Every weekend my good friend Jon and I run the Baylands Nature Preserve Loop in Palo Alto, CA. Some weekends are tough - we push hard through exhaustion and nausea just to finish; while other weekends are easy and we joyfully relish in breaking a PR. Some weekends require one of us to push the other. Often this is verbal (get off the couch!, don't be lazy!, you have all week to watch Netflix!), while other times it can actually be physical with one of us pushing or pulling the other into the car and out to the trail.
But regardless of whatever hardship or obstacle faces us, we run the trail every weekend. Why?
Because of intrinsic discipline. Jon and I both have a passion for running and exercise as a whole. No, we aren't competitive marathoners or triatholoners. Far from that. However, we are internally disciplined to pound the dirt trail every 7 days (with 2-3 pavement based 5k runs sprinkled in between). We take ownership and pride in what the 1 hour of sweat and grind will bring us - and we hold each other accountable, creating a feedback loop of self-reinforcing discipline.
So why am I telling this seemingly innocuous story of two 30-something year olds running every weekend? Because it directly relates to leadership and staff productivity.
Staff productivity reaches its pinnacle, its full efficiency, its state of pure flow; when all its members see the "why." The "why" encompasses the reasons for existence and the reason for the business's day to day actions. When we look at it from the bottom line perspective, the "why" also encompasses productivity and profitability.
Exploring this "why" principle quickly makes an owner realize that they must give reasons to their staff on why they should succeed. Let THEM take ownership of YOUR business. Let them see how their actions can build goodwill and create productivity.
In some businesses, the staff may already know what the "why" is and in other businesses they may not. The "why" must be established. And the crazy part? The "why" can be anything, as long as its a unifying concept that all staff members can take ownership of. Your why might be a deep rooted passion in helping those with rare retinal diseases take control of what little vision they have through low vision equipment, or it could be to see the most amount of patients possible in a busy urban environment. It could even be to make the most money possible in the optical.
Regardless of the reason, as long as unification exists in internalizing goals - the staff exists as an exciting proxy of the owner in creating success and further opportunities for the business to grow.
Three Keys to Developing Intrinsic Discipline
(1) Have a Unifying reason or why for each staff member
(2) Make sure each staff member takes ownership of this reason/why, and not merely “go about the notions”
(3) Reinforce the unifying and individually owned “why” while avoiding imposed discipline
Too often in the realm of optometry and other similar business models, I've seen owners (both colleagues and friends) bark orders and impose discipline on their staff. They act as totalitarian figures, and place emphasis on their non-negotiable decisions. There seems to be a romantacized love affair with total control, often stemming from ideas such as "I'm the doctor and this is MY practice."
This is wrong.
This antiquated model feeds the selfish ego and reinforces insecurity. It does not contribute to the greater good of the company, regardless of the leader's brilliance. This model alienates the staff. Alienates the team that exists to make the company great. All in the name of hubris. Each individual sees themselves as, well, an individual. Gone is the notion of a team working towards a common goal.
"Too often in the realm of optometry and other similar business models, I've seen owners (both colleagues and friends) bark orders and impose discipline on their staff. They act as totalitarian figures, and place emphasis on their non-negotiable decisions. There seems to be a romantacized love affair with total control, often stemming from ideas such as "I'm the doctor and this is MY practice." This is WRONG
So if you find yourself in the role of this hubris-driven owner, I urge you to take a step back. Re-examine the goals for your company and how you wish to achieve them. In a service-oriented industry like optometry, your people play an important part in building your business and keeping it profitable. In fact, the play the most important role of anything or anyone.
Your team needs the "why." They need to take ownership of their jobs and the implications that surround their jobs. This does not come through shoving orders down their throat. This is done through self-realization of their individual worth.
Just like Jon and I realize what our stake in our weekly trail run is, so too should your staff have a full internal realization about what their stake is in each of their individual positions. This pushes them to be autonomous and to strive towards further perfection.