From the Desk of Paul:

Productivity-Killer #2 - You tolerate too many unproductive relationships

Last month I revealed the first of the five biggest productivity-killers in your practice: 1. Your staff doesn’t know the score!  This month I’ll reveal the next productivity-killer and give you some practical steps to avoid it from the beginning or fix it if it has already infiltrated your practice. 


Here’s a quick exercise. Write down how many total staff members you have – let’s just say it’s 30. Now, 10% of 30 is 3. I want you to identify the three employees who bring the least value to your practice. You know who they are! Most good managers can complete this exercise in just a few minutes. Maybe there are only 2 on your staff of 30 who really bring less value than the rest of your staff. Maybe there are 4; however, 10% is typically a pretty good number to work with in this practical exercise. What is it that causes you to consider these three people your bottom 10%? For some, it may be that they don’t have a great work ethic, which prevents them from creating much value. For others, perhaps they do good work, but they are negative and cynical, and they spread that to other employees like cancer. And yet for others, they may be good people with good skills, but they just don’t have the ability, knowledge or experience to perform the duties that you need them to.

In general, the solution for all these types is the same. It must be some form of antonym for tolerating.  You see, to do nothing to address the issue of the bottom 10% of your staff is a clear statement of acceptance. If your best people see your willingness to tolerate some of these characteristics that don’t add value to the organization, then they may become discouraged, disengaged and less willing to do the hard work that will make your practice great. So, how do you avoid tolerating? Start by asking yourself these three questions about the person:

  1. Does he/she get it? Does the employee understand the job, the duties, the responsibilities and the expectations?
  1. Does he/she want it? Is the employee doing a job that they really want to do or are they doing the job out of necessity and lack of other better alternatives?
  1. Does he/she have the capacity to do it?  Does the employee possess the skills, experience and knowledge to do the job in a manner that reasonably meets expectations?

If the answer to the first question is “NO”, then you must take some additional time to clarify, clarify and clarify some more. If the main issue is just lack of clarity or understanding, then you may need to put some extra effort into providing the clarity needed. Once you’ve done that, if there is little or no improvement, then you may need to really consider the second question. If the answer to the second question is “NO”, then there is very little you can do to improve the situation other than seek to fill the position with an employee who does understand the job, responsibilities and expectations and wants those things too. If the answer is “NO” to the third question, you will need to evaluate what resources, including time, would be needed to help the employee to possess the skills and knowledge to do the job well. If the resources are readily available, then the employee can be developed such that they bring much more value to the organization. However, it is possible that the resources may not be available and therefore you must consider the necessity to replace this person with someone about whom you can answer “YES” to all three of the questions above.

Last thing, employee relationships are not the only potential relationships that we may be tolerating.  Others may include vendors and even clients or patients. Evaluate these relationships too and if they are unproductive, stop tolerating them and either fix them or replace them!

Paul Meadows,