How conference attendance benefits your team

March 21, 2017

Are you planning on going to a conference this year? As Howard Schultz, chairman and chief executive officer of Starbucks, summarized, knowledge and skill are your keys to earning more. Professional conference season is upon us. Which ones are you paying for you and your employees to attend? No matter how dedicated and organized your practice may be, it’s impossible to internally train each and every staff member to the high level of excellence your patients demand. Thoughtfully motivating and engaging employees takes a concerted and systemic approach to learning and skills training.

Editor’s Note: Welcome to “Eye Catching: Let's Chat,” a blog series featuring contributions from members of the ophthalmic community. These blogs are an opportunity for ophthalmic bloggers to engage with readers with about a topic that is top of mind, whether it is practice management, experiences with patients, the industry, medicine in general, or healthcare reform. The series continues with this blog by Donna Suter, president of Suter Consulting Group. The views expressed in these blogs are those of their respective contributors and do not represent the views of Ophthalmology Times or UBM Medica.

“Your earning ability today is largely dependent upon your knowledge, skill, and your ability to combine that knowledge and skill in such a way that you contribute value for which customers are going to pay.”                                 

Howard Schultz 

Are you planning on going to a conference this year? As Howard Schultz, chairman and chief executive officer of Starbucks, summarized, knowledge and skill are your keys to earning more.

Professional conference season is upon us. Which ones are you paying for you and your employees to attend? No matter how dedicated and organized your practice may be, it’s impossible to internally train each and every staff member to the high level of excellence your patients demand. Thoughtfully motivating and engaging employees takes a concerted and systemic approach to learning and skills training.

Team building and team training are two different things, according to Dr. Eduardo Salas, Trustee Chair and Pegasus Professor of Psychology at the University of Central Florida. Team training is focused on specific teamwork competencies - the knowledge, skills, and attitudes needed to be a good team player who works well with others. Team building is usually about role clarification, goal setting, and/ or interpersonal relationships. They all have a place and can yield positive results.1

That said, sending one or all of your team to a conference is a way to encourage employee engagement and team building.

Adult learning, which is nurtured at a professional conference, is important because today’s fast-paced healthcare culture demands it. All relationships require nurturing, especially patient relations. Today’s demanding patients are why attending professional conferences, having annual on-site trainings, or listening to online courses are so helpful. There are a plethora of confrences from which to choose. As a business coach, I speak at several conferences each year and have my favorites.

Regardless of whether your feel your teammembers are permanent or temporary, as the doctor, you have both the opportunity and responsibility to engage in their career development. The Leadership Development Factbook 2014: Benchmarks and Trends in U.S. Leadership Development, produced for Bersin by Deloitte reveals that leadership continues to be the number one human capital concern for businesses.2 As organizations struggle with leadership gaps at all management levels, the report shows businesses responding with increased spending in leadership development. Small companies saw the largest spending growth in leadership development initiatives (on average) – up 23% from 2013.

It makes sense that what we learn at professional conferences allows the practice to be more capable of earning. If our team fails to deliver excellence in eye care, we may lose patients and professional growth opportunities.

Since this process begins with learning, let’s discover what is involved in learning while attending a conference. Learning begins by looking below the surface. Using LEARN as an acrostic; what does it take to increase one’s knowledge and skills?

LEARN

 

Listen.

There is much wisdom surrounding us. Only the extremely vain will think there is nothing to gain by conversing with others. There is an old song from the 1960’s titled, “No Man Is an Island” based upon a meditation by John Donne. The lyrics remind us that no man stands alone. Now we say no person is an island and no person stands alone, at least, not anyone who wants to gain information.

Attending conferences or hosting in-house seminars for your staff allow them to learn without the fear of being judged. Especially in smaller practices, employees might hold onto old communication habits just because they are afraid to be transparent and vulnerable during the learning curve. In this image, Donna Suter speaks with an attendee about dealing with difficult patients at SECO in Atlanta.

There is value gained from listening to anyone, but if you are in a hurry, pick the people you choose to listen to. Select someone who has achieved what you want to accomplish, someone whom you admire, or someone who intrigues you. Listening to a person is one of the highest compliments you can give to an individual. Most will give you some of their time when they see how much you value it.

 

Educate.

Educate yourself through reading, attending conferences, or with new experiences. Along with educating yourself is the necessity to evaluate the information you are gathering. Information is just data, and some of it is erroneous. Sometimes we keep ourselves so busy that we fail to replenish our sources of knowledge. Put your conference notes and handouts in a reading file to look over when you have some downtime.

Courses presented at professional events have been selected to fill a need expressed by attendees. Whether for professional credit or non-credit, these courses have been selected by your peers to fit your niche. Education can also be informal. A self-made leader has the natural ability to encourage others to reach their potential. However you choose to do it, obtain knowledge through education.

Ask questions

 

Ask questions.

Listen to learn and be willing to put yourself on the line by asking questions. Sometimes you may not get an answer, or you may be ignored. Don’t give up. Ask someone else or ask a different question. If you want to get the most for your question, begin with “how” or “what” to obtain a longer answer. Of course, the next step is obvious: listen to the answer and evaluate its value for your practice situation.

 

Respond.

Once you have gathered information through listening, educating yourself, and asking questions, remember to respond. Give back something you know or have experienced. This is a great way to confirm your understanding and ensure your learning. The exchange will also give understanding to the other person. Remember, no person is an island. We all can learn from each other. Make your responses informative rather than opinionated. Ensure your feedback contains information for verification.

 

Network.

If you are a full-time manager, your practice’s success and growth depend on access to talented individuals both inside and outside your practice walls. Routine conference attendance allows you to build a network of people you can later draw upon - know their interests, skills, and possible availability. As you take on new projects, consider who might be ready to mentor you and explore the possibility of regularly meeting with them. Most people want to feel both needed and appreciated. Ask for someone’s help, and explain why you are asking. Even if it does not work out, your interest will be noticed. Next time, a conference attendee may approach you for help- and it may be just the right fit at the right time. Also, keep in touch with the people you have met at past conferences.

The last step of gaining knowledge at a conference is application when you get back home. What are you willing to change? Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Some have said a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. Rather, take your new learning and try it out a little. Keep at it. It may take longer, but persevere and you will apply your new knowledge to your practice’s unique challenges.

 

Listen. Educate. Ask Questions. Respond. Network. When you follow this process, you will attend this year’s crop of professional conferences and LEARN. When you learn, you will earn - you will earn the respect of others, and most importantly, you will earn respect from yourself.

 

References

1. https://blog.shrm.org//workforce/team-training-and-team-building-are-two-different-things

2. http://www.bersin.com/uploadedFiles/063014_WWB_LD-Factbook_KOL_Final.pdf