14 Qualities of A World-Class Intake Coordinator

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Uriah: Hello and welcome to the podcast! So excited to have you joining us today. This week’s episode is kind of a special one. And if you are a practice owner that has an intake coordinator or you’re thinking about hiring an intake coordinator, you’re going to love this one, it’s going to be super valuable for you. So this is actually a full recording of one of our trainings from our program called Therapy Intake Pro, which is a training and support program specifically for intake coordinators for mental health practices. So in this one, we’re going to talk about the 14 qualities of a world class assistant. So these are the things that we look for when we’re hiring virtual assistants and also the same qualities that we help other practice owners look for when they’re hiring in-office or virtual assistants. So enjoy the episode today!

Uriah: Hello, hello!

Tracel: Hi there!

Uriah: How are you doing today?

Tracel: I am good, how are you?

Uriah: Fantastic. Today we’re going to actually talk about 14 qualities of a world class intake coordinator. And we want this to be one-part encouragement and I think one-part practical assessment or evaluation tips, right?

Tracel: Right. Yes, definitely.

Uriah: So basically, if you’re listening to this and you are a practice owner and you have an intake coordinator, you can kind of keep track of these 14 things. And sort of on a scale of one to ten, you can rate your intake coordinator and see how they’re doing on each one of these qualities.

Tracel: Right.

Uriah: And then if you’re listening to this and you are the intake coordinator, then it’s a good idea to go ahead and self-assess – which is what we say as therapists – and rate yourself. So I think that should be helpful for for both folks.

Tracel: Right. I think it’s kind of great because if you are looking to improve as an intake coordinator, you now have some goals that you could set for yourself.

Uriah: I’m the kind of person I always love, a framework of any sort, you know? Whether it’s or any any job or task or part of life, I love sort of a map, if you will, or, you know, a guideline. It’s always helpful to see where you are. I actually had a conversation with one of our Productive Therapist members the other day, and it just kind of stood out. She said, “My assistant is fantastic. She learns quickly, makes very few mistakes and just gets her work done. I feel like I can trust her.” When I heard that, I felt like pumping my fist in the air!

Tracel: That’s amazing.

Uriah: That’s what it’s all about. And she also, the way she said she gets her work done, she actually said she’s very quiet. But what she meant was she just, you know, behind the scenes kind of does all the things and the quality is good. So ultimately, if you get a review like that from the practice owner, from your boss, whoever is your manager, that’s what we’re looking for, right?

Tracel: Right. I think quiet….another good thing was that she could work on her own; she didn’t need a lot of…

Uriah: Independent.

Tracel: Independent. Excellent. That’s the word.

Uriah: Definitely. So, we’re going for five stars on Yelp if if you and your services were to be rated! So a couple of couple of quick tips on why this is important. And these might be sort of self-explanatory, but they’re worth saying, so the first one is potential clients looking for help are depending on you to do your job well. And you know that already. This is, it’s not like super high-stakes work, but it is very, very important. And people are calling with some level of crisis or need. And so they they need you to be the best that you can be on every given day as much as possible. So that’s number one. The second one for you, if you’re the intake coordinator listening to this, if you are so good that you’re irreplaceable, you’re going to have a ton of job security and a happy boss is always a good thing, right?

Tracel: Yes, that’s our goal is to be irreplaceable.

Uriah: I think the word for that is linchpin, which on the one hand is a really good thing, if you’re the employee and you are…I would say you are that, Tracel! So you would be very, very difficult to replace at this point. So, linchpin…

Tracel: Well, I have something to tell you! No, just kidding!

Uriah: Yeah, not now, no! So that’s key, kind of the self-interested part. The first one is like we’re helping the world. The second one is looking out for yourself, which is important. And then lastly is also related to you as the intake coordinator: if you are world-class and you do the best that you can, you’re just going to have more positive self-esteem and confidence because you’re doing good work.

Tracel: That’s right.

Uriah: It feels good. So you might be curious, What are the 14 qualities of a world class intake coordinator? I’m going to tell you! 14 might seem like a lot; we could make it a tighter list. We can also make it probably 37 qualities because there are a lot of things to mention and and aspects, character traits, if you will, that make a person particularly good at this job. But we’ll go with 14 and some of these actually we took an informal poll of our team of virtual assistants and got some of these answers from them. And they’re too sort of…shy is not the word, but they don’t want to brag on themselves. But they were able to volunteer.

Tracel: They’re modest.

Uriah: They’re modest, yes! But they are awesome. They’re all awesome. So the first one – and a lot of these are going to be self-explanatory, but we will add some context and maybe some examples to tell you what that kind of looks like or means on a day to day basis. First one is strong communication skills, obviously across the board. That’s really important. Written and verbal.

Tracel: Yes.

Uriah: I mean, that’s on every job posting, right? ‘We need somebody that has strong communication skills,’ but it just can’t be overstated that you need to be able to do that. And one of the things we talk about in our training process for new intake coordinators is over-communicating is critical, especially in the beginning. So you want to say more than you think you need to say. And it’s the same with same with writing too.

Tracel: Right. And it’s really important for us because we are remote. But some of our intake coordinators listening to this could be working remotely. And I think that’s when it’s even more important, because that’s where I think the chances of something going wrong if you are not able to communicate well via email or, you know, in some sort of written form when you can’t see somebody face to face and go, what about the, you know, have that back and forth immediately. I think that’s really important if you’re working remotely.

Uriah: That’s true. Sometimes when I’m writing emails or messages on our internal messaging system, I try to anticipate any questions that might come up. And then just because you don’t, I mean, you don’t want to make written communication too long, but you want to make it succinct and and touch on all the things that you think might be important.

Tracel: Exactly.

Uriah: So that’s critical. And the next one is ability to balance empathy with boundaries. Obviously, empathy is a helpful skill no matter what your role or no matter where you are in life, but it’s got to come with boundaries. This one book that I read called Radical Candor, which is about helping managers give feedback to their employees, calls it Ruinous Empathy, so there is-

Tracel: Oh!

Uriah: Yes, so you can have so much empathy that you’re not communicating the right things that need to be communicated.

Tracel: Right, right. I could see that.

Uriah: Yeah. And that’s where boundaries come in. Super important. And we’re talking about empathy and boundaries within the communication with the clients or potential clients, but also with your coworkers and your boss. So empathy in the sense of being able to understand others, the feelings of others, especially when you’re an intake coordinator, talking to people on the phone and being able to express that. I mean, there’s not too many situations where you need to set hard boundaries with potential clients. But, you know, there’s times when you have to say No or We don’t have a therapist available or that scheduling option available or those kinds of things.

Tracel: Mm-hmm.

Uriah: So I guess part of that is you want to be a person that is compassionate and caring, but you also want to be able to have some backbone, I guess, right?

Tracel: Yes.

Uriah: Some ability to kind of stand up for whatever needs to be stood up for.

Tracel: Right, let somebody down gently.

Uriah: Now, there’s a lot to potentially unpack in there, but that’s I’m going to leave it at that: empathy with boundaries.

Tracel: Yes.

Uriah: And that’s important.

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Uriah:   So number three is attention to detail and organization. Again, kind of self-explanatory, but I don’t know, the truth is, Tracel, most people are not very good at self-assessment, right? Because so many people think they are!

Tracel: Right. ‘I have great attention to detail.’ And you’re like, ‘I don’t think so!’

Uriah: It’s true. There have been actually a lot of studies on therapists evaluating their own effectiveness in their work. And by and large, we think that we’re better than we are. And part of that is because we don’t have a lot of metrics for ‘How do I know for sure that I’m doing good work?’ but with with this role as an intake coordinator, you know what you’re supposed to do and you know what a good job looks like. And if you don’t, you need to ask, right?

Tracel: Yes.

Uriah: But yes, I like it when when we’re interviewing people for a virtual assistant position, I like it when they say something to the effect of ‘I obsess about details’ or ‘I’m a nerd about organization’ or ‘I have a system that I use.’ And any of those things, I’m like, ‘You are the one.’ Right?!

Tracel: Right.

Uriah: So that’s super important. And that goes along with what I said before about that sort of five star review of somebody saying that, like, ‘Very few mistakes.’ We’re all going to make mistakes and everybody is human. And we understand that. I understand that as an employer and everybody gets that. But you want to hopefully not make the same mistakes and pay attention.

Tracel: Mm-hmm.

Uriah: Next one is good at creating and following a system. And this is something that you might not have expected to be on this list, but it is. Obviously following directions and following written policies and procedures is very helpful. Like, yes – people who are so independent or even bordering on rebellious are probably not great for this kind of situation. But the part here that I want to emphasize is creating and improving systems and documenting systems. I can tell you that every practice owner out there who has an intake coordinator is very busy, probably seeing a lot of clients, probably managing a bunch of other things for the practice. And if you, as the intake coordinator, can improve on the systems that are there already and/or create new ones, again, you’re going to be much harder to replace and very valued by the practice owner.

Tracel: Right. Because don’t you think that sometimes if somebody is a solo practitioner, they are doing all the things and so they just maybe create a system that is not very efficient or effective, but it got them by at the time, and so you can take that and go, ‘You know what would be great, if we did this, we could make this change and this would happen.’ And you can show them the benefits. I’m sure they’d tell you, ‘Yep, do it. Go for it.’ And that’s where it’s really fantastic for us as a team, somebody needs something like, ‘Hey, is anybody using something like this or what about that?’ So we’re able to pool our resources with all the different members that we work with. And that is really helpful.

Uriah: It’s really…I can’t overstate the value of creating and updating and improving systems. It’s so key. And one of the things I love about Luci, who is the podcast production, podcast producer is what I’m trying to say! And does several other things too, but whenever I say, you know, ‘Actually I’d like to do it like this’ or I give her some sort of small change in the order of the way we do things or how we do it, she immediately goes to that document and then updates it.

Tracel: Right.

Uriah: So if somebody else ever needs to take over and do what she was doing, they will have the up-to-date information. So I’m like, that’s great. Yes, that’s a win. Okay, number five is strong problem solving skills. I was listening to a book called Clockwork, which I highly recommend, by Mike Michalowicz, which is all about systems and creating a business that runs itself or runs like clockwork. And they talk about the difference between deciding and delegating. And they say basically, if you have an employee that you hand something over to, but they have to keep coming back to ask you fourteen hundred questions about it because they encounter any number of bumps in the road and that just doesn’t work for both sides.

Tracel: Right.

Uriah: So you need to be a person who…and I’m going to laugh about this because it feels almost like, I don’t want to be rude to anybody that works for me, but if you ask me something that I can Google in two minutes, then…

Tracel: Yes.

Uriah: Then we have a problem, right?!

Tracel: Right. Between Google and YouTube, you can find the answer to anything.

Uriah: Definitely. So it’s like a mixture of independence and problem solving on your own. And then what I would call interdependence and relying on your team and/or your manager.

Tracel: Right.

Uriah: But if you come to the table with strong problem solving skills and if you can solve a problem and then bring the solution, that’s a thousand times better.

Tracel: Right. And the thing that I think is even great if somebody says, ‘Hey, I need help with this, I’ve tried this, this, I’ve gone to Google, I’ve done this and…’ And you know they have tried to work it out, but they’re out of choices or options, then absolutely please ask for help. Nobody’s saying try to figure everything out on your own because, you know, we are a team here, so I know you’re not ever saying that, but ‘Let me know you’ve tried something on your own first!’

Uriah: One hundred percent. Yeah. I’ll never be upset about that if the solution is not there but the effort is, right?

Tracel: Right.

Uriah: So that’s pretty key. And that one goes really well with number six and number seven; actually they’re kind of together. But number six is ability to handle difficult situations. And that could be problem-solving something that is especially tricky or difficult to do to handle. It could also be any number of difficult situations with, let’s say, a very emotional or distressed caller, any number of things that you might encounter in your day to day work that are really challenging. And I guess you would call that grit. That quality might be called grit. Ability to handle that and take it on. And the number seven here – I probably should’ve pushed these together – but number seven is related, which is positive under pressure. So those kind of go together.

Tracel: Right.

Uriah: So if you already have sort of problem solving skills in your character, and then that allows you to have the grit to handle difficult situations and hopefully still be positive under pressure. It’s not always easy to do. Like, I know you and I have both had a challenging week!

Tracel: Yes.

Uriah: But we’re trying to be positive! As much as possible. But there have been some challenges that we’ve had to solve and some that are unsolved or just not figured out yet, right?

Tracel: Right. And I think that’s the difference. You know, you’re going to have challenges and things that come up and are you able to work through it or every single time that there’s an issue, are you not able to handle it? There’s a difference, because we’ve talked about this before, the importance of taking care of yourself. So did you get enough sleep? Have you eaten yet today? You know, all those things that are going to make you better able to handle any challenging situation that comes up. So if you can’t handle the situation, is it a one-off or is it you can’t handle any difficult situation comes up? There’s a definite difference there.

Uriah: Yeah. And again, I’ll say this, that people, most people understand that we all make mistakes. And then anybody who is human and has empathy will understand if you’re going through a particularly hard time for another reason, or maybe there’s other things that are going on outside of work. So that’s, you know, communicate about that. And we’ll actually get to a point here in a minute that has to do with self care. And also, on speaking up when you’re struggling.

Tracel: Right.

Uriah: So that’s number five, number six, number seven. And I’ll throw another number seven, which is positive under pressure. You laughed at this earlier earlier this week! I call it being ‘an unsinkable Cheerio.’

Tracel: Right.

Uriah: So you can be pushed down. You can be pushed around. The waves will come, but you’re gonna eventually pop up.

Tracel: Right.

Uriah: That’s what we’re going for! At number eight is being a good listener. So along with being a good communicator, it’s also important to be a good listener, especially on the phone with potential clients. There are folks out there that are just really good at talking, but you need to also be good at listening. I was listening to an actual recorded intake call the other day, and it was one that was recorded by the therapist. And I could tell that…I mean, obviously as therapists, we train in this – this is like our forte, this is what we do. But so many non-verbal things I heard on that call and it was a lot of, like, warm, empathetic, active listening, stuff like that. So that’s pretty key, especially as an intake coordinator, you need to know when to be quiet, listen, when to express empathy and then when to sort of direct the call and move things forward.

Tracel: Right. And I think another part of being a good listener is even if you have to…because you’re listening to understand, and so even if you repeat back what somebody said, you know, ’Is this what you mean?’ Or, ‘I understand you’re saying this,’ that’s a really good thing to do so that you just make sure that you are communicating well and you heard what they wanted you to hear.

Uriah: It goes a long way. Those skills are good in personal relationships, good in work relationships, they’re good with talking to people, looking for counseling. So, yes, if you need to work on that – and we all do honestly. Like even myself, I’m a trained therapist with 20 years of experience, but I still have plenty of times where I have to stop, you know, put other things out of my mind and focus on listening to the person that’s talking to me. So it’s not like-

Tracel: Right, because sometimes we’re thinking about the next thing we want to say, right? Like I just did – I interrupted you!

Uriah: The wheels are turning, yes! That’s a constant skill to be working on. Number nine is willingness to go above and beyond your role. This goes a long way towards that linchpin and being irreplaceable. But you will be noticed if in your role you are willing to do more than what is necessarily expected of you. I know I see when that happens. Actually, you did that recently with Luci and you teamed up and you created something for our Therapy Into Pro program that is stellar. And that was definitely above and beyond. I never asked you to do that, but you imagined it. At some point you did ask permission to move forward with the project, but…

Tracel: Right. We presented the idea to you without you really having anything other than just bits and pieces of it. Of course, you gave us the go ahead after that. But yeah, it was something. And you jokingly said that we were conspiring behind your back because it was something that we worked on! And that’s, you know, you can do that. You can wow somebody when you see a need and find a way to fill it, maybe something that is outside of what you would normally do or what anybody else has done in the past. That’s when you have that really Wow factor.

Uriah: Definitely. Yeah. And it doesn’t always have to be big things. That was kind of…in my mind, that was kind of a big thing; that was a really good surprise for me. But it could be just as simple as following up enough times to get a hold of somebody. And that doesn’t happen that often. Usually people call a therapy office – or five or ten of them – and they don’t get any phone calls back. So if you’re the one that calls back twice and then seems to care, to that person, that’s going to be, ‘Wow, I’m so happy about that.’ Yeah. So look for opportunities to do that. Number ten is learning and maximizing the use of technology. In the modern private practice, this can’t be overstated.

Tracel: Right.

Uriah: So when people say to us in an interview that they love technology or they learn quickly or they like learning new software and systems, that’s really nice. It’s just hard to do this job. Whether you’re in the office as an intake coordinator or you are totally remote, there’s at least five or six platforms that probably every practice is using, from the EHR to the phone system, et cetera.

Tracel: Right, right. Gone are the days of charts and and paper!

Uriah: So, yeah, you’ve got to use technology. Definitely. Definitely. And that’s what I love to do. I love it too much, sometimes I think! One time I wrote down all the software programs, gear that we use even just for Productive Therapist and it was seventeen!

Tracel: And it is easier on you to use that technology. I think I probably even told you about a doctor that I worked for – a surgeon – and he was still so old-school that he took photographs with the camera that had to be developed, the film.

Uriah: Really?!

Tracel: Yes! And then it just it was a nightmare. Then had to be scanned and sent and emailed. It was just so time consuming. So, yeah, if you can maximize and use technology, you’re going to be ahead of the game.

Uriah: Yeah, for sure. Some things are still better analog, but digital does make a lot of things easier for sure.

Tracel: Yes.

Uriah: Again, that’s something you can learn. If it’s not your strongest skill, you can definitely practice and learn. And there’s lots of good resources out there. Number eleven, having reasonably good self care practices. You might not necessarily think of this right out of the gate, but this can be a very challenging job. Burnout certainly happens. You know, we call it, therapists call it vicarious trauma. But if you hear about enough other people’s stories that are difficult, challenging or even or worse, that will definitely affect you as a person. So very key that you have some practices or that you develop some practices in your personal life and in your in your working life.

Tracel: Right.

Uriah: So that’s things like the obvious ones, like sleeping well, spending time in nature and any number of practices, like journaling, all the kinds of things that you you’ve heard about or you might be aware of to make sure that you are in the best possible state of mind when you come to work.

Tracel: And I know you’re going to talk about this a little bit later, but with this specifically is not being ashamed or afraid to speak up if you are having some trouble. Even if it was something two weeks ago you handled just fine. And for whatever reason, today, it just hits you differently. The worst thing you can do is try to bury that. So speaking up is going to help you fulfill that self care practice.

Uriah: And it takes a little bit of self awareness to kind of check in with yourself and know when something’s impacting you or to know when, well, when you need a day off. Or a vacation or something more than that. I think with our team of virtual assistants, most recently, it was as simple as, you know, every 90 minutes or so you probably need to get up and walk around and get some water or go outside or just put some space in between sitting down and looking at the screen and doing the work.

Tracel: Right. Right.

Uriah: So that’s really key. And you’re just going to last longer. You’re going to be happier and you’re going to provide better services.

Tracel: Exactly.

Uriah: Next one, I won’t go into too much here, but number twelve is willingness to learn and grow. And that’s kind of baked into all of these things where if you are the kind of person that has what we call a growth-mindset versus a fixed-mindset and you feel like, you know, I’m really good at many things and these other things I’m still working on, but I know that I can improve with some time and effort. That’s just going to go a long way. And I like it when people are hungry to learn and grow because that means – that means a lot really – that their capacity can grow and that they’re just more fun and interesting to work with, too.

Tracel: And you’re not going to have somebody who says, ‘Well, this is the way we’ve always done it and this is working.’ You’re right. They’re going to be much better to work with because they’re open to suggestions and ideas.

Uriah: I also respect it when people say, ‘No, thank you – I don’t want to learn that new skill. I want to stay in my lane right now.’ Because I value people who know what they’re good at.

Tracel: That’s right.

Uriah: So I guess you have the opposite of that would be – and we’ve definitely kind of said this before – but somebody who has a lot of self-confidence, but they say yes to too many things…

Tracel: I’ve done it!

Uriah: Right, sure. And that comes with its own challenges.

Tracel: Right!

Uriah: Our value is to under-promise and over-deliver. That’s what we want to do. That is number twelve. Number thirteen – we’re almost there! – is desire to contribute and make suggestions to improve the practice. And that sort of ties in with the one about creating systems. And hopefully anybody who’s taking this type of job is not just wanting to checkboxes, maintain a spreadsheet, but you want to hopefully be a little bit more of what I would call a ‘partner in the practice’ and be somebody that’s there to help make suggestions. I know that the the practice owners that we support and work with, they really love it when their assistant can come to come to them with ideas or be a good sounding board. So the practice owner can say, ‘Hey, I was thinking about changing this with the intake system. What do you think about that? And do you have any ideas?’

Tracel: Right. Yeah, that’s so interesting because the first time that somebody asked my opinion, I was like, ‘My answer is going to affect your business and possibly even your bottom line. Are you sure you should be asking me this question?!’ But you’re right, sometimes it is just to bounce an idea off of somebody. And how fantastic that they’re asking your opinion, specifically if it’s about your job, because I’m sure you have worked for people before who never did a job that you did. And we’re making suggestions and changes but didn’t know what they were talking about because they hadn’t done the job. So the fact that they may be asking your opinion and it’s going to have an impact on the job you do, you want to be involved in that conversation and in that process.

Uriah: Definitely. And that speaks to them trusting you, which is always a good thing, right?

Tracel: Yeah.

Uriah: And I try to hire people that are smarter than me! So, I mean, not everybody does that. Some people just want to hire folks that will say Yes and do what they’re told. But I want to hire people, like yourself, that have good ideas and are willing to bring them up. So that’s, yeah, super valuable. And then number fourteen, the very last one here, is having enough confidence to speak up when you’re struggling or something isn’t working for you. So a lot of folks who find themselves in administrative positions are helpers by nature, which is really good. And sometimes those personalities can also be, can say Yes a lot and then not speak up when when they’re overwhelmed, when they’re struggling or when something just simply isn’t working. And then oftentimes the people that, the practice owners that we’re supporting, tend to be busy, ambitious, entrepreneurial. I’m not going to say ‘hard-charging,’ but they move forward maybe quickly and those kind of things. And so as an assistant, as an intake coordinator, it’s very important to be able to feel like you can have a voice and speak up when you need to.

Tracel: Right. And would you say as a practice owner and an employer that a lot of it also has to do with the way somebody speaks up and and the way they broach the subject, like let’s say, for example, somebody is asking for a raise; you can do that the right way and you can do that the wrong way. So even if you’re struggling with something, the words you choose and the way you approach it, I think goes a long way too.

Uriah: Definitely. We could do a master class on that one, for sure! And that’s strong skills for for life in general, right?

Tracel: Yes. Yes.

Uriah: Because the way you bring feedback to anybody in your life, whether it’s a friend, a family member or your neighbor, right?

Tracel: Right. Somebody who shows you the door, the way that they do that when they show you the door and you’re thanking them for it because they have that skill of being able to talk like that!

Uriah: I like that. Yeah. So there you go. Those are the 14 qualities of a world class assistant. And like I said a few minutes ago, it’s really OK if these some of these are more aspirational and things that you want to work on and improve. Totally okay. I would be surprised if anybody listening to this checked all 14 boxes and you said ‘I’m a 10 out of 10 on all of these!’ And if you did, I would say, ‘Really? Let’s talk about that. Let’s talk about your…’

Tracel: ‘Are you sure?!’

Uriah: Yeah, yeah yeah! And totally okay to ask for help when you need it. We all do. And having the self-awareness to know your strengths and your weaknesses, that’s super valuable. And everything that you do to be better in this role is going to make you more world class at your job. It’s going to help more people and it’s going to make your boss super thrilled. So there you go. Hope you enjoyed that and that was helpful. Have a great day! Bye, Tracel!

Tracel: Bye.

Uriah:  Thanks so much for listening to the episode today! If you are interested in checking out Therapy Intake Pro, check out the link in the show notes to sign up. We would love to support you!

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