Critical maintenance for chain of command

Critical maintenance for chain of command

Aug 01, 2005
By staff

Figure 1: The dirty on job descriptions
Does your team ever work inefficiently? Have you ever shot yourselves in the foot by giving a client the wrong information—or by failing to pass on an important piece of information to a co-worker? These little slip-ups could indicate a weak link in your practice's chain of command. And tough as it may be to hear, that likely means you need to brush up on your leadership skills and clarify your team's hierarchy.

Tellingly, less than 50 percent of respondents to an April 2004 survey from an online community and team-training center, feel that the hierarchy currently in place at their practice is effective. And fewer still believe that the leadership team in place is effective.

What should you do? Dr. Ernest Ward Jr., a Veterinary Economics Editorial Advisory Board member and owner of Seaside Animal Care in Calabash, N.C., outlines six key ways to keep your team working efficiently and effectively:

Figure 2 : Meetings breakdown
1. Clarify your expectations It could be that staff members simply don't know what's expected of them. And when you don't know what the boss wants, it's tough to deliver.

Some evidence: Less than 30 percent of respondents to the survey have a staff manual that includes helpful, well-written job descriptions. And only 31 percent say they have a manual that defines the management hierarchy. If you don't have these tools, team members may not be sure what they need to do to succeed in the job or who to go to if they have questions or problems.

Dr. Ward recommends developing specific job descriptions and detailed operation protocols. For example, you could start by taking notes about how you do things, then create a step-by-step outline that someone new could follow. "You don't need a book that's two-feet thick," he says. "You just need a guide that covers the basics."

Dr. Ward doesn't hold his team members accountable for anything that isn't in writing. "When it's in writing, everyone knows what's expected," he says.

2. Provide critical training Are your receptionists prepared to greet the next three clients that walk through the door by name? Do they know they need to stop what they're doing and welcome those clients, regardless of how busy they may be?

These are basics, but you need to come back to these kinds of topics regularly if you want your team to provide consistent service. Regular training is key. And you definitely can't afford to leave your front-office team members out. "They simply influence clients' perceptions of the practice too much," Dr. Ward says.