Are you dissatisfied with the performance of some of your supportive staff members? Now you may think that physicians who work in their private practice have it rather easy. They tell the personnel how to do it next time and if the person won’t do it or can’t do it, they have free range to let them go and hire a new one hoping that (s)he will be better and more competent.

If you work for a larger healthcare organization, you don’t have that freedom. Instead you report it to the manager and then you wait, and hope, and wish that maybe one day the manager will have the conversation with the person and convey your instructions correctly so that everything will go smoothly from here on out. That would be nice but unfortunately for many physicians the frustration just continues.

I hear these stories a lot from my clients and many times they got themselves into trouble because they took matters in their own hand, instructed the staff their way which was not always the most effective way because it was fueled with frustrated emotions and ineffective skills. Some personnel didn’t put up with the unprofessional feedback and as a result filed a complaint about the physicians’ manners.

Completely understandable, right? And at the same time not because when patients’ lives depend on it, when your productivity depends on it, and when you don’t know whether the manager has the time and the appropriate skills to communicate your concern accurately, you have to be able to give constructive feedback so that your staff members feel empowered, educated, and not insulted.

Let me share with you my suggestions on how you can give effective feedback and instructions that are heard and followed by your team.

1. Get to know the people you work with and make it your intent to build a good relationship with them. Now when I say that it doesn’t mean that you need to invite them for lunch all the time or know their family but you want to have had pleasant conversations with them where you showed some interest in them as a person and you acknowledge them when you meet them in the hallway. If you don’t talk with the person, really don’t care about the person but just acknowledge the person when you want something or when they didn’t do something correctly, you cannot expect that they will be excited to follow your leadership and suggestions. Instead, if you have a solid and pleasant work relationship where the “know you, like you, trust you factor” is present, anything can be discussed and resolved quickly without hurt feelings.

2. Don’t give unsolicited advice unless you are in an absolute emergency situation where any second counts and the advice is needed in the current situation. In other words, if you just walk up on a nurse, interrupt her in her work to tell her that she missed a critical step in the patient’s preparation this morning, you can expect that she is not taking that with pleasure. Instead find an appropriate time to address the topic. Start the conversation by probing for background information about the morning first to find out whether the mishap was a personal mistake or just the result of a chaotic morning. If it was this person’s mistake, brainstorm ideas on how to resolve it long-term.

3. Coach the person through the situation rather than just telling them what and how to do it. Now for you it may seem rather logical that a certain task needs to be performed a certain way or not, but if the person doesn’t have the background information that you have and there is a gap in their knowledge, they may not be consistent in their future performance. Explore their current knowledge first and fill in the gap where something is missing.

4. Give feedback of acknowledgement. Once the assistant performs the task according to your request, don’t let it go unacknowledged. Give them feedback, thank them for the effort so that they know their effort didn’t go unnoticed even though you may think that she or he should have done it all along. At this point it doesn’t matter what you think, what matters is that you get the desired results.

Even though you work in a larger healthcare group where the supporting staff is frequently changing or managers are in charge of instructing them, doesn’t mean that you cannot do your part along the way. It will save time, possible mistakes and I’m sure the manager will be glad too if you take something off his / her schedule.