As Teddy Roosevelt once said, “The most important single ingredient to the formula of success is knowing how to get along with people.” That applies to physicians, office managers, medical assistants and front office staff. We all can improve in our ability to communicate better and get along with people. Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends & Influence People has stayed an all-time best seller for good reason. There is always a need to connect with others no matter your job title. Simply ‘knowing it all’ is not enough to make you successful.

I’ll give you my quick summary to team building: hire people with the right attitude and values, equip them with the tools necessary to do their job successfully and then stay out of their way so they can do it. Of course there is a lot more detail to the process, but that simple formula has proven effective in many practices. Let’s break it down a little further.

Team building starts with hiring the right people. You want to build your team with winners. I believe one of the major differences between successful and unsuccessful people is how they think. Most successful people – and successful leaders especially – are positive and optimistic. After all, who would you rather work with, someone who inspires and encourages you? Or someone who is doom and gloom all the time?

But you can’t just hire “happy” for your practice. If you want your staff to be pleasant to patients and greet them with a smile – and you should want that for your office – it would help for you to be positive and encouraging to your staff. In the business world, people talk about a company’s culture, which in a lot of instances is closely tied to the general attitude of the employees. Much like culture, attitude starts at the top. Whatever attitude you want to permeate your office, starts with you as the leader of the team. Your attitude will create the culture for the office.

Speaking of culture, you want to make sure that the values of those you hire for your team match those you have for the practice. Is compassionate care an integral value for your practice? Your patient won’t feel that if the staff member they deal with is short and only seems to care with keeping on their schedule.

I stress attitude and values first and foremost because these are inherent traits of an individual. I can teach them to answer phones, give them scripts for handling collection calls, demonstrate the most efficient ways to organize workflow and just about any other procedure for the business. But I cannot teach attitude. That has to come from within the person.

That leads to the next step: equipping each team member with the tools necessary to do their job successfully. Too often an employee is hired based on a good-looking resume, given a little basic training (making sure they can log onto the computer) and left to fend for themselves. There is very little follow up or communication until the end of their 90-day probationary period, at which time they are told of their deficiencies.

A better approach is to invest the time in training each new person (and even re-training current staff) on the current systems and the ideal workflow. Make sure they have someone who can mentor them through the initial on-boarding process. Having someone who they can approach with questions takes away a lot of the normal stress people have when starting a new job.

It is also essential to communicate expectations up front. Everyone should know what exactly their duties are, what the goals are for their role and how their success will be measured. This clarifies for you and for the employee what they need to accomplish. If there are any additional tools or training needed to reach those goals this can be addressed sooner rather than at the end of the quarter or end of the year evaluation.

Team development is a process, and it takes time and energy. However, it is a process that can be extremely rewarding. Investing in your team will pay big dividends in patient care, patient satisfaction, and ultimately physician satisfaction.