Embracing Excellence: The Three Core Values That Shape Our Practice
At Austin Retina, we actively integrate our core values - serving with compassion, striving for excellence, and practicing humility - into our daily operation and communications. We strive to create a work culture that not only sets us apart but also contributes positively to the lives of our community, patients, and staff.
Dr. Jose Agustin Martinez recently shared how these principles remain the guiding lights of our work culture with Becker’s Healthcare Leadership Podcast. You can listen to the full interview here or read the transcript below.
How do you define your work culture and your ideal team player?
We tapped into a lot of Patrick Lencioni's work. There's a book entitled The Ideal Team Player, which talks about those that are ideal team players are humble, hungry, and people smart, are the terms he used. We're all about hiring people and that's really one of our top criteria about whether we hire someone. It's not so much their skills, but whether they possess these attributes of humility, meaning they're able to yield to others' ideas and understand how to collaborate with others, and the importance of humility and being able to seek out right answers to problems. Making sure the right answers determine, not because it's my idea, or that person's idea, but it's a collaborative work to make sure the best solution is determined for a problem. The idea of being hungry, meaning people of ambition that want to grow personally, want to grow professionally, they like to be a part of something bigger than themselves, so they have a level of ambition.
And thirdly, people smart, being people that have a good emotional IQ, that understand how to navigate difficult situations, difficult conversations, and have the ability to empathize with others and just relate to others. So those three criteria really make up an ideal team player. And I think Patrick Lencioni's book does a fantastic job of summarizing how all three of those attributes need to be present in order to be an ideal team player.
We really did a deep dive in our practice and got our leadership team involved in determining what are the characteristics of our practice, what makes us different than other practices? And our leadership staff, I'm proud to say, came up with the idea, these three core principles or core values that we embrace, and these are constantly part of our communications. First being serving with compassion, this idea that we're here to serve our community, to serve our patients and our staff, and one another frankly. And to do that with compassion, trying to show empathy in those situations. We take that very seriously. It sounds rather trite, but we really do try to incorporate that and constantly highlight examples of how we can do that.
The second core value is striving for excellence, and we're an organization that believes we need to continuously improve. We're never satisfied with the status quo. We're always trying to look for ways to improve, and we have always made it our mission to deliver an exceptional patient experience. We believe we can only do that by continuing to grow.
The third core value that we think defines our organization is this idea of practicing humility, that we're able to yield to the ideas of others. We come in ready to find solutions, not because we have a great solution, but maybe we have an idea that we can share with others and really collaborate and have a spirited conversation to make sure we're coming down on a good solution to a particular problem.
So we really think that these define our culture. We emphasize them practically every day. We have huddles in which some of these values are highlighted by example of what people have done to make sure we're living out those core values. Any type of rewards we give to our employees or anytime we hold them up as an example, they're always tied to our core values. It really is a constant theme and our staff is aware of what our core values are, and they're expected to live by them. They're held accountable to do so. If we don't behave by our core values, we're confronted and have a constructive conversation about how we're falling short.
Can you expand on the importance of two-way communication and trust within the workplace. How is that created in a professional environment?
We have what are called O3’s in which every member of our staff is meeting with their supervisor, the person that's running their team, and that's done on a consistent basis. I know for example, I meet with our CEO weekly where we have this O3, we meet for 30 minutes and talk about making sure we're communicating openly, talk about our priorities and really giving feedback to one another about how we're behaving. It's part of that conversation. My CEO will often confront us doctors about ways we can behave better, this more in line with our values. We do that on a continuous basis so there are really no surprises in our organization because our staff is meeting with their managers and having the same type of candid conversations where each member's held accountable. It’s all about rallying around these core values about how we behave is a large part of those conversations.
Obviously there's other work that needs to be done in our organization and we make sure that most of those conversations are really animated by numbers, by metrics, so that the emotional aspects of conversations when we're talking about how people are executing at work, we really try to tie their delivery of execution, their ability to do the work they've been hired to do, with a metric so that we can refer to that metric as to whether they're doing a good job or bad job. There may be several metrics for each job, it just depends on those particulars and those metrics. They're determined by the employee and their supervisor, so they're agreed upon metrics that just hold one another accountable and it tends to take emotional language out of conversations, which builds trust and builds clarity in those relationships so there are no surprises. We'd like to think that we don't need year end reviews and things like that because we're constantly communicating throughout the year so there's really no need to have a special meeting where people are assessed because people have a real sense of where they stand and the value they're delivering to the organization because they know their job is tied to these numbers that I alluded to.
We like to say there are no surprises at Austin Retina and we really believe trust is the essential element of any healthy human relationship. We do everything in our power to make sure each conversation is an opportunity to build that trust and sometimes they’re hard conversations, but uh, hard conversations can be handled in a way that actually builds trust and helps both parties grow.
What are the roles of emotional intelligence and career path development in your line of work, especially if you've got this kind of constant two-way communication with feedback?
I think it's essential to any healthy organization, having people with this whole idea of being people smart, having a high emotional IQ. We're in healthcare so it really is hopefully intrinsic to those that get involved in healthcare. They enjoy people, they enjoy interacting with other people, so they're always looking for ways to refine their ability to do so and I think that being able to read the emotions of others and meet them where they are is essential. That not only includes with our patients, but with one another. I really try to make an effort to tell our staff our core purpose at Austin Retina is to enhance the lives of the people in our community and we really take that to heart. That means not only our patients, but one another. We really want to be present emotionally, really build friendships at work, and really build those bonds that create that chemistry that makes any team excel beyond their peers. We all know the great championship teams are always connected emotionally in a way that probably surpasses the teams they are competing against and it's really a key element to success, and we believe that at Austin Retina. We're all about creating opportunities not only in the workplace, but outside the workplace. We encourage our staff to become friends and to do things outside the workplace. We have events, our teams get together outside the workplace in order to build those friendships and that emotional connection.
How do you get leadership buy-in?
I guess you get buy-in by the leaders living out the core values and continually reminding people what our core purpose is, what our core values are, in holding people accountable. I think our leadership sees the benefit. We've been fortunate to build a strong culture. Consequently, we have found that it really elevates all of us to become our better selves at work because we know it's expected. It's been easy to get leadership to buy into it because our leaders, probably 95% of them, are people that have been in our organization for many years and have worked their way up into these leadership ranks so they get the culture, they get what's expected, so it's been easy to get their buy-in. Now, of course, initially when we all started this about 10 years ago, it was a slow process.
I think often people that are working in a difficult culture feel like they can't achieve it, but it really is something that can be achieved. It just takes baby steps and with incremental progress every year they'll find over the course of 2, 3, 4, years things will get gradually better and better and better. We're fortunately in a position now where we have so many people that have been with our organization for a long time, so they understand our culture and we've been able to hire those leaders from within our culture, which I also believe is a sign of a healthy organization. Sometimes we'll go outside if we feel like we need new input, new perspectives. We just hired an HR person from outside our organization that brings a whole new insight into how we might change things and make things better for our staff so that we're not just having a group think mentality. I think it's them appreciating the fact that they come to work in a healthy environment. My hope is they come to work and be inspired to be better people, not just at work, but at home. I think they appreciate what's been built and they see it as their responsibility to keep the momentum going forward.
Retina Specialists in Austin, TX
As always, we are grateful for those who entrust us at Austin Retina with their retina care.