An interview with key leaders across Therapy Partners (TPI) and survey results from participants in The Leadership Edge Program (TLE) at TPI.
By Jim Hoyme, PT, MBA
CEO, Therapy Partners, Inc
In his book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, Daniel Pink shares his surprising findings about what truly inspires people to perform at a high level. It is not the quest for more money, but the drive for autonomy, mastery, and purpose in what they do. The secret sauce of high performance and engagement is the need to control our own efforts; continuously learn and create new and better things; and engage in activities that
positively impact our lives, our organization, and our communities. For these 3 intrinsic motivators to truly happen, people must be self-confident and feel valued by their colleagues and leaders. As team members see themselves as respected leaders and valuable team players, their confidence grows, and they contribute proactively to the organization – even when times are tough and challenges intense. They get ENGAGED!
This is the 2nd in a 3 Part Series on how investing in leadership development of all team members benefits Therapy Partners’ independent practices and could benefit you and your organization. In Part 1, we talked about the importance of employee engagement, leadership development at all levels, and the components of the Leadership Edge Program. In case you missed Part 1, take a few minutes and check it out. http://bit.ly/2gKWGWi
Part 2 involves an interview and survey results. During our interview we will gain insight, ideas, and inspiration from some of Therapy Partners’ Big L Leaders, Leader-Managers, and Small L Leaders who are highly engaged in their own leadership development, support the growth of others, serve as leadership mentors, and contribute greatly to high performance team growth in their practices. We will also share survey feedback from TLE participants over the last 2 years.
So here we go.
Hoyme: We have many excellent leaders at all levels throughout our Therapy Partners’ practices, and I am very fortunate today to have some of our highly engaged role models share their thoughts on leadership. These are leaders whom I respect, admire, and appreciate – a lot.
Joining us today from 4 of our Minnesota based practices are:
Michelle Wieber, PT, Co-Owner Wieber Physical Therapy based in Faribault
Cindy Nawrocki, Front Desk, Wieber Physical Therapy
Jody Ruppert, OTR, MAOL, Partner and CEO of OSI Physical Therapy based in Oakdale
Mike Brown, PT, OCS, Clinic Manager, OSI Physical Therapy Lake Elmo office
Greg Bailen, PT, OSI Physical Therapy Lake Elmo office
Jody Wolowicz, PTA, OSI Physical Therapy Lake Elmo office
Ryan Tully, PT, OCS, OSI Physical Therapy Maplewood office
Tricia Imker, PT, OCS, OSI Physical Therapy W. St. Paul office
Jennie Horejsi, OSI Physical Therapy Customer Care Center Team
Scott Darling, PT, PTOSI, Coon Rapids Pain Clinic
Jean Miller, Clinic Assistant, Minnesota Sport & Spine Rehab, Burnsville
Hi Leaders. Thanks for taking time out of your busy day to share your thoughts on the importance and benefits of investing in the ‘soft stuff’ . . . leadership, team building, culture, and employee engagement.
These often-overlooked qualities create a foundation for business, clinical, and personal success. Effective Big L Leaders direct a culture that fosters those ‘soft’ qualities and supports autonomy, mastery, and purpose; Leader-Managers support that culture; and Small L Leaders actually do the things that create the culture. And as we all know . . .
“Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast”
We will find out from these leaders that the components of The Leadership Edge program – focusing on strengths; nurturing trusting relationships; building high performance team behavior; developing enthused, proactive followership traits; providing transformational leadership; committing to developing leaders at all levels – will help our therapy businesses achieve the four objectives of The Leadership Edge program:
1) Achieve High Level Team Member Engagement
2) Develop Leaders at all Levels
3) Build a High Performance Team
4) Grow their Businesses
My first few questions are for Jody Ruppert and Michelle Wieber as business owners – the Big L Leaders of your practices.
At the Private Practice Section Conference last fall, I asked several practice owners if they provide leadership training for their staff. They all essentially responded “Not really. Nothing formal. It would take people away from the clinic, and we dedicate our CE dollars to clinical care topics. If we do invest in leadership training, it’s for the people at the top.”
Think about those comments for a minute . . . You are the Big L Leaders of your practices.
1) Why do you feel the investment in leadership development and team building is important to your business?
Jody Ruppert: Those comments by practice owners make me cringe. As you know, Jim, I place leadership and team development as a top priority. Most people think of leadership as a ‘role’. They believe leadership is the responsibility of a manager or an owner. It is what someone in the “higher rank” of an organization does. The thing is, all of us can be leaders no matter the role we have or the responsibilities we must deliver. Leadership is not about a ‘role or responsibility’, but instead, it is about the actions, words, and behaviors we exude every day.
If you stop and think about the characteristics of the best employees, they are what we would expect and know of great leaders. They display characteristics such as having self-confidence, being committed and loyal, possessing a positive attitude, being trustworthy, having the ability to problem identify and problem solve, being flexible, showing open-mindedness, and of course, there are many more. I think the question to ask is, “Why wouldn’t you invest in your employees’ leadership development?”
OSI Physical Therapy has made a commitment to investing in leadership development for all employees because it is simply good business. Investing in our employees to further develop leaders at all levels as been a win-win for both our employees and for OSI. We have fully engaged employees at all levels who behave as leaders within their roles.
All of our employee understand what to expect from their Leader-Managers and the Big L Leaders. They also know what we expect of them. They take pride and ownership in making OSI not only a great place to work, but they also strive to achieve our vision, mission, and goals every single day.
Michelle Wieber: I agree with Jody. Why would you not invest in your team? If you have been part of any sports team, you know that culture can make or break a team and that the “tone at the top” matters a great deal. My husband, Dave – the other owner of our practice – and I have worked at understanding ourselves and what not only makes our business profitable but what makes our employees feel valued and cared for. We have asked ourselves, “What type of environment would we like to practice in?” We want to work with individuals who care about the quality of the care they provide and the empathy they display to their clients. But we also want to work with individuals who care about each other, are life long learners, and, in turn, truly care about the practice. Leadership development contributes to this.
Hoyme: I can tell both of you get the fact that investing in leadership development in your team members brings long term benefits to your practice as well as to their own personal growth. So let’s talk about you two personally . . . as Big L Leaders of two very successful, respected practices.
You are both truly accomplished role-model leaders who have, for a long time, placed a high level of importance on leadership development. Michelle, you and Dave started your practice nearly 20 years ago, and you have implemented many leadership and team efforts for you and your team. Jody, you have your masters’ degree in organizational leadership and have spoken to a number of organizations about the topic of “Leadership“. But I would like to hear how you have both grown personally over the last two years.
Michelle – take this one first.
2) Do you feel you are an even better leader after engaging in The Leadership Edge program?
Michelle Wieber: The short answer is ‘Yes’. Since incorporating TLE principles into my life, I am not only a better leader, but I know I am a better person than I was when we started our practice in 1997.
Hoyme: I’ve known you for a long time, Michelle, and I truly admire your leadership style and how you inspire your Wieber Physical Therapy team.
Jody, how about you? You have dedicated your career to being the best leader you can be. You have also contributed to our leadership program in a number of valuable ways.
Jody Ruppert: I have had fun contributing to TLE in various ways – program development, teaching, mentoring, encouraging engagement in the program. Leadership development never stops. I am a better leader today than I was yesterday, and I will be a better leader tomorrow than I am today. I feel being involved in TLE’s development and delivery has helped tremendously, and I strive every day to apply the principles of the program in my role as OSI’s CEO.
Hoyme: I have heard you say many times, Jody, “Leadership is a journey.” And no doubt, it is.
Most people view leaders as ‘the people at the top . . . the owners and executives’ – what we call “Big L Leaders”. But I know you two Big L Leaders see things differently.
3) Do you view ALL of your employees as leaders?
Michelle Wieber: Yes. Definitely. Our employees can make or break our business. How could I not consider them leaders? Our front office team problem solves issues every day, and I am so glad they do because there is only so much time in a day and only “so much of me” that I can spread around. Employees who are self starters and not only enthusiastically “do” but also strategically “anticipate” needs and proactively “act” to the benefit of our clients . . . these are they type of people we want to hire and hang on to.
Jody Ruppert: Like Michelle, I definitely view every team member as a leader – regardless of her or his role. In fact I expect it. I am proud of our employees – OTs, PTs, PTAs, support staff, admin team – for all the good work they do day in and day out. They live out our mission and strive to achieve our vision. We all respect and help one another, and we work hard to do the good work that we’ve made a promise and commitment to do. I expect, and see, every team member display leadership qualities and characteristics every day. I believe my view of each team member as a leader, and my commitment to helping them develop as leaders, inspires each to perform at her or his highest level.
Hoyme: Very inspirational responses, Michelle and Jody. Like author Mark Sanborn says, “You don’t need a title to be a leader”. Check out Sanborn’s short YouTube video – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9icgdIKoi7g
How about your practices as a whole.
4) What has been the most tangible impact of TLE on your practice?
Jody Ruppert: I will say this . . . first we all speak the same language and understand the level of excellence and commitment we must bring to the table every day. We quickly get to the heart of issues and solve them because we all use the same leadership language and know the expectations. Our employees are proud to be a part of a great team and organization. They will go the extra mile for their peers, customers, and for OSI.
Health care is changing at warp speed. There is a lot going on around us and it truly takes focus, commitment, and flexibility from all team members so we can be nimble and successful. Every time I go to our team members and explain what changes we need to make and why we need to make them, our Leader-Managers and our Small L Leaders – all OSI team members – step up to the plate and hit a home run.
Our employees are engaged, committed, and passionate about what they do. They believe in themselves, their peers, and OSI.
Michelle Wieber: I echo what Jody said about the importance of being able to understand each other. TLE provided all of our staff with a common leadership language and an understanding around leadership and performance. We can talk about whether we are being criticizers, disengaged employees, do-ers or self- starters; we all know what the other is talking about, and we all can make improvements in those areas. If we can care about each other’s success and build a culture of trust, then we can be flexible in this ever changing health care market.
Hoyme: Having a common language around valued principles is critical for personal development and achieving shared goals. You also hit on a point that is so important to the success of a team-driven MSO like Therapy Partners . . . flexibility in a changing market. That is a reality every health care provider must face and create strategies around, and it all starts with big picture leadership.
OK . . . speaking of big picture . . .
5) Tell us 1 long term benefit you hope to see from TLE with your teams.
Michelle Wieber: I want my team to acknowledge their strengths and those of their teammates. I want them to be able to work effectively together to meet the needs of our customers and our business in our changing market.
Jody Ruppert: I want to continue to see the strength of our team help OSI grow and be even more clinically and financially successful in the Twin Cities’ competitive and rapidly changing health care market.
Hoyme: You both mentioned the changing market. We have battled a number of challenges since 2010 when the ACA was passed, and we continue to face even bigger health care changes ahead.
6) Do you feel your team is better prepared to face the challenges of change?
Michelle Wieber: I think we are getting there. I think we have employees that are ready for any change that might be needed and others that need to know “why” before they can change. And we have others that are afraid of the unknown, and change is an unknown. We’ve made strides, but still have some work to do.
Jody Ruppert: Absolutely, we are definitely more adaptable to change. I couldn’t be prouder of our employees. We know in the current environment of healthcare, change is inevitable. In fact, sometimes it feels like change can be so fast and furious it can be a challenge to keep up. After our team members went through The Leadership Edge program, I found a few things to hold true.
First, when team members feel empowered in their roles and engaged with our company, the level of positivity in adapting to change became exponentially clearer. Our team members roll-up their sleeves and embrace change. They may not always like the changes we implement, but when they understand why we need to do it and what their role is with the change, they are able to adapt more quickly and positively.
Second, adapting to change is one thing, but collaborating through problem identification and problem solving is another. I found after The Leadership Edge program, our team members were not only able to adapt to change more quickly, but they also were more engaged in helping OSI succeed through the change. Their confidence was boosted resulting in employees being active problem solvers. This is extremely helpful and leads to faster implementation with changes because employees have “buy-in”.
We have a strong team culture where everyone is on board with our vision, mission, and strategies. We all strive to reach our goals and do so with passion, commitment, and dedication. You can’t beat that!
Hoyme: You are absolutely right Jody – you really can’t beat collaboration during change. Fantastic insight from visionary Big L Leaders! Thanks Jody and Michelle.
Let’s shift gears to our Leader-Managers. Mike Brown, you are the clinic manager at OSI’s Lake Elmo clinic, where you lead and manage a clinic with 11 team members. Colleen Harris, you are the business office manager for OSI, and you manage your customer care center (call center) and verification team.
I know you are both dedicated to building high performance teams in your clinic and work group. Let’s start with you on this next question, Mike.
7) As managers, what do you do to keep your team members engaged in the High Performance Team process?
Mike Brown: I focus on two big factors – Involvement and Feedback. No role is more important than the next. No suggestion for improvement is overlooked. In order to be a High Performance Team, as a clinic team, we must continually change, adapt, and improve. Even the slightest improvement is a step in the right direction. I believe that as a leader, including and listening to all team members are critical for continual engagement that is necessary to maintain a high functioning team.
Hoyme: So true, Mike. From talking to your team members, I know they appreciate your openness to their input.
How about you, Colleen?
Colleen Harris: My team serves OSI’s customers on the front end. They answer phones, answer prospective patients’ questions, sell the value of the care they will receive from their OSI clinic team members, verify insurance benefits, schedule appointments. They are very customer service-focused. We need a high performance team effort to keep new patients coming in our clinic doors.
Listening has been the key to improving our HPT . . . team members listening to each other, and me, as the manager, listening to the team. Listening to team members’ concerns and ideas acknowledges that what they feel matters to me as their leader-manager. At the same time, it encourages them to bring forth solutions to help solve their concerns. Listening also builds trust within the team. This opens the door allowing them to become more confident leaders themselves and to bring new ideas to keep the team moving forward. You know what I mean . . . ‘Self Starters’. This gives everyone ownership in the team and builds the cohesiveness necessary for an HPT.
Hoyme: I am really impressed you focus so much on listening, Mike and Colleen. I know your team members appreciate that. Have you watched this TED Talk by Celeste Headlee from last month’s TPI e-newsletter – SnaPT? She shares a compelling message about listening. Check it out.
You are both leading change with your teams.
8) Do you feel your team is more prepared now to succeed during change? How so?
Mike Brown: Yes. When presented with a recent change to our business model . . . a significant change . . . our team has responded without hesitation or scrutiny. In fact, they responded with innovative ideas and ways to make our change work successfully. Self-Starters. Our team accepted the change as a necessity for survival in the marketplace and was able to shift from asking “why are we doing this” to “how will we get this done together“. I think TLE has prepared everyone to see how our individual roles affect the outcome of the team goal, and we have been able to more quickly process how our individual actions can lead to team change.
Hoyme: Great to hear that Mike. When you can lead and inspire people to quickly and positively respond like your team does, change becomes a fun challenge rather than a stressful burden. Great stuff.
Colleen . . . I have seen an amazing spirit in your team in the last year since everyone has engaged in TLE and now all of your team members see themselves as important leaders. Tell us how team is prepared for this changing world we live in.
Colleen Harris: Our team is definitely more prepared for change than we were a year ago at this time. We are prepared and excited to make meaningful changes because of the trust that has been built between our team members and across our practice; our team has pulled together during challenging times of change. They support and encourage each other instead of becoming negative and criticizing each other or the expectations I have of them. Our team now sees the bigger picture of what we are trying to accomplish in customer service. Through TLE they realize their roles are an important part to achieving OSI’s goals, and they focus on how their roles play into that bigger picture.
Hoyme: I appreciate your perspectives and leadership, Mike and Colleen. I know you both see yourselves not just as managers, but as leaders of people who manage processes. Check out this great video of Colleen talking about her journey from a Do-er to Self Starter.
Let’s take a look at the clinic team Mike leads – OSI Lake Elmo office. Mike, Greg Bailen, PT, and Jody Wolowicz, PTA, all work together at this clinic. You are part of an impressive team that many people refer to as a role model HPT. Mike is the clinic manager, and everyone sees him as a great leader and each team member contributes in valuable ways. I have also been very impressed with the high level of engagement and spirit with the Lake Elmo team since you all completed TLE.
I have a couple questions for the 3 of you.
9) How has The Leadership Edge learning experience and the concepts you are applying made a difference with your clinic team?
Mike Brown: As the clinic manager, I have seen ALL of our team members demonstrate a higher level of engagement beyond the day to day tasks that we all deal with. I think everyone has been more open to share ideas and start discussions about clinic goals. I think the importance of the “team” concept was brought more to the forefront for most of our team. There are small changes, like shout outs of “HPWT!” (High Performance Work Team) when we help each other out, to larger changes such as thoughtful discussions on care model change and program development to fill voids in what we offer.
Jody Wolowicz: I completely agree with Mike. As the only PTA in our clinic, I see how TLE has made an impact on the providers as well as the support staff members. TLE has made a huge impact on our team because we have all heard and embraced the same leadership and high performance team message, and we all speak the same leadership language. We respect each other’s roles and contributions. TLE helped to clarify our shared purpose and goals. I believe our team is stronger because of it.
Greg Bailen: You are SO right, Jody. Having our entire team engage in The Leadership Edge gave our clinic a common language to get behind and something to strive for . . . like building our strengths, coming together as an HPT, building better relationships, and implementing other considerations of teamwork. Additionally, a more tangible aspect of TLE that has made a difference are the capstone projects we did together as teams during TLE program. We have already implemented a process to build stronger relationships between our athletic trainers and therapy staff, and we have seen an improvement in athlete referrals from ATCs. We are also getting a “Strengths Board” in our office where we list everyone’s Top 5 StrengthsFinder strengths. That will also help our relationships and teamwork.
Hoyme: Great input from all of you. I believe all clinics have the potential to do what you have done, but it does take a common language, leadership, and HPT contributions from everyone.
10) What advice would you give practice owners, managers, and teams regarding applying TLE concepts in a practical way?
Mike Brown: First and foremost . . . I recommend that the Big L Leaders and Leader-Managers on leadership teams attend the class first to get a strong understanding of the concepts of the Leadership Edge program. I would then send every member of the team through the learning experience together. Taking it together allows everyone to talk about the concepts and apply them as we work with each other. We have had staff go through the program in various stages, but with each session in which additional staff members engage, the cohesiveness of our team has gone up across the board.
Greg Bailen: I agree with Mike and would add this. It is essential to quickly implement the leadership concepts . . . have a plan to do so immediately after completion of The Leadership Edge program. It is much easier to keep the momentum from TLE going if you start implementing the concepts right away after – or better yet . . . while you are taking the class. With Leadership – you learn by doing.
Jody Wolowicz: I agree with Mike, too. Big L Leaders and Leader- Managers should first attend and be on board 120%; if they are walking the walk and talking the talk, employee engagement will be easier to attain and much higher. Big L leaders and Leader-Managers should follow up with staff currently going through the program, talk to them about what they are learning or discussing, ask them about their initial thoughts. Also, I found it helpful to stay engaged with those in my clinic who had already gone through TLE and those who where currently going through TLE . . . discussing that week’s readings and topic questions. I think this will ensure everyone stays engaged and work to implement the concepts on a daily basis.
Hoyme: Excellent input and ideas about how to implement TLE concepts. So here is what I heard.
1 Big L Leaders and Leader-Managers engage in the leadership program
2 Get entire team engaged in the program – preferably all together
3 Implement leadership and team concepts right away
4 Stay engaged with ongoing discussions among team members about leadership and teamwork
Thank you for sharing these ideas. I hope other clinics will do the same. What you have done as a team in Lake Elmo has really impacted your culture. I feel the positive vibes whenever I walk into your clinic.
One more question for Jody and Greg.
11) In his role as your Leader-Manager, how has Mike supported your growth as a leader?
Jody Wolowicz: I’m really glad you asked this question, Jim. As our Clinic Manager – our Leader-Manager – Mike has supported my growth as a leader through daily encouragement to push myself – especially when I lack self-confidence in a situation. He is always there with support and encouragement, and he seeks input and feedback from everyone.
Greg Bailen: I agree with Jody on this, Jim. Mike has supported us mostly by being a good role model leader himself – practicing the concepts of TLE and what we have all learned in the class. He works with our strengths for team efforts and projects. He always goes the extra mile with patient care, helps out with other clinicians’ patients if needed. He encourages our input and contributions. He has definitely shown us what being a true transformational leader is through his words and actions.
Hoyme: I can’t agree with you more. I see those great leadership qualities in Mike. He shows you don’t have to do all the talking or be ‘center stage’ to be a truly effective leader.
OK . . . regarding great teamwork in a clinic setting – I’d also like to hear from you, Cindy and Michelle. You also have built a tremendous team culture at Wieber Physical Therapy. I must share with you, Cindy . . . Michelle and Dave (the owners) have told me numerous times how you have been a proactive, positive leader from Day 1 in the development of your great team. And you don’t even have a title!
12) Tell us about some of the fun things you have done to bring your Wieber PT team together?
Michelle Wieber: We have read a number of books together; books that have messages of teamwork, culture, caring. One of the first books with read and discussed as a Wieber PT team was Fish Tales. By Suanne Laqueur. We have continued to read one book a year together before our team strategic planning meeting. Some of our recent favorites have been “Who Moved My Cheese?” by Spencer Johnson, and “The Fred Factor” by Mark Sanborn. This year we are reading “Chop Wood, Carry Water” by Rick Fields.
Another fun and team-building effort we have done is our Fred Board. This is a wipe board we have in our office, and all of us on the team can write on that board when someone has gone over and above in their service to a client or to a co-worker. We acknowledge those Fred Contributions at staff meetings. We all really appreciate the stories and recognition.
Cindy Nawrocki: I love reading and discussing books as a team. The books we read and the post-reading discussions we have at our clinic really help us all to feel like we are on the same page! Michelle and Dave assist in the continued growth of our team not only through personal reviews but by working with us to help choose a book that best helps in our cultural challenges at that time. We also host monthly staff meetings and group luncheons where we all contribute by using our strengths to discuss items of difficulty that we are facing both at work or in our personal life. Michelle and Dave have always expressed that “We are not here to change who you are but, rather, we are here to help you grow who and what we want to become!” To me, that is transformational leadership.
Hoyme: That is a great quote from Michelle and Dave, Cindy, and you are right. That is the essence of transformational leadership. You two are both certainly ‘culture innovators’. So let’s see, here are some cool team building ideas from Wieber Physical Therapy , , ,
Read leadership and personal development books together as a team
Have a Fred Board
Use your strengths together for problem-solving
Fantastic ideas! You have both led for a long time with a broader vision to do WAY more than deliver excellent therapy care. You really place team and personal development as a high priority. I love it!
13) What advice would you give other clinic managers and teams in terms of applying TLE concepts?
Michelle Wieber: If your entire team can attend TLE then you, as a leader, will need to incorporate that information into your team meetings and will need to learn how to apply it. The TLE information will not help the team unless the leaders figure out how to effectively use it and have it become part of the practice’s culture.
I use some of the information from TLE in performance reviews. I use the DICE+ Relationship Role of a Leader information as we discuss customer service. I suggest clinic managers figure out which of the concepts may be easier for you to apply (low hanging fruit) and start using the vocabulary in your staff communications and meetings.
Cindy Nawrocki: TLE assits big L Leaders in laying down the foundation for TEAM success! It assists Small L Leaders in realizing how important their roles are and how succesful an engaged team can really be. I think all team building events should involve the entire team, it is much easier for the entire team to buy into the big picture if everyone feels they are involved!
Hoyme: I read recently that factors such as leadership and relationships are developed and improve over time only with practice, repetition, feedback, and problem solving. You give your team members an opportunity to develop those soft skills by having them use those skills in their work and making these factors part of your performance expectations. I like that.
Let’s hear from those of you who directly provide care to patients. Trish, Ryan, Greg, Mike, Michelle, Jody W, and Scott . . . you are all highly respected clinicians.
14) Has TLE and your growth as a leader and team player helped you become a better clinician? Or is it hard to tell?
Scott Darling, PT: I believe my learning experience in TLE and development as a leader after completing TLE has helped me grow substantially as a clinician. I never think twice when adding another patient or staying a little later because of my conscious drive to become more of a Self-Starter at work. Also, capitalizing on my strengths within TLE and other courses that I have taken has allowed me to know the importance of mastering my physical therapy skills, and helped me become more engaged in continuing education courses and furthering my professional career.
Ryan Tully: PT, OCS : Personally I think it is really easy for me to become very focused on the portions of practice that seem new and exciting. Things like learning new techniques, going to CE’s with deeper dives into more specific populations of patients or injuries, or attending conferences where you get to hear from leaders in the physical therapy industry. But it wasn’t until I came to OSI and did the Leadership Edge program that I started thinking about the role of the PT in a team model. And how improving the clinic environment – the team, the culture – is important for clinicians and staff, and that translates to better patient experiences. The soft skills are challenging, but no less important in day to day practice than our hands on skills. So I do feel I have improved clinically.
Tricia Imker, PT, OCS: I would say definitely yes. The team player piece was easy to see, because it is something that is a little more tangible in the immediate after-effect of going through the Leadership Edge program. I was better able to analyze and identify my team members strengths, which gave me a better understanding of why they worked the way they did. Regarding the clinician aspect, I think the biggest benefit I have gained is simply greater confidence in myself. A big component to patient treatment and management is building rapport and trust. Going into interactions with increased confidence has allowed me to quickly and effectively build trust with my patients.
Hoyme: I must interject here. Trish, I really have seen your confidence grow over the last two years – how you carry yourself, your willingness to offer suggestions, your openness in providing input. That’s really fun to see . . . you and others become more confident, proactive, and engaged contributors.
Mike – how about you?
Mike Brown, PT, OCS: As a clinic manager, TLE has helped me with a collaborative care model approach between PTs and PTAs. I team with Jody as a PTA in our clinic. I think TLE has helped with our communication mainly from me being able to better identify what Jody’s expectations are from me for things like documentation and expected number of visits for each patient. So, yes . . . I do feel my patient care has improved with TLE experience across our team.
Hoyme: Jody . . . Mike tee’d that up for you. You work closely and collaboratively with him and the other PTs in your clinic.
15) What do you think? Has becoming a better leader helped you be a better clinician?
Jody Wolowicz, PTA: TLE has most definitely helped me to be a leader, and as I have served as a leadership mentor, the program continues to help me become a better leader and clinician as I mentor others. I feel like Tricia does – my improved confidence flows into my patient care, and my dialogues wih the physical therapists in our clinic are much more open; they don’t just tell me what to do, we exchange ideas. I have learned more about my strengths and how to use them positively. And, of course, I still have more to learn about how my clinic teammates and I use our strengths together.
Michelle Wieber, PT: I think recognizing my strengths not only helps me be a better business leader, but it helps me see how I might reach and connect with patients I treat. This is what my family affectionately calls the “soft science” part of life… the way we interact with and treat others. So yes, I do feel like I am a more effective clinician.
Greg Bailen, PT: I believe it has helped me become a better leader in regards to my soft skills. I know that I interact with patients differently after learning to be a better leader – both in the class and as a mentor . . . making sure I get the little details right, remembering to greet them by name every visit, remembering information about their families, taking time to explain to them the VALUE of physical therapy before they go off for an injection, MRI or contemplate surgery. So I FEEL like I’ve improved in how I build relationships with patients as I have become a better leader, however, as we have not yet measured the impact objectively via before and after FOTO results or specific productivity metrics, I cannot say so definitively. I think we should start doing before and after analysis of important factors such as Followership Assessments, FOTO scores, and productivity metrics.
Hoyme: Interesting feedback from all of you. Obviously, leadership development has helped build qualitiative characteristics such as self-confidence, relationship-building skills, open-mindedness, trust and other very important factors in clinical care and business success. The ‘soft stuff’ as many of you described it. I think Greg makes a great point and is absolutely right . . . we must start measuring and analyzing leadership development’s impact on clinical outcomes and business metrics. Hmmmm. You’ve got me thinking.
OK – Cindy, Jennie, Jean, Colleen. You are all in various support roles for your practices and deliver valuable services. We are going to start with Jennie on this first question. I have seen you and your team really dig in and apply leadership and team concepts in practical, yet creative ways.
16) Why do you think it is important for ALL team members to engage in leadership training and to be seen by their colleagues as leaders?
Jennie Horejsi, OSI Customer Care Center: TLE helps you understand that you can be a leader no matter what your role. You can do an exceptional job for your company when you see yourself and others see you as a Small L Leader. As a member of OSI’s Customer Care Center, I want to be that person no one is afraid to ask a question. We serve people who call for an appointment; our practice depends on us ‘selling’ those callers on our value so they actually attend their scheduled appointment. I want to inspire others on our team to do great things for our practice; I want to lead by example; and I think TLE helps you do some serious soul searching about yourself. I think the leaders at the top of every therapy practice should show their commitment to their employees by investing in their development as leaders. It puts in perspective what needs to get done and how you can get there together.
Hoyme: Great insight on the importance of leaders at all levels, Jennie. So Jean . . . you have an interesting and important role at Minnesota Sport & Spine Rehab. You help the clinicians with their documentation, FOTO processes, and other supportive aspects of clinical care that connect the clinicians with the front desk staff. Teamwork is critical.
Let’s hear your thoughts.
Jean Miller, MSSR, Clinical Assistant: I believe it is important for all team members to engage in the leadership training. It helps every team member find and build on each of their strengths and open up each person’s mind to a bigger picture of their role in the clinic. When each person sees herself or himself as a leader, it helps improve the clinic’s culture.
Cindy Nawrocki: I think the Leadership training helps bring light to our leadership qualities. I think taking the class and being highly engaged helps all team members see that they are leaders, and we all play a very important role in the overall success of our team and our practice.
Colleen Harris: I believe TLE is something every team member must engage in. It creates a consistent foundation for a team to build from. An HPT can only be created when everyone is on the same page; using the same verbiage and setting the same goals. When everyone is unified with a specific purpose, it creates excitement in the team . . . in what they can accomplish together. In my team specifically, I have seen how TLE has created greater purpose in each person’s role. Our team members now see how important their roles are to the vision of the company. They all feel like leaders. They have become more engaged in their roles and show ownership each day in what they accomplish.
Hoyme: It is really gratifying to hear you all feel leadership and team growth are so important. Hey . . . it’s a team sport, and you all have valuable roles on the team.
Jody Wolowicz, Scott, Trish, Ryan, Greg, Colleen, Jennie, and Cindy . . . you all served as Leadership Mentors after displaying very impressive engagement in The Leadership Edge when you went through the program.
17) How has the mentoring experience helped you grow personally?
Tricia Imker: Serving as a Leadership Mentor has helped me in two real noticeable ways. First, it allowed me to build Improved relationships with people across the many practices and clinics within Therapy Partners. Secondly, the experience helped me build better communication skills with both my peers and leaders of all types across TPI.
Jody Wolowicz: Being a TLE mentor keeps the leadership fire burning! The TLE concepts are always fresh and in the forefront. It has helped my continued growth as a leader and clinician. I, in turn, feel I have been able to share that fire and passion with those who have been part of my TLE teams . . . encouraging them to learn, grow, and gain self-confidence.
Ryan Tully: Being a mentor for The Leadership Edge really has helped me understand a different perspective. As a PT, I typically approach my efforts in the clinic from a clinician’s view, but hearing the perspectives of non-clinician staff really helped to diversify my point of view. I now look at every team member’s interaction with patients as even more important than I ever did in the past . . . regardless of their role. For myself, being a leadership mentor has really been a positive experience and helped me grow my general outlook. It also showed me I have room for improvement in formally leading groups and asking engaging questions.
Greg Bailen: Leadership mentoring has had several benefits for me. For one, every time I have engaged in TLE as a mentor I have picked up on little things that I may have overlooked in previous experiences. Additionally, seeing others so highly engaged in their profession has given me more energy as a clinician in my clinical work and my drive to achieve my long-term professional goals. It has made me further realize how special TPI is as an MSO organization of independent practices, and how special each each individual clinic is. I have also enjoyed implementing our Capstone projects clinic-wide.
Scott Darling: Mentoring is always so fun because you do it to help others grow, but, interestingly, I think you yourself grow the most when you serve as a mentor – probably even moreso than those you mentor. I appreciated how every one of my team members brought so many different experiences and examples to the table regarding how they can improve. Seeing those on my team improve spurred me on to improve myself as well. I do know that I have gained a lot of confidence from being a leadership mentor because I have to lead by example now within our practice, PTOSI, and that level of accountability allows me to make further steps in my leadership journey.
Cindy Nawrocki: I have also really enjoyed my leadership mentoring experience. Mentoring has helped me improve my personal approach in my role and with my teammates at Wieber Physical Therapy. Not only do I remain highly engaged at work, but I do a better job helping others become engaged in what they do in their roles for our practice. I think being a leadership mentor has helped my Small L Leader colleagues and the Big L Leaders – Dave and Michelle – see my potential as a mentor and my dedication to being a team player. Therefore, we all work together to help each of us achieve better work outcomes.
Jennie Horejsi: Like Cindy stated, I also feel the mentoring experience has opened me up so much. I am more confident in what I do because I understand better how to lead. Being a leadership mentor allowed me to be more engaged because helping others learn TLE principles was a continuous learning experience for me. It allowed me to have stronger relationships with my peers and leaders. I understand more than before about how each one of us is different, and we all bring unique and important ideas to the table.
Mentoring has not only helped me with my work skills but also with my personal goals outside of work. While I feel those on our team are all on the right leadership track, I know that TLE will help our continued growth.
18) Don’t be modest. How do you feel your mentoring has helped those on your TLE teams and clinic/work teams?
Greg Bailen: During each of the two TLE programs that I was a mentor, we had mixed participation levels. However, it was really great to be able to influence and encourage others on my TLE teams to get a little out of their comfort zone and to watch them grow through some of the challenges of ‘stepping out of their box’. I have been able to mentor several people with whom I work directly. While they may have been a little nervous doing things like writing their thoughts on discussion boards and presenting their capstone projects, they all said they were glad they did so. They were all ultimately excited about TLE concepts.
Jody Wolowicz: I feel like I was able to help non-clinical staff and new PTAs grow and become more comfortable in their leadership roles within the clinic. I was able to be there for support and guidance, and help them realize that, yes, they are leaders. I know this is what really helped me
Ryan Tully: I think my role as a leadership mentor was helpful in that non-clinical staff quickly realzed that clinicians like me truly do feel the input of everyone is important, and the information each person provides as team members is valuable. I really tried to emphasize the importance of everyone in the customer lifecycle (I had to do it for Jerry Durham and Jim). The importance of how he or she can really be the point person as they set the trend for how clients feel when they start the process of interacting with everyone on our clinic team.
Cindy Nawrocki: I think being a leadership mentor has offered a warm welcome of what I am truly capable of doing, and, I must say, those on my team have seen that. I think that rubs off on others, and they, in turn, perform better. My ability to not only provide direction but put direction into action is a passion of mine, and having the opportunity to mentor others to deliver leadership qualities has helped us take action in our clinic!
Tricia Imker: Primarily, my leadership mentoring has helped my TLE teams realize that people at all levels can truly be leaders . . . they are leaders. I am not a Big L leader or a Leader-Manager at this time, and I think the fact that I am a Small L Leader in the clinic was a highly valuable example of how I – and everyone else – can lead even when you are not in a specific leadership role. My team saw me as a leadership role model.
Scott Darling: I have served as a leadership mentor twice, and I feel like my mentoring made more of a difference in the first cohort than the second. I was not able to get those team members engaged, so it was a lot harder to feel as though it was helping them. My first cohort had no problem engaging, and I do believe I helped them improve their leadership qualities and become more engaged at work.
19) How do you, as a leadership mentor, feel the TLE program will help your practice and TPI as a whole in the long run?
Tricia Imker – TLE is invaluable to increase engagement among individual team members. Co-workers are such a huge part of your work day, and each person’s level of engagement and folllowership style can have an enormous impact on how your team functions day to day. TLE helps bring these important relationship, engagement, culture, and team concepts to life, and the experience allows open discussion to build a strong HPT.
Greg Bailen: I believe the biggest impact will be in the development and implementation of our capstone projects. This is where the concepts of TLE come to fruition. We have already seen a slight uptick in ATC referrals after the implementation of our spring 2016 capstone project. Additionally, we are seeing more PTs going out to the schools to meet the players they would potentially be working with, which is great for community relationship-building. In the long-term, though, I think the benefits of TLE could be better assessed if we were to keep track of productivity metrics, FOTO outcomes, and objective measures before and after participation in the program.
Ryan Tully: I feel that the big benefit of Leadership Edge is to encourage people in all positions to identify areas that they feel strongly about and encourage them to be proactive – confidently take charge of their role. The book Drive by Daniel Pink discusses this in great detail. Money will only incent people to do so much. When you give people the freedom to own their role and the autonomy to make real and meaningful decisions. With day to day responsibilities, this new found leadership role adds a whole new level of motivation to make each person’s work and workplace better.
Scott Darling: I think it is all about continual growth within the principles of TLE. If we aren’t reviewing things like strengths, followership, leadership at all levels, teamwork and the other leadership aspects each meeting or every month, the concepts get put to the wayside and something else is put in its stead. I believe in the power TLE can have to improve engagement and therefore improve growth; we just have to continue to be conscious of it. The importance of the mission of TLE cannot be stressed enough. Consistent implementation of leadership principles, however, must be present day in and day out for helping our practices in the long run.
Cindy Nawrocki: The foundation TLE provides each clinic team along with the ability to see it bloom throughout TPI provides a true feeling of TEAM – within your practice and within our MSO. We may not all be housed under one roof, but our sole purpose of who and what we are is the same. It continually brings us all back to a sense of grounding, where it all began and answers the question of “Who, What Why & Where”. Bringing us better together as a team will help our patient care and success as a business.
Jody Wolowicz: TLE encourages everyone within a practice to be part of something bigger than themselves. People feel more empowered in their roles within the team and realize they truly do impact the success of that team. When a team is working toward the same goal, team members are more likely to succeed.
Hoyme: I really appreciate the great benefit you all attained from being leadership mentors. I hope we can spread this opportunity across many others within TPI.
OK . . . 2 more questions for all of you.
Ultimately, to prove to Big L Leaders of therapy practices – the decision makers – that investment of time, effort, and resources in leadership and team building efforts is actually worth it, we must show that ‘soft stuff’ contributes to positive, tangible ‘hard stuff’ results – better clinical outcomes, improved retention of key team members, and improved bottom line profitability.
20) Have you seen a noticeable positive impact of TLE concepts in terms of better outcomes, productivity, and/or retention of key team members?
Jody Ruppert: I certainly see improvements with those OSI locations where not only the manager embraces and supports TLE concepts – like strengths awareness, followership, high performance team culture, and leadership at all levels – but so, too, do the team members. In fact, I believe those team members that have engaged in TLE now have higher work engagement and job satisfaction. The key to TLE really having an impact on important business metrics, job satisfaction, and retention is our continued focus, and we have an ongoing effort to integrate the concepts into daily practice. This is not just the responsibility of the manager, but it is responsibility of the entire team. Those Big L Leaders and Leader-Managers who fully support the principles of TLE and have learned to use those concepts daily, lead the clinics I see as the most successful . . . by all measures.
Michelle Wieber: Leadership training has helped grow our employees from Do-ers to recognized Self-Starters. I also believe that our fun culture has also allowed us to retain excellent team members in both the clinical and front office areas. We look forward to seeing improvements in productivity and clinical outcomes.
Mike Brown: Absolutely. TLE has been noticeable in the moral of the team. We have not had one employee leave for a competitor or due to burnout in the 5 years since I attended TLE. We continuously monitor our FOTO scores, and we continuously achieve our established benchmarks. Our productivity continues to improve. I believe that our team handles change well and is able to adapt because of training from TLE, and this is important because we face mounting competition in our area.
Scott Darling: Yes, I have seen better results since we have participated in TLE. One of my coworkers participated in TLE and has been greatly impacted by implementing its various leadership aspects. For example, she continually talks about improving her EQ and using her strengths to her advantage during work. These principles have helped her become more engaged and more self-aware. She has positively impacted the clinic where I work because of her positive attitude and her ability to get through stressful times with a smile. She has changed a lot since learning a few key aspects of TLE.
Tricia Imker: With regards to retention of key team members, the team that I work on has had very low turnover since I started 5 years ago. We had a strong sense of team before going through TLE, but after TLE we were able to understand and accept each other on a completely different level. From the conversations I have had with each co-worker, we all are less likely to leave our jobs due to the excellent culture and relationships we have created at our clinic.
Ryan Tully: Personally it has made me work harder to do the things that improve outcomes and a team environment. I think Leadership Edge has helped me to be more conscientious about engaging with all members of the team, and trying to get us all to pull together, and have FUN in the clinic.
Jody Wolowicz: I feel like TLE has a highly positive impact on clinic teams and practices, but it only works if people fully engage in the program. Not only in the readings but attending the meetings, engaging in the discussion boards, engaging in discussion with your clinic team, watching the videos, and participating in the other activities. This is really the only way that an individual is going to see the value in the program and gain wisdom from the experience. I noticed a HUGE difference in our clinic dynamics once everyone had either completed or was currently in TLE. I think the key to improving outcomes . . . a team of people focused on the same task, speaking the same language, and working toward a common end result. Bottom line . . . achieve better employee engagement.
Greg Bailen: I have noticed a lot of little things in the clinic. Clinicians being willing to help each other when we get ‘walk-in’ patients. All team members helping others when a patient shows up late for an appointment. Better communication between team members. As I stated earlier, we have noticed an increase in ATC referrals of athletes to our clinic as players are more aware of what we as physical therapists can do for them in the clinic. PTs and ATCs are working better as a team, and athletes are more comfortable coming in to our clinic when they can ‘put a face with the name’ they have heard from their athletic trainer. Related to the more measurable things – I feel if we were to measure FOTO outcomes and productivity results pre- and post-TLE, we would see positive results.
Cindy Nawrocki: I feel when the Big L Leaders bring an employee onto your team, they see a role for that person – they see the value he or she will bring to the team and therapy practice. But it is not always easy for all team members to see and appreciate the importance of every new – or even veteran – team member. TLE helps not only all employees feel they have a valuable purpose and contribution to the team, but also for all team members to understand and engage in each others’ strengths and qualities. This outlook provides optimal productivity by the team, makes work more gratifying, and, therefore, helps retain key team members. Let’s face it, we all want to be productive and be appreciated for our contributions.
21) Do you foresee the ‘soft stuff’ leading to the ‘hard stuff’?
Greg Bailen: I believe yes, if you don’t have soft skills, prosperity with your clinical practice will eventually flounder. As we know: “culture eats strategy for breakfast.” This is so true. You can have the best plan in the world, but if you have disengaged employees and a poor culture, good luck with achieving any meaningful clinical results. While TLE does address the “hard stuff” like productivity metrics and health care reform issues, this program’s “meat and potatoes” focus is developing a great foundation in the “soft stuff.”
Scott Darling: I do, yes. But not without a commitment to talking about the objectives of TLE quite often in your work setting . . . with your peers and colleagues. It’s easy to get back into the grind of keeping a busy patient schedule and not identifying the importance of improving culture and striving towards becoming a high performance team. We must continue to speak the leadership language and speak it often. When we do that, I believe the objective benefits of the ‘soft stuff’ will shine through. Without it, I can’t imagine it making as much of a difference. We must talk about TLE principles more and continue to apply them often in all that we do.
Jody Wolowicz: I don’t think you can truly get to the “hard stuff” if you don’t have the soft. The soft needs to come first. This is what first helps to establish your teams – through relationships and trust. Once you have that HPT culture, getting to the “hard stuff” is easier.
Michelle Wieber: The “soft stuff” can lead to improved employee retention, but I believe it can also lead to improved profitability and statistics only if we are willing to share meaningful financial information with our team members. Transparency is critical for all of us to work together for a shared vision.
Cindy Nawrocki: There is definitely a direct reflection of the ‘soft stuff’ on the more concrete things we do! A TEAM is made up of a number of key people filling valuable roles – all are important components of the team and contribute to a team’s success. When we see each other as leaders and team players, we perform better.
Mike Brown: Yes . . definitely. I’m not great at the ‘soft stuff‘. But we all know people who thrive off of it. TLE has helped me recognize the importance of ‘soft’ things like relationships, followership, leadership, and engagement to better understand and motivate those who embrace it. We need everyone involved to reach a high performance team status in order to tackle the hard stuff ahead.
Jody Ruppert: Every organization – for profit or not for profit – is held accountable to metrics. The most successful organizations balance both the “soft and hard stuff”. In other words, taking care of employees through engagement, focusing on professional development, leading with transparency, and having a strong team player culture will naturally lead to achieving the necessary numbers. I’ve found the more our practice nurtures and supports the ‘soft stuff’, the better our performance becomes with the ‘hard stuff’.
Tricia Imker: Absolutely! People who are engaged and part of an HPT are more likely to care about productivity, as it affects the whole team. With a little bit of knowledge about why the “hard stuff” like productivity metrics and our FOTO outcomes matter, combined with a strong sense of teamwork and leadership at all levels, it is easier to motivate individuals to drive change when it comes down the pipe. And change can be tough!
Ryan Tully: To me the ‘soft stuff’ is the hardest part of this physical therapy field. You need to have good soft skills to get the ‘hard stuff’ of outcomes. The best technicians only get results as good as their soft skills. This is not to say the clinical skills are not important, but the best in the field do the technical aspects and the soft skills equally well. Ultimately we must form a team with our clients, and we need to be good at the ‘soft stuff’. Why stop at our clients though, the soft skills can help us have better relationships within our practices and help make work a more fun place to be.
Hoyme: WOW! Great insight from all of you. . . Thank you very much! I have seen each of you learn, grow, and demonstrate amazing leadership and team skills. Each of you have shown how you can take the self-confidence and pride you attain from being a real effective leader and translate that into outstanding results.
These excellent leaders at all levels truly demonstrate, day in and day out, the value of investing in leadership development. I am a true believer that the earlier a person gets an opportunity to learn and grow as a leader, the more quickly he or she gains confidence, gets engaged, and performs at a high level. You see it all the time in sports, school, business, and in therapy clinics.
To add a little more ‘meat’ to the insight these great leaders have shared, here are the main results from a survey of Leadership Edge participants over the last 2 years.
We received feedback from 57 participants in TPI’s Leadership Edge programs held in 2014-2016. Here are the highlights of the survey results. If you want to see the full feedback, click on this link.’
The Leadership Edge Survey
90 Surveys Sent, 57 Respondents
PTA and ATCs 9%
Support Staff / Business Office 23%
Practice Owners / Admin / Mgmt 25%
Leadership Level of Participants:
Big L Leaders 12%
Small L Leaders 68%
Level of Engagement in the Program:
Highly Engaged 37%
Not Engaged 2%
3 Aspects of the Program that Had the Biggest Impact on You?
High Performance Team
Leaders at All Levels
Followership Style Prior to Engaging in TLE
Self Starter 23%
Followership Style After to Engaging in TLE
Self Starter 72%
Prior to Engaging in The Leadership Edge Program, Did You Consider Yourself a Leader?
After Engaging in The Leadership Edge Program, Do You Consider Yourself a Leader?
The Main Ways the Leadership Edge Learning Experience Has Affected You:
Better Aware of My Strengths
Contribute Better During Times of Change
More Respectful of Others’ Strengths
More Engaged in My Role
Better Relationship with Team Members
More Self Confident
More Willing to Contribute Ideas
The Main Ways the Leadership Edge Learning Experience Has Affected Your Team:
Better Relationships between Team Members
Team Members More Engaged
Better Transition to Change
How Important Is It to You to Grow as a Leader?
Critical to My Career 33%
Very Important 38%
Somewhat Important 7%
Not Important 0%
On a 1-10 Scale, How Much Impact Has TLE Learning Experience Had on Your Career?
Take a couple minutes and check out the full survey results including participants’ comments.
Feedback from team members and observation of behavior strongly indicates TLE has had a highly positive impact on culture, teamwork, employee engagement, and various leadership qualities of team members. Ultimately, we must show that improved levels of employee engagement, leadership, and teamwork result in measurable improvement in clinical and business outcomes. Prior to our next 10 week TLE class starting in September, we will compare pre- and post results in FOTO Outcomes, Productivity Metrics, Employee Engagement, and Followership Assessments.
Is an investment in leadership, employee engagement, and high performance team development worth the time, effort, and cost? Good question. We are convinced in this rapidly changing and highly competitive health care environment . . . it’s a no-brainer.
Keep Learning . . Keep Leading!
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