as a net positive,” she said, noting it is costly to recruit and train new employees versus retaining the ones you have.
Practice makes perfect. Dr. McGee said that she dug deep into learning personality types through a personality characteristics assessment tool, which classifies four personalities: doers, talkers, thinkers and feelers. “Before any conversation with a team member or patient, I’m looking at their body language, how they answer questions and how they want to be communicated with,” she said. Dr. McGee said that she is a doer, and she knows that she needs to get straight to the big point when she encounters a patient who shares this personality. It takes practice to identify a personality and adapt your conversation to it on the fly, but it’s a skill well worth learning.
“Help me understand.” Be methodical in your approach to challenging situations. Dr. Sorrenson said that she follows these steps each time: What (is the problem), why (it is a problem) and forward-focused conversation (help me understand)—as advised by The Power Practice consultant Bethany Fishbein, OD. “This approach helps to remove the blame and makes it less personal with an aim to solve the problem. ‘Help me understand’ has been the phrase of three magic words in very difficult situations,” which allows her and an employee to come to a resolution together, she said.
Hit pause and check in. Dr. Chinn implemented weekly staff meetings when she joined her father’s practice as an owner. It’s helped establish her as a leader in the office where she had previously been a staff member, and it showed her willingness for their input. Dr. Chinn said that “taking a step back and listening to the concerns the team members have” builds a stronger team. It also helps her glean a better understanding of issues arising in the office that may have been unknown or even a problem outside of the office that could be causing emotional turmoil resulting in a lack of productivity.
Consider these referenced communication or personality assessment tools that can add value, fun and understanding to your business.
- Myers-Briggs Type Indicator®
- Personality Plus personality system by Florence Littauer
- The Teambuilding KIT
- DiSC® personality assessment tools
WANT TO HEAR MORE?
Watch their full conversation from the 2020 Women’s Leadership Conference below.