Insights From Our Editors

7 Ways to Create a Winning Culture by Investing in Your Best Employees

Jonathan Fishbein, OD, (right as you look at photo) scolds an employee on his phone while ignoring the diligent employees. Bethany Fishbein, OD, emphasizes the importance of avoiding devoting too much time to under-performers and too little time developing top performers.

Jonathan Fishbein, OD, (right as you look at photo) scolds an employee on his phone while ignoring the diligent employees. Bethany Fishbein, OD, emphasizes the importance of avoiding devoting too much time to under-performers and too little time to top performers.

Encouraging your best team members to stick with you

By Bethany Fishbein, OD

May 8, 2024

As a practice owner and practice management consultant, I’ve spent more time than I care to admit talking about staff members who are performing poorly.

Either they’re not doing what the practice owner expects, they’re showing problematic behaviors, they just don’t seem to “get it” or they’re causing drama and chaos on the team.

These bad tendencies then lead the team members the employer most values to question whether they belong in the practice, and in the worst cases, to seek jobs elsewhere.

Put Your Time to the Best Use

The practice owner spends an inordinate amount of time thinking about this problem– stressing about it, discussing it with others, and maybe even seeking outside help from peers, consultant or coach. When this conversation with a practice owner takes up an entire meeting, and sometimes bleeds into a second or third call about the same issue, I eventually challenge the doctor by asking, “Is this the most important thing we should be talking about right now?”

Dealing with problems is neither easy nor fun, but they pop up and often can’t be ignored. BUT… each minute a practice owner spends complaining about a problematic staff member – or even just communicating the issue and working on solutions – is time they’re not spending on taking someone good and making them even better.

Think about your own practice. How much of your practice management brain time are you spending thinking about or dealing with the staff member who is chronically late or makes mistake after mistake, and how much time have you spent thinking about how to help the eager one who’s there every day and wants to learn and grow?

If you can’t remember the last important meeting or conversation you had with the employee you most depend on, I encourage you to make a change.

Instead of continually focusing on the negative aspects of your team, shift the spotlight to your star performers.  These are the people who you wouldn’t want to live without– those who embody the practice values, deliver a consistently great performance and contribute to the positive atmosphere in the office.

By investing in those who show superstar qualities, you can create a ripple effect that elevates the entire team.

How do you do it?

Recognize & Celebrate Great Performance, Publicly When Possible 

Focus on “what’s right” instead of “what’s wrong” to not only boost the morale of your top performers, but to set a clear example of excellence that others will hopefully follow. Elevate a team member’s talents to superpower status.  There’s no better way to get more second-pair sales than jokingly calling someone your “Second-Pair King” after a particularly productive day. A staff member with a public reputation for “somehow managing to get even the grumpiest patients to leave smiling” will work to keep up that reputation every day.

Be Generous with Your Time

Spend time meeting with your most important staff members, and get to know them as people. Learn what motivates them, and about their current challenges. Understand their goals, both within and outside of work.

Your employees realize that your time is a valuable currency, and seeing their co-workers who seem to be the worst getting the most time with you is demotivating to your strongest team members. Show your MVPs in no uncertain terms that their investment in the practice is rewarded with your investment in them.

Reduce “De-Motivators”

Remove “de-motivators” that make your best staff members’ days tougher, and bring in the “little extras” that give a boost. Little things like an ergonomic keyboard, or stocking their favorite pens or favorite snacks are inexpensive ways to let someone know that the things that matter to them matter to you.

Provide Career Planning

Develop a career progression plan that encourages them to take on new responsibilities and challenges, grow in their positions, or take on different roles with leadership responsibility. Invest in opportunities for training and career growth. Educate them about the possibilities of CPO or ABO certification, and cover the costs associated with the exams and study materials. Take them to a conference (or send them without you!) and allow them to use work time for online or in-person training, coaching or leadership development programs that will help them grow in an area that will help them reach their career goals AND benefit your practice.

Seek & Act on Their Input When You Can

Hear their ideas, and support their efforts to take on a project or try something new. Allow a great staff member to take the reins on an office event or a new program that interests them. Provide them with resources they need, give constructive feedback and remind yourself that any setbacks or failures are important stepping stones that teach resilience, problem-solving, and ultimately pave the way to success.

Offer Fair Compensation

Make sure that your employees’ salary keeps pace with their increasing knowledge, responsibilities and contributions to the business. Consider individual rewards for reaching performance goals or profit-based targets; or a gift card or bonus for a job well done.

Problems in the business will still pop up; dealing with them quickly and moving on will allow you to spend your management time and creative brainpower on the people who have the strongest potential to improve your business.

Investing in your best team members creates a culture where excellence is encouraged and rewarded, there are opportunities for growth, and where your best employees know they are valued and will want to stay.

Bethany Fishbein, ODBethany Fishbein, OD, is a co-owner of two practices in New Jersey, a practice management consultant and certified executive coach. She can be reached at

To Top
Subscribe Today for Free...
And join more than 35,000 optometric colleagues who have made Review of Optometric Business their daily business advisor.