Field Team Motivators: Build New Energy From a Firm Foundation

By: Kriss Barlow, RN, MBA | kbarlow@barlowmccarthy.com

It’s not about having the right opportunities. It’s about handling the opportunities right.” –Mark Hunter

Creating and growing physician relationships is not for the faint of heart and all signs point to a more challenging future process. Leaders and field members alike look for ways to be motivated – to enhance the experience of the practices and maintain personal energy amid routines and recognized barriers. Consider motivators in two categories. First are those that must be in place to feel value and work-life equity. The second category includes more innovative energizers. These can be customized to the individual, team and your environment.

Foundations for a motivated team

  1. Compensation. While money will not fix a bad work environment, it is an objective measuring stick. Team members must feel they are equitably and fairly compensated for their work.  We appreciate that many other industries will pay more than health systems. Candid conversations are a must, both at hiring and ongoing. Pay that is not equitable within the team is a huge dissatisfier.
  2. Team equity. Field staff are competitive and hyper-aware if someone is “skating by.” There is tremendous interest in the right level of leader awareness and action for those individuals. Again, it’s a baseline and consistent people management is a foundation.
  3. Clear boundaries. While field staff often stretch the rules, good field staff want to know where and when they have the autonomy to make decisions or have conversations with stakeholders. The right level of autonomy and clear understanding of what’s in scope is a huge motivator and contributes to team member retention.

When good team members are grumbly, it’s generally a piece of one of these three. If you recognize you are in the soup with one or more of these issues, then work to alleviate the problem. If your hands are tied, then regular transparent discussions with the team are a must. Ignoring issues or working to do lots of fun social activities will not alleviate your motivational issues.

Beyond the basics

As exciting as the role is, there is a lot of “routineness” as well. Change of pace and idea generation can help motivate the team and encourage field focus. Here are four ideas that may be of interest. Better yet, they may stimulate customized motivators that work for you.

  1. Individual goals. Beyond the visit/growth numbers, encourage individuals to call out professional goals they would like to achieve this year. Work on goal-setting together and encourage a plan to get there. While personal goals are often about fixing something, it’s great motivation to focus on something that works. Start with a strength and create a goal to make it even better this year.
  2. Know personal motivators. Some are motivated by recognition, others are very interested in the chance to develop more expertise, still others might like to enhance their knowledge in an area. Find ways to feed your need at least once a week. As a leader, this needs to be hardwired – built into the calendar – so you take the time to recognize each member of the team on a consistent basis.
  3. Decrease the downers. Brainstorm those things that suck energy out of the team. It may be a process or may be a person. Let the list build and then work back to rule out those elements that are not choice and find one or two that you can eliminate or short circuit.
  4. Be part of the plan. Teams can be part of the vision setting for the team and/or be part of the plan development. It’s easier to do the work when you get to be part of the process. Teams that ask for this need to be visionary as this is not a baggage dump. While there is a place for that, it’s not here.

Social events and team retreats are good too, but they benefit from planned follow-up to sustain momentum. Motivation often starts with feeling a part of something and at its heart, feeling value. Consider what motivates you and resolve that 2017 will be the year that you try some new ideas.