Modeling professional behavior for staff.
By Miki Lyn Zilnicki, OD, FCOVD,
and Jessica Licausi, OD, FAAO, FCOVD
Jan. 17, 2024
All leadership positions in business, including practice owner, come with the challenge of being a role model for professionalism.
We knew some of our staff members prior to hiring them, and we also have children of similar ages. This puts us into the role of not only employer/doctor within the office, but also friends/peers outside of the office. This can sometimes can be hard to separate out.
Here are three ways we serve as role models to establish a culture of professionalism in our office and build our ideal practice.
Work-Life Balance: Being Fully Present While in the Office
We model efficiency to our staff through utilizing our own time wisely in the office. We minimize personal tasks in the office and use down time for administrative work. This shows our team that down time from patient care should be spent on office work rather than personal business.
When we opened the office, the first thing we agreed on was no weekend hours! Both of us have family as a top core value, and we wanted to start our office with this precedent set to ensure we were living our values.
Initially, we had two late nights in the office to offset no weekend hours, but as our families grew and babies were added, we decided that being home for our families for dinner and bedtimes was more important than being in the office for a few extra hours. Our staff is mostly made up of young females in the same stage of life as us, and they appreciate this sentiment. We feel it is a huge draw to work for us.
Additionally, we try our best to be respectful of personal obligations and family emergencies. We understand that our staff are people and that life happens; we feel strongly that by supporting them through these life events, they are more dedicated and loyal to us as employees.
For example, one of our employees does not have much childcare support, so if her son gets sick/has time off from school, the responsibility falls solely on her to take care of him, even if she is scheduled to work. This negatively impacts us as we have to figure out how to cover for her; however, we do our best to support her. In return, she works when the office is closed on tasks that need to be done when her husband is home. This is something SHE initiated as a solution for us to help support her as a working mom trying to balance it all!
Being on time is important to both of us, and a quality we instill in our staff. We set the example by getting to the office early ourselves (we often are the first ones there!). This sets the tone for the day and sets us up to be organized and ready when that first patient arrives. Often, once patient care starts, it’s off to the races. Having allocated time before patient care to catch up on administrative tasks and prepare for the day’s patients facilitates better flow.
Punctuality is also an important part of our employee reviews, and one we always address: praising/rewarding when it’s being done well and discussing what’s not working when it’s not. During reviews we always have staff rate themselves in each area, and interestingly, punctuality is an area where they are always self-aware. It’s stressful to be late and walk into a day already starting, a patient waiting for you and not feeling prepared, and our staff are the first ones to recognize that.
We recently encountered a situation where three of our team’s children started kindergarten at the same time, and bus pick up times were conflicting with our office opening time. After a week of wonky timing and rushing in for the first patient, we decided a different plan of action was needed to achieve our usual morning flow. Our solution was to shift the first patient of the day by just 15 minutes, and it made a world of difference!
Maintaining Professional Relationships & Tone While at Work
Some of our kids, and those of our staff, are in the same classes and in the same friend circle. This means our interactions extend past our day-to-day office hours when we see each other socially outside the office. We found that this closeness can be positive because our staff members are open with us, trust us and know they can come to us with anything. We pride ourselves on fostering our relationships with our staff and building a family unit.
While outside the office we both may have a more relaxed tone, we both lead by example by being professional in the office. We dress professionally, speak respectfully, are punctual and strive to always show up for the day ready to go. We also lead by example by avoiding calling out, rather than walking over to address a colleague, whenever possible.
Outside the office in social settings, our staff address us by our first names. However, we have asked that they not cross that line of respect when in the office, especially in front of patients. To help facilitate this, we make sure we refer to each other as “Dr. Z and Dr. L” when we are in the office, even though outside of the office we call each other “Miki and Jess.”
On the flip side, while we are conscious of keeping a level of professionalism in the office, we also make sure we nurture our relationships with our staff members.
At least twice a year, we plan team-building/social activities. We even try to include spouses and children when we can in these get-togethers. We both found that being connected to our staff helps us be better bosses and makes our staff happier at work!
Miki Lyn Zilnicki, OD, FCOVD, and Jessica
Licausi, OD, FAAO, FCOVD, are co-owners of Twin Forks Optometry and Vision Therapy in Riverhead, NY.
To contact Dr. Zilnicki: DrZilnicki@twinforksoptometry.com.
To contact Dr. Licausi: DrLicausi@twinforksoptometry.com