I had a problem. I hated telling my staff “yes.”

I am a Type A personality. Above all else, I believe that I can do everything by myself, and depending on others to fix problems within a practice is a waste of time. I lived by two rules:

  1. I am right, and
  2. If you do not think I am right, see rule #1.

My staff would voice their opinions, but I would quickly disagree with them because I knew best. Even if they had good ideas, I would not give them the time of day. If it was a good idea, I would have thought of it.

Don’t get me wrong; my staff is awesome. I hired them because they are an awesome group of people that I trust. However, I trusted none of them as much as I trusted myself…because I was always right.

The Challenge

One day while I was sitting at a conference, the speaker instructed us to always tell our staff yes. I chuckled under my breath. “This speaker has lost her mind,” I scoffed to myself. “Always tell your staff yes.” Ha! That would be a nightmare. I continued to listen and think, while still internally laughing to myself.

This speaker was definitely wrong, so I decided to disprove her approach at our next protocol-building session. I was only going to say yes to my staff; to any idea, any thought they blurted out during the session, I was going to say yes. I even told my staff that I was going to tell them yes to everything they asked. They looked at me strangely and mumbled under their breath that that would never happen and our meeting began. I was completely prepared for an unproductive, chaotic meeting.

Every idea, suggestion, and criticism was agreed with, wholeheartedly. The staff became more encouraged and empowered than ever. They began to bring up problems that they experienced as staff, things that, as their supervisor, I was unable to recognize from my position. It was our best meeting to date.

Encouragement is Key

Now, I know what you are thinking:

  • “But, I can’t say yes to everything my staff says! They will want something we can’t afford, or change our workflow, or cause more problems on my end!”
  • “They will want to give out free braces or paint the waiting room purple!”
  • “This will be a huge headache!”

So, instead of just yes, how about “yes, but…”?

“Yes, we can remodel the office, but…the clinic will be closed for a week, so where will we see patients?”

When you follow your acceptance with your concern, something magical happens: the staff thinks through the problem and will either solve it themselves or dismiss it and give another suggestion. The staff feels heard and validated and will continue to give suggestions.  And you know what? Sometimes their suggestions will be amazing! Three, 10, or 40 heads are always better than one. Oftentimes, my “Yes, but…” has inspired staff to solve a problem in a way I never thought of doing. This has allowed us to continue to grow and improve as a practice.

I learned something from that speaker: I was not always right. Sometimes, other people know better than I do.

But please don’t tell that to my staff…or my husband.

Holly Burkman
Holly Burkman, MBA

Holly is a recognized international speaker and author. Working with her husband to build a medical practice from the ground up, she has handled all aspects of the podiatry field from medical assisting to billing and practice management. Currently, she spends her time as a practice management consultant helping physicians learn how to run successful medical practices by implementing protocols. Holly holds numerous degrees and certificates that give her the credibility to help practices; however, it is the years of personal in-office experience that allow her to offer customized solutions that make practices profitable again.