The importance of creating a ‘Way’

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what makes a winning team. It started with my trip to the Super Bowl in January. I had the awesome opportunity to attend a small breakfast with Bill Belichick, the head coach for the New England Patriots. I was not necessarily rooting for the Patriots. I was just interested in learning how Belichick keeps winning Super Bowls. How does he create a winning team culture year after year? With all those players and their egos, how does he keep succeeding?

That morning, Belichick explained his philosophy for running his football team. It’s been called “The Patriot Way.” This “Way” is how his team does things—and why they succeed. One of the most important parts is that the Patriot Way doesn’t change no matter who the players are. Whether you are a rookie or veteran, it is the same Way and it applies to you. Belichick said he limits the number of the rookies on his roster so that the veterans can have influence over them, but he doesn’t let anyone on the team change the Patriot Way.

After listening to Belichick, I couldn’t help but think of one of my favorite coaches: Nick Saban, head football coach of the University of Alabama Crimson Tide. Saban uses what he calls “The Process.” It’s a philosophy that has distinguished Saban since his first national championship with Louisiana State University in 2003. It’s also the same credo that propelled the Tide to a victory over the University of Georgia in the 2018 national championship game. For Saban, it was his sixth championship victory—an astounding achievement.

What both of these exceptional sports coaches are doing struck a chord with me. I’ve been working for many years to take a similar approach at Scheduling Institute. It’s what I call “The SI Way.” I believe it is critically important to have guiding principles for your organization in order to stay the course in times of adversity and high pressure.

Whether you’re a football team in the Super Bowl or a doctor trying to grow your practice, having a Way, so to speak, is your only hope of succeeding. If you’re a dentist, it’s especially important in today’s workplace. Regardless of how many new or veteran team members you have on board, you need to design a Way. It is the secret to how you can succeed and keep succeeding.

Creating a Way isn’t as mystical as it sounds. More simply put, a Way is your culture. Your culture becomes your team. Your Way is how your team members think, feel, and act toward you. It’s how they respond to patients and manage responsibilities. It also serves as the foundation of their loyalty.

Do you know what your practice culture is? If not, this is the biggest and yet least obvious threat to your practice—and therefore your financial security. Your culture is the standard you set and the expectations you have for your team. It should be created by you and no one else. If you don’t intentionally create it, someone else will. And chances are that he or she won’t create the culture that’s best for your practice and your patients. You have the responsibility of creating your Way, perpetuating it, and holding your team accountable to it.

At my company, there are many standards that are part of our Way. For example, we have core values that we use to guide us in hiring, coaching team members, and, when necessary, terminating. Everyone has goals, everyone’s on a team, and we always put the client ahead of ourselves. And no one should ever say, “That’s not my job.”

The bottom line is you need to decide what you want and how you want your people to act. Then, look in the mirror and be honest with yourself. Are you demonstrating those things or something different? Start communicating with your team about what the Way at your practice should look like and live it out yourself.

Author’s note: Learn more about Scheduling Institute’s Culture Fest, a seminar for doctors and their key team members in Atlanta, Georgia, June 13–15. Visit siculturefest.com.

Jay Geier is founder and president of the Scheduling Institute, a premier practice consulting group focused on practice growth, team training, and doctor coaching.

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