Culture vs. Morale; Making a Difference in Your Practice
I love to think about practice culture and how it can revolutionize our industry. Today I am motivated to type as I think about the confusion I sometimes encounter when practice leadership implements activities and policies to impact culture and morale. Leaders are implementing ideas on a routine basis to help team members bond and better understand each other which is a great step forward in our industry. Team activities when properly structured can improve morale and pave the way for a variety of personalities to work together more efficiently and peacefully.
Using staff meetings as think tanks rather than reviews of what isn't working, reading your great client reviews aloud to the team, company parties, outings, fun games at staff meetings, ... these are worthwhile activities every practice should embrace. For some teams just the implementation of routine staff meetings is a great first step to cohesiveness.
Where disappointment can set in is leaders often expect these upbeat ideas that boost morale to also improve culture; this is not always the case. A practice team with high morale can still operate under poor cultural conditions, just as a great practice culture can experience a low in morale. I have seen it in action and I'm sure some of you reading this have too. Let's keep in mind these definitions:
Culture: The customs, arts, social institutions, and achievements of a particular nation, people, or other social group
Morale: The confidence, enthusiasm and discipline of a group or person at a particular time
Here is an example of morale vs. culture that I paired together that involves rewarding the team:
~One of your team values is "every pet deserves elevated preventive care". Because your team embraced this value, your culture of caring and educating about preventive testing has led to an increase of senior blood work panels. Some panels led to the diagnosis and treatment of disease. Leadership brings in lunch for the entire team. This is a win for the practice's implementation of culture and a nice lunch boosts morale.
~Leadership provides lunch to the team for birthdays, everyone sings and enjoys a nice diversion. This elevates the mood that day and any tension between teammates is staved off for a short time. This is a morale boost, but the tension between some team mates is not mitigated by celebrating birthdays. We might conclude that celebrating birthdays does not impact the culture, but it does improve morale for a time.
Both of these actions are an excellent way to celebrate staff and impact the team positively. Keep finding ways to celebrate the team! If you can hone in on the focus of your ideas and celebrations by identifying those that are a quick hit and those that are delivering a daily impact, you are on your way to being a culture warrior.