Quality care in the addiction and behavioral healthcare sector requires us to be at our best every day. However, as individuals, we can’t achieve quality care alone. Creating a strong team culture allows us to thrive because we are invested in supporting each other in our shared mission to help individuals and families succeed in recovery.
In my role as the executive vice president and managing director of Caron’s Florida continuum, I strongly believe that building and sustaining a robust team is one of the most important components of success in behavioral healthcare. However, leadership must be fully invested and aligned in their approach for this to be truly effective. To create that environment:
Lead by example: To create a strong team culture, leaders must be visible and engaged in daily interactions at work. For example, it’s critical to make the effort to be interested in staff and learn appropriate personal details about them when possible (i.e. they love dogs and had a baby recently) and foster an environment where staff and supervisors do the same. Building that human connection at work empowers a sense of community, respect and desire to work together.
Encourage everyone to have a voice: It’s all well and good to have a strategic plan outlining your organization’s goals and how you plan to achieve them. However, if employees don’t have an opportunity to be heard as part of the planning process, then you risk creating a hierarchical environment – which can negatively impact the team – and the intended outcomes of the strategic plan. Leaders should actively listen to staff ideas and hear firsthand about challenges and possible solutions. Your business will benefit, and staff will feel valued if you leverage their collective experiences instead of limiting the vision to a few members of leadership.
Create upward mobility: It’s critical to give employees every opportunity for advancement. The team is strengthened, and morale goes up when people know their career can evolve with new roles and responsibilities. Additionally, it’s important to pay people fairly. Your team is only as good as the talent who comprise it. By offering competitive wages and benefits across the board, staff feel cared for and respected, and that comes through in their willingness to go above and beyond for patients and their families.
Foster an atmosphere of trust: One of the benefits of a strong team is the ability for staff to delegate as needed and therefore keep operations as seamless as possible. This is most effective when staff trust each other to make good decisions. When we have trust, we know that every team member is acting and making decisions based on the organization’s mission and values.
Advocate for empathy: We all experience setbacks in life or need extra time to recharge. It’s important to foster an environment where the team knows that kindness, compassion and self-care are paramount and put mechanisms in place to ensure those values are supported in real time. Whether it’s an illness, divorce, death or even much-needed quality time with your family – life happens. Building a strong team who have empathy for each other and can show up for each other without resentment (“I’ll take your group today, so you can leave early to visit your dad in the hospital”) is critical. Even something as simple as taking time to thank someone, offer a word of encouragement and remind them they are not alone, can go a long way.
I believe that successful patient care directly corelates with prioritizing a positive team culture. But that attitude must start at the top. If you are detached as a leader, your staff will most likely experience that as well. It’s essential to seek support from outside mentors and take the time to hone your empathy, your ability to effectively listen and your creative approach to team building. There’s nothing more rewarding than seeing how excited staff are to show up every day and how invested they are in each other’s success. Patients and families pick up on this contagious energy, and it goes a long way in supporting intensive treatment and transformative recovery.
Bradley F. Sorte is the executive vice president and managing director of Caron Treatment Centers’ Florida Continuum.