Five Ways to Leverage Your Team’s Strengths to Effect Positive Change in Your Practice

Last month, I wrote about how my company is planning to leverage a strategic partnership opportunity to impact our industry in a huge way. Today, I wanted to bring it back down to the individual level and talk about how you, as a leader, can leverage your team’s strengths to effect positive change in your practice. After all, the best thing we can do for ourselves and our profession is to ensure we’re all operating at our best. As Tom Rath, author of Strengthsfinder 2.0, says, “Although individuals need not be well-rounded, teams should be.”

Now, leadership may be an innate skill for some, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some really big lessons to learn along the way. Here are five things you can do to set your practice up for success:

1. Put people first.

Whether they’re your patients, your employees, your peers, or your vendors, you should always put people first. After all, they’re your biggest assets as a leader, and they also will teach you the most. Surround yourself with brilliant people—individuals who are smarter than you at what they do—and then trust them to do it well (without your micromanagement).

2. Be flexible.

Of course you have big goals—the ones that form the overarching premise of what you want to achieve—and you should stick to those. But the smaller goals—the ones you develop along the way to help you get to where you ultimately want to go—you can adapt, change, or even dismiss. Don’t get stuck holding on to something that’s merely a stepping stone. Create a new stone—or tweak the current one—and move forward.

3. Share your vision.

According to this HBR article, being forward-looking—“envisioning exciting possibilities and enlisting others in a shared view of the future”—is the second most frequently sought after attribute in a leader (right after honesty), and it is “the attribute that most distinguishes leaders from non-leaders.” Sharing your vision and working collaboratively with your staff to create—and then achieve—company goals will help your team stay engaged and feel like they’re an integral part of the business.

4. Stay passionate.

Your passion will make all the difference in your success. It will light the fire underneath you and propel you to see the bigger picture, to be thoughtful and creative in your approach. Plus, passion is contagious, so you will help inspire those around you—and keep them inspired even if things get hairy.

5. Focus on strengths.

Now for the big one: To help your team members perform at their very best, focus on their strengths, not their flaws. I truly believe that you achieve the best results as a leader when you focus on helping your employees make the most of their talents, while completely ignoring the desire to help them fix their inadequacies. I recommend applying the same strategy to your hiring methods: hire individuals based on how their strengths will contribute to the overall goals of the company as well as how those strengths will round out your team.

Plus, focusing on the positive is just a better way to be in this world—not to mention that repair work basically sucks, according to Rath. It’s “the path of most resistance,” he says. On the other hand, a “strengths-based approach can have rapid payoffs in confidence, productivity, and hope.” Sounds much better, right?

So, how do you identify your employees’ strengths? You can start by paying attention and actively listening to the aspects of their jobs and personal lives that they enjoy as well as the ones they don’t. And if you want a little help, consider implementing the StrengthsFinder approach to leadership. We use it at WebPT, and the EIM Executive Program in Private Practice Management (EPPM) advocates for its use as a way to gain a better understanding of yourself and the individuals you hire.

Recently, a team at Gallup conducted some serious research on what it means to be a leader—and why people follow good ones. Based on their findings, they believe effective leaders know their own strengths and invest in others’ strengths; create teams of people with the right strengths; and meet the specific needs of the individuals on their teams. To help facilitate this in their own company, Gallup employees of all levels keep a card outside of their office that lists their top five strengths for all to see. Pretty cool idea, right? Could you implement something similar in your practice?

What do you think? How do you leverage your team’s strengths to effect positive change in your practice? Tell me your thoughts on the matter in the comments section below.

About the Author

Heidi Jannenga, PT, MPT, ATC/L

WebPT Founder and COO

As Chief Operating Officer, Heidi leads the product strategy and oversees the WebPT brand vision. She co-founded WebPT after recognizing the need for a more sophisticated industry-specific EMR platform and has guided the company through exponential growth, while garnering national recognition. Heidi brings with her more than 15 years of experience as a physical therapist and multi-clinic site director as well as a passion for healthcare innovation, entrepreneurship, and leadership.

An active member of the sports and private practice sections of the APTA, Heidi advocates for independent small businesses, speaks as a subject matter expert at industry conferences and events, and participates in local and national technology, entrepreneurship, and women-in-leadership seminars. Heidi is a mentor to physical therapy students and local entrepreneurs and leverages her platform to promote the importance of diversity, company culture, and overall business acumen for private practice physical therapy clinics.


Heidi was a collegiate basketball player at the University of California, Davis, and remains a life-long fan of the Aggies. She graduated with a BS in Biological Sciences and Exercise Physiology and went on to earn her MPT at the Institute of Physical Therapy in St. Augustine, Florida. When she’s not enjoying time with her daughter Ava, Heidi is perfecting her Spanish, practicing yoga, or hiking one of her favorite Phoenix trails.

5 responses to “Five Ways to Leverage Your Team’s Strengths to Effect Positive Change in Your Practice

  1. Todd Pollock says:

    Great comments, Heidi. As a recent convert to WebPT it’s good to know the company is guided by such common sense and liberating ideas. I’ll also check out “StrengthsFinder approach to Leadership”. Both Henry Ford and Andrew Carnege were noted for their statements of hiring leadership “smarter than themselves”. Such thinking also keeps the ego in check.

    I especially appreciate the thought on emphasizing strengths vs. weaknesses. How many of us would get out of bed if we knew the day was filled with “red marks” from an pedantic leaders. And yet we are so tempted to exercise the same trend with our children and employees. We here in AK are known for adaptive use of duct tape for all occasions. I’ll keep a mouth-sized chunk available to hold my more critical, less encouraging thoughts.

    Lastly, at least for me, passion is a function of space. When I over-load, especially with the long lists of to-dos, creativity and passion lose their life source. For those of us running on high-octane fuel, we need to build diversions and speed bumps – even little ones – into our otherwise overly busy days.

  2. Thanks Todd – some really good points. At the end of the day, you must practice what you preach. Meaning that you must do some self reflection to understand and play to your own strengths to make this kind of approach effective. One key element as a practice owner is to really try to look at the % of time spent on actually working ON the business vs IN the business. The passion, entrepreneurship and visionary thinking needs to fed and often can get overlooked and forgotten at the detriment of the business.
    PS: Duct tape comes in many beautiful colors and patterns these days (:

  3. Lisa says:

    This was a fabulous read Heidi. I smiled all the way through it! I feel that each point you have mentioned is so appropriate to the success of a company. I believe that in my practice, we are living this experience right now. I concur with the value of Strength Finders as it was a great help to me. It allowed me not only the ability to find out what my own personal strengths were and better understand myself but also to understand the strengths of others and why they acted the way they did. It gave me a better appreciation of them. It really enhanced the value of the work relationship and set a course for constructive interaction putting the “right people” on the “right tasks” to get the desired outcome.

  4. Thanks Lisa (: Sounds like you have a very successful practice. The work relationship and understanding of expectations is huge. Thanks for sharing your input!

  5. tanusha says:

    Really good article.I am following these steps not only with my team mates but in the real life too. Thanks for your points,helped me in improving my attitude towards others.

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