Team Building

Six tips on keeping your team performance at its best

Contributor: Meghan Betts

Effective teamwork is crucial in the healthcare sector, whether you’re in the operating theater or working on the wards, as the public’s health and well-being are in your hands. Poor teamwork and miscommunication can disrupt procedures, lead to inaccuracies or cause unnecessary additional stress, overall contributing to a poor healthcare service received by the patient.

A good friend of mine is a hospital pharmacist, and teamwork communication issues often arise while she’s on call. She’s had to deal with anything from the patient’s medicine order not being put through, to miscommunication over scheduling to paperwork being filled out incorrectly. She’s even had calls from people asking her what to do when they can’t log on to the computer!

An essential component of team work is understanding who to direct your question to to minimize the amount of disruption caused. Solely working for your own individual gains causes more problems. When colleagues are put under unnecessary stress, they, in turn, take it out on another colleague and so on until frustration and disruption trickle down throughout the whole team.

A team that works together performs best together. Use these six tips to keep your team performance at its best!

1) All for one and one for all

We all know that working as a GP or Nurse has it’s challenges but teamwork needn’t be one of them! It is important to remember that you all have a common goal – to deliver excellent health and medical care to the patient. Everyone should be able to see how their colleagues roles, as well as their own responsibilities as an individual, add value to the practice. Although you are a team, you are made up of individuals who all excel at different skills and yet may fall short on others. Knowing your team members and understanding their strengths and weaknesses is the first step to ensuring the smooth running of the practice.

Some people are put off from visiting their Doctor due to embarrassment or mistrust. Finding a well-coordinated team and a Doctor who listens to them will ease their concerns and fears and allow them to get the care they need. However, a practice that has poor team communication may end up canceling or rescheduling appointments which could lead to the patient experiencing increased anxiety and stress and could even prevent patients from making future appointments. All working together for a common goal brings unity and creates a supportive working environment. As the three musketeers would say – All for one and one for all!

2) Have an open door policy

Practicing an open door policy encourages communication and transparency. It is important to ensure that all members of staff feel that they are respected, their opinion is valued and that they can bring up any queries or issues they may have. For example, imagine a medical receptionist who has been working at the practice for many years and feels that her skills and experience entitle her to a raise. She may feel uncomfortable talking about money, and having a team where open communication is not encouraged may create an atmosphere where she feels unable to broach the subject and this could lead to resentment. If on the other hand she works in a practice where an open door policy encourages two-way communication and feedback she may feel more confident in approaching the practice manager, leading to an open discussion resulting in a raise or else an understanding of her next steps to secure a raise in the future.

3) Maintain clarity

Excelling at communication requires clarity as time can be easily wasted when people aren’t sure what they are supposed to be doing and why. Imagine a new member of staff has just joined the practice and he spends 2 hours completing a task exactly as he would at his previous job only to find out that things are done completely differently here. As well as embarrassment and frustration, this has caused a lot of time to be wasted, especially if the task needs to be repeated with another member of staff supervising the process. Everyone needs to understand exactly what their roles are and what responsibilities are expected of them, and asking for clarification if they are unsure should be encouraged.

4) Say no to group meetings

Working in the medical field usually means you have very little time to spare as there is always something you need to be doing! One thing that can be a huge waste of time is group meetings – the whole day has to be planned around them, they often overrun, and half of the time is spent discussing something with no relevance to your work. Instead, why not try to keep meetings specific and only invite the individual concerned or the people relevant to what you are discussing. You could also ban chairs – meetings are much more likely to stay on task and progress quickly if everyone involved is standing up!

5) Develop team bonding

A report on the Harvard Business Review (https://hbr.org/2012/04/the-new-science-of-building-great-teams) suggests that reintroducing team coffee breaks can promote productivity. Sitting down once a week with your team mates in an informal manner will encourage communication through the art of conversation. Allowing space for personal conversation will strengthen bonds and build rapport within the team, and as with all groups with a common interest, conversation about work will naturally arise. Try scheduling one in every Monday to allow progress from the previous week to develop into this weeks goals. Alternatively, if you really want to boost team spirit try organising team building activities which can range from quick 10 minute ‘games’ to exercises that last a few hours or even a whole day. Learning how to work together and solve problems as a team is an excellent way to develop strong positive group dynamics and good working relationships and has been shown to improve performance and productivity. Personally I recommend ‘Escape Rooms’ where you have one hour to escape a themed room by working as a team to solve a series of puzzles – as well as practising your team work and problem solving skills you can have a lot of fun!

6) Tackle conflict

Conflict is an inevitable part of life and can be particularly challenging when working with others, whether it arises between two doctors with differing opinions on how to treat a patient or administration having to deal with scheduling issues. Even if you don’t get on personally with someone you need to work well together professionally. When I was on placement I worked with a gastroenterologist and a medical researcher who didn’t get on and did all they could to avoid each other. This resulted in me being the ‘go-between’ as we were never all in the same room to discuss progress, and it caused many delays and disruptions to the project. Negative group dynamics may contribute to the cause but it is often the mishandling of that conflict that causes it to escalate. Conflicts should never be ignored but rather acknowledged immediately and tackled head, dealing directly with the source rather than gossiping and complaining behind someone’s back. All sides need to listen to and respect each other and understand that you all have the best intentions and a common goal. Cooperation is key!

Working in a team can be difficult at times but by putting these tips into practice you will be able to harness the talents of a diverse group of people and easily overcome challenges. In the healthcare industry we are all passionate about helping others so let’s work together to extend that to getting the best out of ourselves and each other.

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