If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. – African Proverb
What makes a great team? Is it as simple as hiring a bunch of skilled and driven people and watching them do their thing? Intuition tells us it should be, but it’s not.
When describing the team we built here at Practicing Excellence, I immediately think of three things:
- Collaboration – We promote collaboration in all facets of our operation. Some of the best programs we’ve ever designed were products of our never-ending commitment to collaboration.
- Commitment – It sounds cliché, but our mission drives us. We are committed to supporting and developing health care teams to create enterprise-wide results in team wellness, patient connection, and leadership effectiveness. We are never done. And we are also committed to ourselves, supporting each other through each and every day.
- Capability – We take pride in helping our partners realize positive outcomes. But that only shows how capable we are in terms of anticipating the needs of our partners and developing the necessary solutions to address those needs. It’s not about hiring the most capable people; we actively and consistently invest in coaching and developing our people to set them up for success.
As you can probably see, I am immensely proud of the team that we’ve assembled here at Practicing Excellence. While this is something I cannot take full credit for, I can say – with utmost certainty – that I am proud of how far we’ve come. But really, we’re just getting started.
Company culture, especially in this day and age, is never static. It’s something that we constantly build on as we look for ways to bring greater value, simplicity, and results that create impact for those we serve. When I began at Practicing Excellence, we were a small team of eleven, facing a great opportunity to transform healthcare, but also uncertainty and challenges normal in any start-up environment. In order to grow, in order to lead, I had no choice but to focus on the team – building them up and relying on them when we faced each incoming wave.
I’ll be the first to admit, I was not perfect at this. I failed multiple times and each time I came up short, it was the team that saved me. By giving them the tools and faculties to grow, they in turn used those faculties to bolster the company. Soon, the company’s culture began to form: we became more and more capable because we set the standard early that personal growth is promoted here. Collaboration came next, as we found relying on each other was the only way we were going to succeed.
Finally, commitment grew as we continued to collaborate, and found more often than not we could rely on each other to get through the worst. Now, we stand 30 people strong, and while we are nowhere near the same company as when I started, these three aspects of our character continue to shine even to this day.
Creating this culture not only impacts us, but also affects the tens of thousands of clinicians, leaders, and teams we serve and even those we wish to serve. We come to work every day driven and ready to work towards a better future in health care. Health care faces so many challenges, and we firmly believe that we must use our platform, our voice, and our relationships to not only better understand these complex challenges but work hand-in-hand with our partners and industry experts to develop solutions that help our partners support their teams and achieve business outcomes.
One of our core values is being “outside-in”, which basically means we proactively ask and listen to our partners and their teams to understand what matters most. Then align our strategy and resources to address their pressing needs.
A good example of this is our expansion to support the nursing workforce through the Nursing Experience Project. For years, our partners asked us to develop micro-learning programs to support the nursing workforce. In the middle of the pandemic, these requests became louder and louder. Since introducing the program 12 months ago, we’ve developed targeted programs to focus on well-being, team collaboration, patient connection, and nursing excellence… with several others in the queue. Helping our nursing colleagues build skills in 5 minutes per week.
Our work isn’t simply about making world-class content, it’s about aligning it to our partners’ priorities and helping them integrate it into their operation. It is a privilege to work side-by-side with health care leaders to make sure our hard work is being effectively implemented by clinicians, leaders, and teams around the nation. We are dedicated to our work because we are dedicated to the positive impact we have made on those who choose to use it.
But none of this would be possible without first building a foundation and model for us to follow and grow from. If you are looking for some helpful tips on how to build the same foundation, either in your company, clinics, or your system as a whole, here are three things I have seen really fuel our company’s culture:
- Cast a vision and articulate a clear strategy that incorporates the voice of your team and those you serve. One of my core values is having my team often act as my compass. Their input influences the course of our company, and I work to build a step-by-step plan that reflects what they’re saying. Being the ones closest to our clients, their input is invaluable as it often speaks to what our clients’ needs are. If your team is similar, then I would focus on being clear on what you heard, what you’re trying to accomplish, what success looks like, and realistic about what it will take to get there.
- Trust your team. We invest a lot in hiring for fit. Our team is composed of incredibly talented folks who bring diverse perspectives to the table. My best advice is to invite folks to develop the plan. Once the strategy is out there, give folks the time and space to create plans that work with the end in mind. We set quarterly SMART goals that define the big rock items, tactics, and dependencies in our organization. This level of transparency keeps everyone aligned and accountable. My favorite four meetings of the year revolve around our quarterly all-hands, where we review performance and each team member shares their accomplishments.
- Remember what matters. It’s not always sunshine and butterflies. When I started at Practicing Excellence four and a half years ago, I had no idea we’d have to lead a small company through a pandemic. That process forced us to bond together and adapt. With a strong mission and commitment to purpose, we made tough decisions with the best interest of our team and partners in mind. I’m not gonna sugarcoat it, it was scary at times, but there was solace knowing we were in this together, and everyone was 110% committed to supporting our partners and their teams during the scariest of times. Many of the innovations that spawned during that time have been integrated into our standard work.
If these seem a bit vague, they’re supposed to be. Understand that no two teams will be the same; what works best for you and your team is up to you to discover. For us, these steps taught us our six values, which we proudly display on our About Us page. Your values won’t be the same as ours, so allowing that breathing room will allow for your own culture to grow, and with the right intention and focus those values will become apparent to you. Soon, you’ll be able to see them enacted by your team intuitively every day like I have.
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Gidon Margolin is currently the president of Practicing Excellence. Prior, he served as the vice president of Health System Strategy at NRC Health, helping their partners accelerate patient experience transformation through innovative thinking, collaboration, and execution.