Work Horses

The five ideal employee types in mental health

Posted in Recruiting & Interviewing Candidates for Employment
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There are five ideal employee types for mental health practices to look for when interviewing. Certainly, it is my suggestion that when you find them, hire them. They each play a vital role in the success of your practice. 

Of course, the ideal employee does not always show up at the right time. I have written quite a few posts on how to increase your chances of finding the ones you need. See, The ultimate guide to building your staff and culture.

Overlap of ideal employee types

First of all, note that of the 100+ employees I have hired, numerous fit several of these types. They had close to the complete package of skills that we were looking for. 

Yet, I find it helpful, for the sake of clarity, to lay out a taxonomy of ideal employee types. So with the understanding that these types may overlap, let’s define some of the categories of ideal employee types.

1. Rainmakers & connectors

In the early days of establishing your practice, rainmakers and connectors are indispensable. Rainmakers generate business for an organization, usually through their ability to connect and make deals. And connectors are those who have a gift for connecting people. Malcolm Gladwell, in his book The Tipping Point, discusses how essential connectors are for making new organizations thrive. 

I think of these two, rainmakers and connectors, as similar in personality and skill. Moreover, we need them or need to become them, to get a new practice rolling. 

One of the first challenges of any brand-new organization is getting noticed in a proper light. Rainmakers and connectors draw the public’s attention in quite natural ways. 

In summary, then, we need rainmakers and connectors for their ability to connect us to our communities.

2. Clinical Rockstars

Clinical rockstars are fantastic clinicians. They are well-trained and lucid about what they know and what they do. This ability shines through to their clients, colleagues, and referral people. Ideally, you want them to become the backbone of your organization. We need them to help us establish a reputation as a place for excellent clinical treatment. 

When you meet rockstars in an interview, you can sense their confidence and expertise. These therapists are easy to spot. 

We need rockstars to help us establish our reputation.

3. Workhorses

In my mind, I imagine a workhorse as Clydesdale. These horses are the ones used in some beer commercials. They are powerful and elegant, and they never quit. Furthermore, they appear the happiest and most graceful when pulling a heavy load as a team.

I’ve had some employees like that too. They are steady, strong, and just keep showing up ready to do the work. They require a minimal amount of guidance or supervision. And the extraordinary amount of work they do is done without complaint. 

In fact, the business runs best and is most profitable when an owner has a full stable of these types of employees. Owners love workhorses. Additionally, these employees inordinately impact the community through the volume of work they do. 

We need workhorses for the impact they have on the community and our profitability.

4. Specialists vs. Jack-of-all-trades

Some practices build a whole practice around one specialty: perhaps, couples, children, or sports psychology, to name a few possibilities. They refer clients with other therapeutic needs to other practices. This model works in areas with large enough population bases to support the specialty. 

Nevertheless, most practices take another approach. The majority of practices assemble a team of therapists with many different niches and specialties. This mix of specialists becomes a diverse group that houses experts in many areas. 

And yet, when starting, these multi-specialty practices are looking for a jack-of-all-trades. They need some therapists who are confident with a wide range of client needs. These clinicians can fill a lot of gaps. They are the “utility infielder” who can play multiple positions when needed. 

Owners want the jack-of-all-trades to competently fill the needs of the organization as momentary demands shift.

5. Clinicians who prefer brief vs. long-term psychotherapies

For the first half of the twentieth, the bulk of psychotherapy was psychoanalysis, i.e., long-term treatment. That is no longer the case. Now Wikipedia list over 200 psychotherapies, and there are many more. 

When hiring, we rarely looked for clinicians with expertise in a single model of psychotherapy. Yet, we did note whether a candidate was most comfortable with brief or long-term therapies. 

Why? Because this information gave us some idea of how many referrals the therapist would need to support a full caseload. Their treatment mode significantly affected how quickly they built and maintained a caseload.

In truth, we wanted both types. The brief therapists’ virtue was that they frequently had an opening in their schedules when we had a need. And the long-term therapists’ virtue is that they provided stability and did not need many referrals to keep a full caseload. 

Finding a balance is a challenge. Too many brief therapists and we struggled to keep them filled. Too many long-term therapists and we had no capacity for new clients.

So we need both brief and long-term oriented therapist in on the team to have both capacity and stability. 

In all types, avoid clinicians with too much parental baggage

As with all hires, managers and owners have a place of power in employees’ lives. Therefore, any issues with authority will surely be activated by normal interactions in business. Everyone’s work life is affected by these familial dynamics.

Unfortunately, such relational dynamics are not easily discerned in a job interview. Therefore, we must be willing to address these dynamics as they arise.

Fortunately, at times my manner of leading was sufficiently different from the familial dynamic that we could work through any reactivity. Sometimes I failed to please those who were activated.

I have written about some of the challenges in these posts:

Landing those ideal employee types

Of course, we still must land those ideal employee types. To do that means knowing what is appealing about your organization. What I mean is this.

If you are a young, small organization, pitch the idea of being on the ground floor. Many of these ideal employee types desire a lack of bureaucratic constraints. Small and new is appealing. 

And if you are hiring your 15th clinician, pitch the idea of hanging with experienced and highly qualified colleagues. That type of community will appeal to many ideal employee types. 

The angle you take depends on your strengths and assets. Use whatever you have to make your case for joining. 

How to keep them

But here is the downside for all these ideal employee types. They do not need to stay for more than about five years. Why? Because of the gifts that these well-liked, highly skilled people have, they create lots of options for themselves. 

Inevitably, they will get offers from lots of places. They can take their clinical skill anywhere and be successful. And it is their nature to want to explore new ideas and opportunities.

Therefore, our goal with this type is to enjoy them while we have them on our team. And when they are ready for new pastures, we want to send them with our blessing to their next endeavor. We want them to be our friends even after they leave. After all, they know lots of people, so good relations after they go is in your interest.

So this is our reality. That no matter how excellent an organization you build, these ideal employees typically decide to move on after a few years. 

I was always grateful if I had them on my team for five years. It was a gift to us w they stayed. After all, they probably did not need to stay as long as they did. 

Yet that does not excuse us from building the most attractive organization we can so we can recruit and train the next generation of therapists. I have a whole section on these challenges here: Building Staff and Culture.

Here is a post about how to do an excellent job of saying goodbye to leaving employees: When an employee leaves: Saying goodbye well.

Building heaven on earth, i.e., your organization

So then, if this is our reality, clearly the owner’s job is to create as ideal a worksite as possible. Doing so is the best way to retain the talents of these ideal employee types.

We want to build heaven on earth. And yes, we are sure to fail, but that does not excuse the effort. Here is one attempt to outline what that might look like:

Four hallmarks of a wonderful, nearly-perfect practice

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