Keep Hope Alive in Tough Times
Leadership is hard work, especially when you feel anxious about the future. It’s easy to let yourself fall into the sinkhole of doom-and-gloom thinking. From time to time, we all experience negative thoughts. Ups and downs are a part of life. But successful leaders maintain a healthy perspective and a hopeful outlook. Not that smiling and thinking positive thoughts will increase your revenue overnight, but you will affect your bottom line by being mindful of your mental and emotional energy.
The recent advances in neuroscience indicate that thoughts have energy. The way it works is that we operate our lives based on assumptions, our mental models. These are the ‘rules’ we follow to make decisions and choices in our life. For the most part, assumptions are unspoken and operate at a subconscious or even an unconscious level. What you believe ultimately becomes your reality. Henry Ford said it best: “Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.”
If you focus on problems and obstacles, you will find yourself moving further into a downward spiral. But when you redirect your attention to appreciate what you already have, you attract more of the same. When you amplify your strengths and create images of where you want to go, that energy propels you to new levels of success and achievement.
It’s normal to wonder if your production numbers will improve, but don’t give way to decisions based on fear. The best way you will weather tough times is to keep yourself and your team focused and fired up. Be objective and deliberate. Avoid knee-jerk reactions. The worst decisions are usually the ones that are made quickly. Evaluate the need for lay-offs carefully, not emotionally. The same is true for pay cuts. It’s far better that you make sacrifices in your own salary than to risk actions that diminish your employees’ morale. Every minute your employees spend wondering or worrying is a minute your patients are being ignored.
Help your employees deal with their fear. Be an open communicator about your decisions to reduce expenses. If you announce that you’ll no longer be providing beverages in the staff refrigerator, some of your staff may wonder if they’re next in line to get the ax. You may see soda pop, coffee and donuts as unnecessary or a place to save a few dollars. However, to your staff it could symbolize an unwillingness to “feed” them emotionally. The intangible costs could easily outweigh the monies you want to save. If it’s crucial for you to take this kind of action, explain the decision with objective facts. More importantly, tell them that by reducing some smaller expenses you are maximizing your plan to keep everyone on board and at the same pay level.
Continue to invest in training your team. “Dumbing down” the practice is a short-term solution. Be judicious about where to spend training dollars but don’t defer essential skill-building. Remember that your practice has a great opportunity to position itself for the future. If the schedule is lighter now, use the time to advance your employees’ knowledge. Engage in team building activities that lighten spirits and keep morale high.
Focus on ways to improve customer service. And pay extra attention to the patients you’ve got. This is an excellent time to show you care by spending more quality time with everyone in your office. Crank up your ‘personal touch’. Just like you, your patients are concerned about their pocketbook. Research shows that people will continue to spend money when the perceived value is high. Find small but powerful ways to give T.L.C. treatment. In doing so you’ll build stronger loyalty with better patients, and eventually more referrals.
Work on yourself. Effective leadership overrides tough circumstances. Be disciplined. Develop a plan and stay the course. Your employees will model your behavior, so be calm and optimistic. Whether it’s greater emotional composure or more encouraging remarks to others, the impact of just one small modification holds tremendous possibility. If you’re having trouble staying positive, get a coach - someone who will be an objective sounding board and source of support. Just as physical trainers improve performance in athletic competitions, coaching offers ways to enhance professional effectiveness.
Times may be tough, but you have a choice about how you will respond. You can impact your practice in a powerful way. Plant your feet. Talk more with your employees and your patients. Include others in your decisions. Reach out for support and help. Be hopeful in your thinking and your actions.
Dr. Haller provides training for leadership effectiveness, interpersonal communication, conflict management, and team building. If you would like to learn more contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org
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