THINKING BUSINESS
a blog by Chris Barrow

Common sense and initiative

“Chris I want to talk about my team. A week ago the new supply of magazines for the patient lounge arrived. I decided to wait and see who would open the envelope, take the old magazines away and replace with the new ones. I’m still waiting. What should I do to motivate the team to use their common sense and initiative?” Yes – a real conversation that took place a few days ago. The same conversation I was having with clients 20 years ago – some things never change So lets begin our journey with reminders of some old favourites from the Coach Barrow storehouse of business quotations:

If there is a problem with the team – the problem is you (Stephen Covey)
You cannot motivate people – you can only create an environment in which people become self-motivated (various)
10% of people make things happen, 20% have things happen to them, 70% don’t know anything is happening – (me)
Motivation is what gets you started – habit is what keeps you going – (Jim Rohn)
A system – a way of doing things – is absolutely essential in order to compensate for the disparity between the skills your people have and the skills your business needs if it is to produce consistent results – (Michael Gerber)

Gerber, in fact, wrote THE BOOK on this subject – The E-Myth Revisited – and I know that many readers of this blog will have absorbed this groundbreaking work. It is worth quoting him further: 1. The model will provide consistent value to your customers, employees, suppliers, and lenders, beyond what they expect. 2. The model will be operated by people with the lowest possible level of skill. 3. The model will stand out as a place of impeccable order. 4. All the work in the model will be documented in the Operations Manuals. 5. The model will provide a uniformly predicable service to the customer. 6. The model will utilize a uniform color, dress, and facilities code. So the basic mistake is the assumption that common sense and initiative are an adequate alternative to systems and protocols for EVERYTHING that is supposed to happen. Gerber waxes lyrical about franchises as the most successful business model on earth and continues by asking every individual business owner to build their single location as if it were a franchise prototype that could be replicated the world over. That means it will run without you and with effective managers in place. How many dental principals do you know that have managed to achieve that? I’ve been around a long time now and I still count those numbers on one hand – even including the clients I have worked with! The problem isn’t that people are stupid or lacking in motivation- the problem is that between £6.00 and £12.00 an hour they simply want a system to follow. Common sense and initiative kick in over £15.00 – £20.00 an hour in my experience – and that’s called management. Without systems, someone at McDonalds would eventually serve you a slice of bread between two slices of meat – the ingredients would be the same but the system absent. So if you want a Big Mac same time, every time – you have to write that down, train people until they make Big Macs – and then constantly monitor and give feedback (daily huddles, PPI’s – personal progress interviews). To return to my client’s question. There has to be a magazine protocol – open the envelope, take the old magazines out of the patient lounge, put the new ones in – and it has to be recorded, measured, monitored and reviewed. If you cannot cope with that or cannot be bothered – manage your own expectations and prepare for a lifetime of exasperation.

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