We just discussed how a collaborative vision for your practice serves as a reminder of what you and your employees are trying to accomplish, and as a touchstone for all of the decisions you and your employees make. As a practice owner or manager, you probably already have a good idea of what you’d like your practice to become. So why not just create the vision yourself, explain it to your employees, and set the expectations that their actions align to it?
First, in order to make your vision a reality, people probably have to make some changes. A vision describes a future state – what you want your practice to become. If you want your practice to evolve into this desired future state, people have to change the way they’re currently doing things – the way they interact with one another, the attitudes they show up with each day, or their level of commitment to and engagement in the practice. If human behavior change wasn’t required to achieve this vision, then your practice would already be perfect.
In order for these changes to be sustainable, your employees need to be involved in shaping them. We’ve probably all witnessed changes in ourselves or others that lasted a week or a month but then ultimately failed. A few New Year’s resolutions might come to mind. And while it may seem like telling your employees they have to change and then monitoring them to be sure they’re following your instructions is enough in reality, it isn’t. Issuing those kinds of directions generally only leads to temporary compliance.
For instance, let’s say some of the employees in your hospital refuse to help each other if it requires them to do something that’s “not their job.” Maybe veterinary technicians refuse to answer the phone when the receptionist is busy, or employees squabble over who’s responsible for cleaning out the cages. So you include a line in your vision that emphasizes the need for employees to work together as a team, and then communicate this expectation to them.
While doing this might cause change when you’re standing right there, this kind of change -change that is done to people – often isn’t adhered to without constant attention on your part along with the rules, policies, procedures, and consequences all designed to keep people from doing the wrong thing. This means you can easily find yourself in a situation where you spend all day reminding, instructing, correcting, and pushing your employees to follow the rules in order for them to make the changes you want. If your commitment to constantly monitoring your staff slips just a little, or if you take a day off, or are in the other room, they’re likely to revert back to their old habits. This happens because the only motivation they have for adhering to the change is external. They are mostly just trying to stay out of trouble. As soon as this external motivation is removed, however, they have no longer have a reason to sustain the change. Fear of consequences is a powerful motivator, but it’s not a sustainable one. And leading that way can make the management job a miserable one.
Some people try to get buy-in for their vision by describing their vision and telling the staff what’s in it for them. This won’t help your employees connect to a vision nearly as much as if they’re involved in its creation. Our level of commitment changes drastically when it’s something we shaped or took time to think about and then decided on. Taking that time to work through it in our brain, make choices because of our thoughts, and then make decisions on what we want to do next, is essential to sustainable human behavior change. Without that part of the process, we are setting change up for failure and creating a lot of work for ourselves as a leader.
This point is illustrated here. In a study of 1,549 companies conducted by Mckinsey and Company, they found that 73% of change initiatives were successful when change involved the input of employees, while 88% of change initiatives that did not involve employees’ input failed. For any change to be successful and sustainable, people must be compelled by it and feel like it’s worth achieving. The surest way to accomplish this is to involve the people who will make the change happen in its creation.
Sometimes practice owners or managers worry that the vision that the staff creates will be different from the one they would have built had they done it themselves. It will, and it will also be the only one that can actually be achieved. Chances are that it will only differ in small ways and you as a leader get to contribute to it too, so feel free to add a few of your own thoughts as well as you build it. Also, remember that if it’s only your vision, you often end up trying to make it happen by yourself.
When people are involved in making a change, they get to express their thoughts, ideas. and opinions about where this practice should be heading. They are part of building the future they want and this helps them create their own complete mental picture or mental map of what it will be like to work in that future place and how they will feel about achieving it. It’s impossible to work hard toward someone else’s picture of the future until you create that same picture for yourself as well. When was the last time you worked really hard and went through your own personal behavior changes to achieve a vision of what someone else told you you should do, but that you hadn’t really decided that you wanted to? It may seem like telling your staff and paying them should be enough to make them want to, but the human brain simply doesn’t work that way. Once you create this vision together though, they’re not supporting the change because you’re watching them, or because you told them to; they’re supporting the change because they built it, they believe in it and they think it’s worthwhile. They are supporting the change because they want to.
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Is your practice exactly where you want it to be? Or, are there changes you’d like to make, or like your employees to make, that would help your practice realize its full potential? The first step to making any change in your practice in an effective, sustainable way is to develop a collaborative vision for your practice with your employees. This course shows you how to do just that. It includes a video that walks you through the collaborative vision process and includes a video you can watch with your staff to complete this process together.
If you can answer “no” to one or more of the questions below, you’ll likely find the information in this course helpful.
- Do you have a clear vision of what you want your practice to become? Can you explain that vision to your team?
- Do you know what changes you and your employees need to make to create the practice of your dreams?
- Do you know how to help your employees make any changes needed in a sustainable way?