Think back to your days in elementary school. How many times were you asked to participate in fire drills? In most schools, this is something kids are asked to practice every few weeks. In fact, students are put through these exercises over and over again, year after year after year.
Repetition and reinforcement are key to learning. Especially if the behaviors you are teaching must be remembered and deployed during times of stress or urgency. Leaders can impact employee performance with the same approach. The quality and frequency of employee performance is shaped and improved by regularly reviewing scenarios, protocols, and policies, and through ongoing training.
One strategy I encourage leaders of all teams to utilize is that of a learning calendar. This is a document that can be created in a matter of minutes that a leader can use to make sure that team members frequently revisit important subjects throughout the year. Here’s how to put one together for your team:
Step 1: Identify 12 topics. Think about office procedures, computer systems, patient care protocols, staff expectations, communication and customer service, etc. These don’t have to be problem areas or things staff only do infrequently. It’s all about keeping important stuff fresh. Ask staff members, colleagues, and other stakeholders for suggestions.
Step 2: Assign one topic per month. List January through December on a single sheet of paper and assign a subject to each month. It can be helpful to stagger areas of focus. For example: review something technical one month, a soft skill the next month, etc.
Step 3: Determine delivery mechanism. Think about the best time and place to review the topic. As noted in this chapter, staff meetings and team huddles work well. Email can work, too, but it’s best for simple topics as it doesn’t allow for discussion. An annual or bi-annual staff retreat is a great option. Don’t shy away from scheduling a standalone training from time to time, either.
Step 4: Identify and invite reviewers. Who is best equipped to visit (or revisit) the material with the team? Identify a subject matter expert for your topic. It can be you, another leader, a staff member, or an authority on the subject from outside your organization. Invite them to take the lead on the topic as scheduled.
Step 5: Finalize and share. Once all the details are finalized, put all the information into a single page document. Share it with the other managers and physicians on site to get support and buy-in. Once everyone has seen it, share it with your team along with your reasons for developing the plan.
Don’t assume that because you reviewed something with your team once, they absorbed and will forever act on the information. Revisit, remind, and reinforce big things and small. Discuss unique circumstances but also polish everyday routines. When leaders embrace their responsibility for keeping teams sharp, the performance of those teams improves and ultimately remains high.
Joe Mull, M.Ed, is a leadership trainer and keynote speaker. He works with healthcare organizations that want their practice leaders to engage, inspire, and succeed. To learn more or bring Joe to your site, visit www.joemull.com.