August 31, 2021

The 5 Critical Components Of Leadership Development And Business Expansion With Michelle Bambenek, PT, DPT

PTO 156 | Leadership Development

Leadership development is not a topic commonly discussed within the PT industry. However, just like any business, leadership plays a big role in growing and expanding your business and practice. Dr. Michelle Bambenek is the Regional Vice President of Operations at Empower Physical Therapy Group. She is also a leadership coach and consultant for both PT owners and people outside the PT industry. In this episode, she joins Nathan Shields to break down the critical components of leadership that empower team members to grow and, in turn, your business. Michelle emphasizes the importance of values and imbuing a sense of mutual responsibility within the team. Learn more about the steps and successful patterns to expand your PT practice.

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The 5 Critical Components Of Leadership Development And Business Expansion With Michelle Bambenek, PT, DPT

I have got a special guest, Michelle Bambenek, who I have known for years and worked with Will and I at Empower and Rise Rehabilitation Specialists back in the day. Thank you, Michelle, for joining us. I appreciate it.

It is a pleasure to be here. I’m happy to be on the show with you.

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Thanks for coming on. At this time, Michelle is a Leadership Coach and Consultant for both PT owners and people outside of the PT industry. She did great work for us working with our leaders of the team that we had at Rise at that time. We want to talk a little bit about leadership development. It is something that I haven't touched on a lot on the show and it is something that she is specializing in and invaluable for those therapists and owners who want to grow their practices. Before we get into potatoes of everything, share with us a little bit about you and what got you to where you are at this point.

I appreciate being on with you. I'm excited to talk about this topic. By way of introduction, I am a PT, graduated in 2007. I immediately went into an outpatient orthopedic setting and pretty quickly after that, I was thrown into a clinical directorship position. In 2011, I had the opportunity to transition to working with, at that point, Affinity Physical Therapy, where I met Will. I was the Clinical Director at Affinity Physical Therapy at Coolidge and progressed from there and building as things started to take off or leaving some of the pressure off of Will. He was still treating in Florence so I took on the directorship of Ford's Clinic and then we had the Anthem Clinic. We were fortunate enough to go through the merger with Pinnacle Clinics.

I functioned as a Vice President of Operations for the four clinics at that time, I think. Maricopa, Coolidge, Florence and Ocotillo, the Chandler Clinic. I went in through there. Along the way, I was able to learn a lot from yourself as well as Will and a lot of the expert coaching that we were able to be a part of. I found that I had this natural desire to build, lead teams and offload the owners of the company and help in that capacity. I found that to be invaluable to the overall growth of the company as a whole. I quickly realized the importance of developing leaders, not only of myself but those around me to take that to the next level.

Since that time, you have been strictly in leadership capacities, right?

Soon after I took on the Vice President of Operations and running the four clinics, due to the sprawl of them, it did take a lot of time to be able to work in each one of those clinics, get to know the team and find out what's needed and wanted around what their specific needs were. I was mostly in a capacity of leadership development and training, running meetings and doing accountability sessions and things like that versus the hands-on treating.

It is important to note that for any of you owners looking for opportunities, expansion in the future, or if you are at two clinics looking for a 3rd or 4th at some time along the line, you have to find someone who can manage. Would you consider it middle management, would you say?

Middle management to upper management, depending on the number of clinics. I would say I was in the upper level. It is a necessity for that growth to happen. I would consider the clinical directors that I would have underneath me as the middle management. I was overseeing those and helping in that capacity of a step above them. You always wanted to say, “Everybody is important in that team.” One can’t function without the other. Every single person is an essential team member to make the whole thing move. In terms of an org board or communication line, command line, that is how it functioned for us. I found it very valuable.

Owners can't expect to oversee multiple clinic directors, multiple front offices, the billing, and the marketing. At some point, you have got to offload the oversight of those positions. That is where the value of an upper-level executive like yourself would come into place to take on those responsibilities, a foreign owner, for sure. When you are getting to a third clinic, that position is necessary.

I would have to agree unless you want to burn the candle at both ends because I can see it. It has been done, but it does not last for too long and things start to fall through the cracks. In some of the programs or things that were successful, actions start to drop off because there's not necessarily somebody set up in line to make sure that line is being held. I think it is imperative at that point. It is difficult to run the business and be in the business. There has to be a separation at some point for middle management or upper-level leadership to come in and support in that capacity.

Every single person is an essential team member to make the whole thing move. Click To Tweet

Your growth in the company, your management, and the oversight was essential to our growth in the clinics at the time. Our conversation is a lot about that. How do owners grow leaders, whether that is in the PT industry or outside of it? It is something that takes time, but it also is something I think, because we do not have that training from the past, we do not intuitively know how to do it. Maybe there's not a lot of books on how to develop leaders.

There's a lot of books on how to become a better leader and better owner. Maybe that is the next book you need to write is how to develop leadership teams. We do not have that training in the past. That is what we want to get to is how do owners train their leaders? In saying that, if you want to preface anything, that is fine but where would you start?

I think it is very important. I know that when you are an owner, you go in with a vision of a clinic and we're coming in as PTs. We're PTs, but in PT school, we're not necessarily given the tools or even a course on how to open up a practice. That is something that is missing in our profession as a whole. We do not necessarily come in inherently knowing how to lead a team and be a leader of multiple people outside of treating our patients. Oftentimes, that is what happens.

We have great producers that come in. Immediately, a great producer becomes our leadership because they have the ability to turn out a product and have a high capacity of production for the company. Some people may inherently come in with some tools, but that still needs to be developed. The first thing that I would think of is it does have to start with ourselves. We have to do our own work. We have to develop our own leadership voice that comes from surrounding ourselves with people who know a lot more than you.

PTO 156 | Leadership Development
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It's coaches and mentors and reading the books. I have a myriad of books here that I have gone through, from E-Myth Revisited, Leadership and Self-Deception, Crucial Conversations, and Good to Great. Five Dysfunctions of a Team was pivotal for our team. One of the ones that I'm gravitating to which do not to underestimate the importance of emotional intelligence. I have this book by Marc Brackett, Permission to Feel, which has been mind-blowing to me.

Those are the things that I found were important for us. Not even necessarily one book or one training coach. We've gone through the Gazelle, the Measurable Solutions, Scott Fritz, multiple people surrounding ourselves with thought leaders and people in that space knew how to help us grow to our next level, developing our own way of thinking and knowing the rights and the wrongs on how to approach a conversation and the importance of accountability. All these different things that a lot of us do not inherently come in knowing that I think are important to do. We’re starting with ourselves first.

As I’m thinking about our experience with you, we were sharing and we wanted you to read some of these books. It wasn’t scripted per se, but it was part of our leadership development. We wanted you guys to read the same books that Will and I were reading that we thought was super valuable. Even Good to Great and some of those books.

It was important that we share important books that we had strong beliefs in with those people who we thought were going to be our leaders and who were tagged to be our leaders at that time. We want to make sure that we’re having conversations about those things and get on the same mindset page. There is an assumption you brought it up in your preface there that we assume that good producers inherently become good leaders.

I do not think that is the case all the time. If someone is a great producer, they can see all the patients and get all the results. We inherently think they’re going to be great leaders and that is where they want to go. Sometimes, the conversation needs to start with them to be like, “What is your path? Where did you go?” You were upfront, if I’m not mistaken, with Will that, “I want to be a leader. I want growth.” Those conversations are crucial at the very beginning.

It is one of those things of even finding out what’s needed and wanted with the team going in like, “Is this even something that interests you? Is that something that drives you or is it something that you see yourself doing? Do you find comfort in that? Do you find energy in that?” It doesn’t do us any good to have somebody placed in that position who doesn’t want to own it.

We all have a purpose, a product and a key stat. If you do not even vision yourself in that purpose, then it is hard to turn out a product and the stat just dies. It is one of those things that is an important conversation to have. It goes along with developing that team and earmarking people. Only because they are a great producer doesn’t necessarily mean there are value-aligned, which goes into my second thing. First of all, you have to set a purpose and your values.

PTO 156 | Leadership Development
It starts with us. We have to do our own work. We have to develop a leadership voice, which comes from surrounding ourselves with people who know a lot more than you.

Set up the purpose of values first as a clinic.

Unfortunately, I still witness it in some of my coachings that it is something that is locked away in a cabinet or was developed at the start because people know it is important, but it is not breathed into the environment. It is not living in the clinic. It is not something that people even know. Maybe the executive team knows and not even the executive team knows the purpose and values.

I hear a lot of people when I go in. I’m like, “What is your purpose? What are your values?” They give me a tagline, which is great, but it is a valuable thing you need to build in your company because it is the foundation of how you will ultimately function. I would encourage people to develop those, spend the time, spend the effort, find out what’s important to you, figure out exactly what you value, and the ethical and moral fibers you want to bring into your company and have that happen? That then leads into the development and you are marking who your team players are.

There was a flection point that I noticed during our ownership and developing leaders like yourself in that. Will and I came up with values and purpose, and it was based on coaches pushing us to do so, like talking about those values on a regular basis. All of our weekly meetings started with us verbalizing the purpose and values in unison. For me, that was a little uncomfortable at first, but as we did it, I started recognizing that you and the other team members started taking it on. I thought this is weird that you guys care about this business as much, maybe more than I do.

It was valuable for me to see that other people could care about your purpose in the clinic. I always thought that was something that was here. It was within me and now it is Will and me. This is our thing and we developed it in a secret room in the back of the clinic. When we started sharing it, living it, and talking about it often with our team members, they started buying into it as well. That is where we saw a lot of growth and development of other team members and the growth of our business. There was a direct correlation between the growth of the business and establishing that purpose and values.

That is the basis of the culture that was being developed. Your visibility and sharing that with the team and giving people the opportunity to not only hear it but feel it and be asked, “What does that mean to you? What does that vision or that purpose mean to you? How do you see that?” Taking it even a step further where we were having a regular meeting, rhythms, and getting into a position of like, “How have you demonstrated that? How have you seen your teammates demonstrate that? How do you see that happening in our clinic?” That invites people.

It wasn’t uncomfortable, to begin with, but then everybody was like, “These are my people and they honor and we created a safe place for people to be heard and listened to.” Everybody wants to be part of something bigger than themselves. When you pull them behind the curtain and you share with them those visions, those values, and get to be a part of it, you do want to hear from them. I want to so badly. I do not enjoy standing in front of a team and talking to them. I want a team meeting to be something that is theirs. They are developing and their voices are being heard.

That comes from the development of those values and that purpose and breathing life into that. They become part of something bigger than themselves and immediately have an onus in that company. That is exactly what you want. I loved it or felt it more than you. That is me relieving my primary customer of the responsibility in holding that. I’m doing my job to allow you to do that.

As you start working, breathing the purpose and values, that is when a culture starts getting established. When you start developing that culture, you start recognizing that certain people fit and certain people do not. Either way that is okay, but you want to find those who fit, live, and breathe the same purpose and values you do and have also bought in. That makes it easy then to find the people that do not fit and find the people that do fit, then hiring and firing, holding people accountable becomes much easier at that point, doesn't it?

That is the third facet of what I think we need to talk about and what owners need to gravitate to because sometimes they are going to have a high producer. They may be value-aligned that are very low on the scorecard. You have to evaluate that and see if that is something that you want to carry through. This is hiring and making dismissals and even making business decisions based off of your purpose and your values. Do you fit? Do you align with what we’re trying to accomplish here?

We have the desired impact that we want to create within our team members but also our community. That has to be carried by the entire team. Not one person can do it. Not one leader, rehab coach, tech, aide, PCC or PT. It has to be a shared thing because it is something that is very valuable to the community and to the team.

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One person that doesn’t align can make havoc in your clinic. It can cause A-players, high-value aligned and high production team members to leave your company. When you are breathing it into the clinic like we talked about and talking about it on a day-to-day basis, it makes for an easier accountability conversation because then you can clearly align or delineate where they align and where they do not align like, “This is not necessarily professionalism. Explain to me or help me understand why you did not take accountability for this,” or things like that.

It makes those accountability meetings, the hiring and firing, become so much easier. I guess we’re leaning more towards disciplinary actions and letting go of those people who aren’t value-aligned. When you can do that with a values-based conversation, it almost makes it more objective and less emotional than simply saying, “You went against one of our primary values and we can’t tolerate that. Here’s what we’re going to do next or we’re going to have to let you go if it is severe enough.”

What I also see is not only is it important in helping find those people but those people whose purpose aligned, they want to do more in the business. They want to take on leadership opportunities. You have PTAs that want to become clinic directors and more, like Stacy, not just clinic director but also marketing, supervisor and director of marketing, and did great. She was not only value-aligned, but she was in a company that she could fall in line with and found other ways to live out her desires and what she wants to do. There are opportunities like that come up when you find people who are value-aligned.

All of those things are 100% accurate. Sharing them, to begin with, so that people know those conversations become easier. Also, people start to realize, “I do not fit in here. You guys are drinking the Kool-Aid and have this desire to take this to the next level. I only want a paycheck.” Those people do not fit on our bus. Those aren’t the rock stars that we want. It creates an opportunity for other people outside of it to have that ownership. Even if it is not in marketing, VPO, or clinical director, we found that we had rehab coaches, PCCs, and billers jumping at the first opportunity they could to help like, “I want to be a part of this.”

I remember one time, Savannah came in and she was the rockstar for one of our events. She was going to do an insurance verification right on the spot. We have our rehab coaches, our techs or aides coming in, setting up and taking down for big events. Everybody wanted to be a part of this. I can’t tell you how energizing that was. That even took the pressure off me. It was like, “Am I needed here? What is happening here?”

When you find those people asking for volunteers, doing voluntary events and community events isn't a burden anymore. People are like, "I want to hang out with these people. You are my people. I want to be with you more. How can I do that?” Even if it is outside business hours, right?

That would belt off of our values, too, being in the community and part of that. Having a clear delineation of our expectations, you automatically got those people on the board because those are the people you are hiring, service-oriented, and willing to go above and beyond. I remember during our recruiting process. It is very specific that we're looking for rock stars and do more. We do not want people that are only coming in for a paycheck. That is all fine and good if that is what you want, but it will probably not be a sustainable thing for you and us.

As it pertains to leadership development, another aspect of things that I think is helpful in developing your leaders on the team is giving them some of those responsibilities. When the owner takes it upon himself to have the year-end party, do it all themselves, and figure that all out, you are wasting an opportunity there to develop leaders on your team. Maybe they do not have the title. They do not have to be clinic directors or marketing directors.

What if you had a tech or a front desk person who was in charge of it? Could you be okay with that if you gave them a budget, some parameters and let them go? Those are opportunities to develop leaders on your team to give them small things. Even thinking smaller, give them the opportunity to lead out on your staff meetings or the in-service. Of course, it is one thing to share purpose and values, have them read all the books, talk about them and all that stuff, then you need to give them some responsibility and say, “Here is a little piece of responsibility. Number one, it is an opportunity to do so and show us how you can do it. Number two, it is also an opportunity for us to see how well you do and how well you can coordinate the team.”

I remember being a very young leader and coming in and being like, “I have to hold everything because I want it to go a certain way. I want the pat on the back.” Also, all the successes were mine, but then all of the defeats were also mine. We started off by surrounding ourselves with people that know more than you. I want to constantly look at who’s coming up behind to take my job because that pushes everybody to the next level and pushes me as a leader.

Being that young leader, wanting that praise and accolade but also taking the brunt of everything becomes pretty heavy. Once I started handing things off, having people even write up programs, run the team meeting or do things like that, I realized that there was so much more satisfaction out of that. Now, at the end of something, we were a team like, “Look what we accomplished. Look what we did. We did this together.” I come from sports and a team background, so that is something that gives me a bit of energy.

PTO 156 | Leadership Development
Spend the time and effort finding out what's important to you, figuring out exactly what you value, what your ethical and moral fibers are that you want to bring into your company.

Also, it gave us an opportunity to not point the finger. It was like, “I should have done this. I could have done that.” In our debrief, if something did not quite go wrong, like, “That was my fault. That was something that I could have done better. I could have put a little bit more attention on that.” We’re winning together, but we were also going through some of the mucks together as well. It made you feel like a part of something bigger than yourself again and it wasn’t all of the weight of everything on your shoulders.

I know we’re going into your next point here, but to do that, it is imperative that you write down what is weighing you down. What are you working on that you need to delegate? This is how I abdicated responsibility. When I was a young owner, I would interview people and I’d say, “Your job is to do anything I asked you to do.” I literally said that. I do not know how many times. Of course, they were waiting for me to tell them what to do.

I was upset because they did not like to see a garbage can that was full and not dump it. I told him at the very beginning, “Your job is to do what I tell you to do.” They’re waiting for me to tell them to do that. That was my fault as a young owner. What I learned with coaching and consulting is the dirty work. The grind of an owner or any leader as you are developing a leadership team is to write down what someone else’s responsibilities are going to be, what your expectations are, and have those conversations about, “This is what I expect you to do and here’s a manual on how to do it as well. This is how we do things in your position to obtain your product and to keep stats high.” Writing all that up is imperative but it is a grind and that we do not talk about a lot.

It can be very cumbersome, which is why I think what you said is important. Leverage the team members that are doing something well. This is our job description, coursepacks, training manuals, your playbooks, or your hat packs, owever you want to name them. This is essentially the outline of your company's successful actions, how they’re done, and the steps to get them accomplished. This was something that took us quite a bit of time to develop and it was always in a revision state like, "How can we improve this even better?” It was never fully done.

I remember having a number of different packs that we had not only for the CEO, VPO, PT, or PTA, but we had a leadership hat. It outlined all the books we wanted you to read. It had all of those different ways of doing it. We have what we called our all-rise hat or an all-employee hat that went through the purpose product and key set of every single team member. Not only did I know what my responsibility was, I knew what everybody else’s responsibility was, so then I could support in whatever capacity I could to help them also get their product. Outlining all of that is important because it takes the pressure off of the owner.

I would love to survey your audience like, “How many of you were the primary accountability holders? How many of you are the primary holders of all of the crucial conversations? How many of you are in charge of hiring? Which ones of you are the primary holders of key relationships? How many of you are still out there doing all the marketing?” All these different things initially fall on the owner. When you start, you are it. You are popping upshot if you are doing everything on your own. There has to be a time where you are relinquishing that.

As you are hiring value-aligned team members, they are getting a rhythm. You are marking those that have a desire and a potential to be the leaders, and you see people doing things well. Ask them to write it down. “How do you have a successful day?” “Every single day, I come in, I look at the schedule, and I earmark all of my patients that are going to be either high risk for falls.” You are planning out. That is a successful action that maybe we know how to do for ourselves, but maybe that needs to be written down to be shared and put in those course packs or those playbooks for everybody to now know.

That is crucial in leveraging your team on how they do that like, “Tell me the steps of how you go about as an aid tech. How do you go about cleaning the clinic? What is your process?” All those things can be a little bit cumbersome but are essential because then it is not, “What does Nathan say? What does Michelle say or this owner say? What is the handbook saying?” That is how we do it. Everybody has a uniform way of doing it, especially if you are going to be in multiple clinics. You have to have a uniform way of doing things.

For any owner that has aspirations for multiple clinics, there has to be a common playbook between clinics or there is going to be chaos. It is going to be impossible to manage everything and handle all the things happening at once because everyone is running their own place at the same time. I remember I had a PT student who had spent ten years being attacked at some clinic in the past. I said, “If I paid you $250, would you write up what it takes to be a tech and what do they have to know?” She was like, “Sure. It is $250. I will take that.” I used that for years to train all my techs after that. I was like, “Here’s what you have got to do. Do that. Learn this. I will quiz you on it later, but these are our expectations.” It had exercises, anatomy, cleaning routines, and all that stuff. It is all in there. That was gold for me because I was able to use it over and over again.

As you said, for those owners who are reading who do not have any of this stuff in place, it is going to take some time. If you have anybody on your team, you could say, “They are a rockstar technician, front desk person, and physical therapist on my team.” Asking them how to do what they do and take fifteen minutes if you could. How do you get patient buy-in? How do you get a good arrival rate? How do you collect collections over the counter so well and get 100% every day? What do you have to do to get that done? Having them do some of that will be powerful and is a good place to start. As you take time away from treating patients, you can start writing up some of the things you will eventually want to delegate to somebody else.

Honestly, being that teammate and being like, "You hear me and see me doing good work and you want to leverage what I know. I feel seen, heard, and important. Now, I have more ownership like I'm part of the handbook." That is pretty cool. I'm not only coming to a place of work and being told what to do. I'm being asked what I do well. It is ownership, not only in the company but also validation for that person that you are working with.

Great producers don’t necessarily make great leaders. Click To Tweet

It can be huge. The fallback we have as owners are, “It is going to land on me. I’m going to have to do it all.” Hopefully, what they get out of this conversation is, number one, not only is it valuable to write up all this stuff. Number two, you do not have to do it all. There’s a significant portion that you may have to do. You are going to be ultimately responsible and organizing things initially. Try to find others, if you can, to do some of that work for you.

Have them do some of the write-up and you can put it together in the way that suits you and your company, then continual revision. It takes time. You do not have to do it alone, but it is a valuable way to grow your practice.

This goes to your final point, which is to communicate what your vision is like, “I want to eventually have a 2nd or 3rd clinic. I know that to do that successfully, I'm going to have to have a policy and procedures in place that are replicable over and over again.” While you teach those people who come on board, what were the expectations? Holding that communication line is important.

I think all of these things come together but also the regular communication, daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, communication rhythm, and a meeting rhythm for the team. They know exactly what’s going on. You are bringing them behind the curtain. After a strategic planning session, now we’re delivering and cascading that information down to the team. They’re not, again, only on marching orders. They’re a part of something. This is your impact on how to move this clinic and these clinics together towards our ultimate goal for the company as a whole. Those are ways that we can bring communication into our team. Get their buy-in. Get their ownership in that as well.

Not only that, they have a uniform time each day, week, month, however you set it up. They know they’re going to go over their values. They’re going to highlight things, present their stats and answer the questions, but they’re also going to be there holding that meeting and being heard. They’re part of the team and part of something bigger. Once you have that regular rhythm, that also breathes into the culture. You have a uniform way of communicating information. You know when you can bring things to the table when you can’t bring things to the table. It also relieves the owner and the leadership as a whole because you do not have like, “Do you got a minute? Can I catch you for a minute?” You know our regular meeting rhythm. Maybe you have office hours, a private conversation, or put that on the parking lot.

That is something that we can bring up to the entire team because if you have that question, there might be other people within the company who have that same question, have that same desire to do something, change something, or work something out. It is a uniform place for everybody to communicate, be heard or be seen. Also, speaking of our values, see the company's greater vision and see how they can be impactful in that.

If there is no consistent communication, people are going to blurt out in the middle of patient care without raising their hand and say, “What is going to happen on Christmas?” That has happened to me in the past. I’m working on somebody, someone comes up to me and asking me about paid time off. “I’m with the patient. Right now is not the best time.” If they know that there’s a consistent communication method and way an oral communication line, they can bring up those questions and concerns, and there is some structure to it. The consistency of communication also provides opportunities for the leaders to shine because you can see them either leading out in discussions when there’s a group discussion as an owner.

The worst feeling in the world is, “How are we going to improve our arrival rate this next week," and then get crickets. You want those leaders to step up and start talking during some of those conversations or if you probe them a little more, they have more depth, have a little more insight, and are also willing to take responsibility. When you have those communication opportunities, that is when some of your leaders are going to step up.

We’ve seen it time and time again. We’re bringing some people on no matter what the position PT, PTA, tech or a PCC sometimes. You are like, “That was a valued well comment.” That is something that I did not consider because sometimes, even as owners and people with big visions and strategic planning, we can get a tunnel vision of something around certain items. To hear perspective from other people that maybe have been new to our industry or not even a part of our industry and coming in, and saying like, “We’ve attacked with something similar to this. I’m not sure if it works.” It is like, “That is gold. I love that.” Seeing that pop up during those team meetings is important but regular consistency is key.

I have also witnessed, unfortunately, in certain times where you set a meeting structure but then the volume of the clinic goes up. All of a sudden, the meetings drop off of the schedule then it becomes something that is not necessarily conducive to building that culture and open line of communication. It is something that wasn’t valuable for somebody to put on our parking lot or wanted to bring up for discussion is now tabled for another week or something like that. It is defeating. You have to stick with them. Sometimes it is difficult because it does.

It could potentially take away from patient care hours, but I will tell you that time will make up for its weight in gold. You will have more streamlined communication. You are not having one-off conversations throughout the week. You have a specific, dedicated time for all team members to hear the same information in the same unit of time. It saves you a lot of work as an owner or as a leader.

PTO 156 | Leadership Development
When you pull them behind the curtain and share those visions and values, they get to be a part of them, and they feel like you want to hear from them.

This is also an opportunity if you are having those meetings for people who are getting training to take responsibility. You are having accountability meetings or maybe they're not necessarily disciplinary in nature, but you are having a monthly or quarterly one-on-one with your team members. If you have someone who's in training, they can sit in on those meetings as long as the other person is comfortable with it. Give them the opportunity to see what that looks like from a leader's perspective. Even though they've been part of that in the past, you can be a part of that planning and assessing after the fact with that person to help them train and communicate how that coaching session went or how that accountability meeting went. There are opportunities galore within that structure to have potential leaders step up and get trained.

I love that you brought that up. It is not always disciplinary. Some people think of accountability as a dirty word. It is like, “I’m going to be held accountable.” It is one of my favorite values and I love it when teams have it as one of their values in their company because I see it as an opportunity for improvement. I care about you enough. I love you enough that I’m not going to let you continue to make the same mistake. I’m going to coach you in a direction that will help you be a better service to the company, but it is also going to improve you personally. That is how I see the accountabilities.

We’ve done that in the past too. If I’m the company's primary owner and holder of all the accountability conversations, you bring your number two in with you and they watch you do it once. The second time, you are still in there and you are seeing them do it, so then you can give some coach points and say, “This is where you could have improved in that or you knocked that out of the park. You are ready to fly on your own.” You are then gradually working yourself out of that picture and maybe you are not in the next one. It depends on the leader and how they’re going, but it is a good rhythm of how to work yourself out of that responsibility.

I can imagine most young owners or newer owners are going to look at those meetings and be like, "How can those happen without me being there?" They still go. There's going to be some trepidation initially, but that is where you develop them. You get them to the point that they have gone through the processes we've talked about. They have worked on themselves, shared that with others, develop strong purpose and values, made the right hires, developed write-ups and hats that these people have followed, trained, done well, and producing well in their positions and responsibilities.

You have given them a little tidbit of responsibility, but that one thing, the one-on-one interaction where the door's closed and you are not present, as the owner, can be one spot where you'd be like, "I hope that goes well." There are opportunities there in training your team and your leaders to do that with you and do it a number of times if you have to so they get it right. You feel comfortable or spontaneously sit in on a few if you want to make sure things are still going well. They can happen without you if you are intentional about the training of the leadership team that is going to take over that responsibility.

Taking all those steps that we talked about makes those conversations a lot less sticky. They’re not emotionally based, value-based, and objectively based. There are so many things that, “This is not in alignment with our purpose, and this is not an alignment with our values.” These metrics are out of whack like, “What’s happening? Let’s take a look at your sub stats.” It makes the conversation far easier. Oftentimes, what I have found in our previous working career together is people are already coming in there knowing exactly what we’re going to have a conversation about. It makes it less like a confrontation or an issue for the owner or the leader to have to do because it is like, “I know my stats are down and XYZ has a reason. This is what I’m going to do to make sure that that is not the case next week.” It is like, “Great. I’m so glad I can count on you. Thanks for coming in prepared,” it makes it a lot easier.

The goal for most owners is to get to a point where they can trust other people to carry out their purpose, vision, growth and goals of the company, so all the burden is not on you. There is some shared lifting. There's so much joy when you can create an environment in which others align with you and work on getting together towards a cause. It is fulfilling in that regard.

It is legit magic.

One question for you. We had a number of consultants and coaches during our time working together and you got some individual coaching from them. I'm sure a lot of that was valuable. Would you say it is imperative to have a third party like that provide you some coaching that is not directly coming from owners?

I personally think so because it is somebody that can see from an outside perspective and maybe look at it from a different angle. They're not fully immersed in the company and all the things that are day-to-day operations. They can help you look at the bigger and wider degree, things and other considerations that can be brought to the table. I thought it is invaluable that people outside of our company were added to our mix.

Did you feel like you could say things to them or talk about things with them that you couldn't talk about with the owners, whatever that might be?

We’re winning together, but we’re also going through some of the mucks together. Click To Tweet

To a certain degree, yes. You felt like you could go a little bit deeper with our relationships and the owners. We created such a safe space that you did not necessarily hold back too much, but maybe there were certain areas that you are like, “This is an expectation and I do not necessarily agree with that. How do I handle that? How do I bring up the point?”

You can talk that out with a coach. It is like, “These are the expectations. I see where they’re coming from, but this is my angle and my view. How can I make that clear to them? How can I have that conversation in an appropriate and respectful manner but come to a position where we’re getting a conversation on the table of something that has currently been a program or a policy?” It is helpful to get that outside perspective of how to even address conversations with your owner or other leadership team members. Not every single day is a rainbow and sunshine. There’s tough stuff that gets done behind the wall.

So much of what I talked about on the show is about owners getting coaching, which is imperative. 99.9% of the people who are successful that I talked to have had some coaching and consulting in the past. After having this conversation, I recognize that I haven't stressed much about having the owners get coaches and consultants for their leadership. That is coming to light to me as we're talking. We provided coaching. Not only we got coaching for ourselves, but we also got coaching for our leadership teams, then thinking about the development of the leadership team that we had. You guys got a ton of value from coaches helping you out and not only straight from the owners.

As we even grew and developed, we had our middle management people involved in our strategic planning. We’re getting directors on our two days off sites together quarterly. We would have directors with us one day and they would go back to their clinics, then the executive team would stay for an additional day. We got insight from the people that are in the clinics doing the work. We had even more and I have gold. Now they are behind those decisions and it is not marching orders. They’re going into the clinic being like, “No, they heard us. They listened to us. They want to do this. We are a part of that. This is what we came to a decision about.” It was important and getting them exposure to those types of thought leaders and people and that way of thinking. Not only like, “I needed to see my new patients.” It was great.

How did it feel then as a leader for us to present to you as owners like, "You are going to get some individualized coaching from someone who coaches us?”

I was giddy. I was like, “Yes, please. Whatever I can do.” It was part of our culture too. We always looked at our primary customers. Every single person on the org board and the communication line had a primary customer. For me, that was our owners. Eventually, I became a partner and people were doing that for me, but my job was to offload my upline. If I had the coaching, I had the capability and I got to service my leaders in that way by having the coaching that you were giving me the opportunity to participate in. I was overjoyed to be able to be a part of that.

PTO 156 | Leadership Development
We have a desired impact that we want to create within our team members and also our community. And that has to be carried by the entire team. Not one person can do it, not one leader, not one rehab coach or tech or aid or PCC or PT.

It is something that I thought about as we were talking about this. It is something that I haven't pushed on the show before or shared a lot. Many owners have leadership teams that could do well to allow their leadership teams to get some one-on-one coaching as well.

It doesn't necessarily have to be at the same rhythm that the owners are doing, especially if we're empowering them to do some of it. I think it is valuable. It should be a part of the path to offloading yourself and getting your leadership some individualized training.

Anything else you want to share about leadership development? At this time, we covered a ton of ground. I want to give you the chance to share anything that you might have thought about during the discussion.

We covered a lot. It is a true passion of mine. I love to see the light bulb click on for leaders, helping go through that coaching process, and see people get to a position where they make decisions and feel confident about it. That is part of that coaching and training process as we go through as coaches and consultants. I’m here to be of service to people just as you are. I hope people found value out of this episode. It is an absolute joy to be on here with you. Thank you.

 If people want to reach out and get in touch with you, how would they do that?

You can reach me on my email. It is MABambenek9@Gmail.com. I'd be happy to have a conversation around your needs and wants and see where we can meet that.

That would be awesome. Thank you so much for taking the time, Michelle. I appreciate it.

Likewise, it's always a joy.

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About Michelle Bambenek

Michelle Bambenek, PT, DPT has spent years as a successful leader and developer of leaders within the physical therapy space. In this episode she breaks down the critical components of leadership development - granting team members opportunities to grow and live out their purposes. This aspect of ownership is essential for the expansion of the business. The owner can't do it all and must rely on others to follow successful patterns in order to grow. If you're looking to expand your PT practice consider these 5 steps first.

 

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