Physician Leaders, Take Time to Acknowledge Your Team

by Francine Gaillour, MD

in Aligning With Values & Purpose,Executive Coaching for Physicians,Transformational Leadership

One of the most effective, albeit overlooked, “actions” a physician leader can implement in their day-to-day world of management is to take one minute, one a week to acknowledge the work of their staff, team members and colleagues.

The Gallup Organization’s research on what makes good managers effective—as discussed in their classic book, “First Break All the Rules”—is clear on what drives results, productivity and employee satisfaction.  Team members who have an opportunity to apply their natural skills and talents and be acknowledged for their contributions are what make successful organizations!

What is an “acknowledgement” and how do you do it?

First, an acknowledgment is NOT the same a “compliment.”  A compliment may sound like:  ”You sound chipper today!” or “That’s a nice tie!”    These are general statements that could apply to anyone, and are not related to the work contribution of the individual.  While it may be nice to receive these compliments, it may not make me feel like a valued colleague.

An acknowledgement, on the other hand, sounds like this:

“Dr. Lee , I appreciate the organization that went in to the patient safety proposal you prepared.  And your presentation to the hospital board highlighted what they were most concerned about.  It was clear you listened to their concerns.”

Or like this:

“Bill, I want to acknowledge you on how you handled the meeting today.  The calmness and sensitivity you showed in managing the tension after the two practice leaders  started raising their voices went a long way to getting everyone on the same page.”

An acknowledgement identifies a  SPECIFIC  behavior or UNIQUE manner that DIRECTLY CONTRIBUTES to the SHARED GOALS or POSITIVE OUTCOME of the team.

Read the two acknowledgements above again.   Notice the words: Dr. Lee was organized, prepared….and demonstrated listening skills — all were critical for the proposal.    Bill was calm, sensitive and managed a tense meeting with the outcome of collaboration.

How do you “speak” an acknowledgement.  It’s easy!   Think about the person you want to acknowledge, identify the behaviors or qualities that contribute to a positive outcome (no matter how small).  Here are some phrases to “jumpstart” your acknowledgement:

“I appreciate the energy you….

“I appreciate your detailed approach to….

“I want to acknowledge how brought a can-do attitude to…

“I want to acknowledge your creativity in….

“I appreciate your raising concerns about the project, and using your keen critical thinking…..

Every day, a doctor, nurse or allied staff member is contributing to the goals of the team.   Almost ALL of them go home each week never being acknowledged for their unique contribution.    Why not take 30-seconds and acknowledge every team member at least once a week.   Not only will it make their day, it will make YOUR day.



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