Kent Holtorf is a medical doctor. And like any good doctor, he wants to put the people around him at ease.
That’s not just his patients. That includes the doctors and staff members who comprise Holtorf Medical Group Inc., a franchisor of medical care practices that generated $12 million in 2008 revenue.
Holtorf, founder, medical director and CEO, says a good leader drives goals and promotes accountability while fostering a nurturing, empowering culture that encourages camaraderie among the staff and offers opportunities for achievement.
“I’m very lighthearted,” Holtorf says. “I never raise my voice. I tend to be a practical joker. It’s all because I think it’s really important to be liked as a CEO, and that needs to go all the way from the top down. Especially in a medical practice, the staff is kind of scared of the physicians. Doctors tend to be of a different personality style, and I really don’t fit that.”
Smart Business spoke with Holtorf about how you can use communication to set the tone for a positive work environment.
Lead by example. Telling people it has to be done this way and that way, and then if you don’t do it yourself, it doesn’t fly well. You’ll quickly find yourself with a very unmotivated staff. Another thing is to do things to motivate your staff apart from just pay. It’s very important to get people engaged in what they’re doing, believing in what they’re doing.
You can’t sell a product you don’t believe in, and in our practice and dealing with very difficult patients, you have to understand it and have it in your heart that we’re the best place for these patients and we’re helping so many of them. That kind of mindset can really get our medical staff through the long hours.
Value your team. You have to respect every single person and the job they do. That comes from the top down. Again, just being motivated by money gets you a very poor work ethic and everyone just kind of showing up to work each day. They have to believe that what they’re doing matters, that they’re doing a good thing, and they see the results. We do have an advantage in that we’re treating patients, so our people see those results directly. We’re not making pens or some other product like that where we’re disconnected from the result. If you can do that and hire people with good attitudes, you can help to develop the attitude in a staff where they want to go the extra mile and really care about the result. So it’s about finding the right staff and then fostering that mindset, and both have been very important for us.
Set standards, especially for managers. The managers need to be very accountable and organized. Our managers present me with a checklist every week about what they’ve done that week to improve a particular area that we were focusing on. One thing I really like is objective measures for performance. When it comes to reviews and this is very empowering for the staff is figuring out how they’re really measured. If you do that, you can give each person an objective measure against a goal or objective. If they have a list of those, they know what is important, and they know that we are looking at that. Many times, staff members can be doing the right thing all the time and no one notices. So what we do, and what is empowering, is we sit down once a quarter and tell each person, here is how you’re doing, ‘Here is how we’re going to rank you, and you’re going to rank yourself.’ We look at all the different points, and if there is any disconnect, if the staff thought they were doing a 10 job on something and we thought they were only doing a 3 job, we figure out what is going on. In that way, you really get a connection between what they think their performance is and what we think their performance is, and then they can better know what they need to do to perform.
To put objective measures in place, basically you sit down with managers and ask what do we want this person to do. You can say that you want them to do a good job and so forth, but really it’s how do we show them how they do each task, what would be the ideal. What you write down is all the points you can think of for each scenario that comes up. Then you grade them on, ‘Did they do it, or did they not do it?’
Get out of the office. In being humans, face to face is so much more powerful, in terms of meeting someone. E-mails are certainly good and phone calls save time. But really face to face conveys empathy for whatever is being discussed and the subtleties of the importance, as well. You can convey more in a face-to-face meeting, so I think those are important.
To engage your people like that, you have to make it a priority. Time is about making priorities. You have time for what you make time for. If you don’t block out time, it won’t happen, because there is always something else to do.
Delegating is another critical aspect of making time for communication. You can’t do everything yourself. Delegating is very key, and the key to delegating is to find a person who you know is going to be able to follow through and report back on whether something is being taken care of. If you delegate to someone who may do something or may not, you spend all your time following up on that. So in addition to delegating, you need to get reports back that allow you to follow up on the task at hand.
How to reach: Holtorf Medical Group Inc., (310) 375-2705 or www.holtorfmed.com