Several years ago I worked with a wonderful dentist who said to me, “The most valuable tool I have learned from you is the importance of our monthly meetings!” Can you say the same thing about your monthly meetings? Maybe you don’t even have monthly meetings…many practice owners don’t.
In many offices, one of the primary concerns of team members is a lack of communication. If you are an introverted dentist (many are), the last thing you want to do is communicate with your team members. The worst case scenario is when they come to you at the end of a long day and say, “Doctor Smith, do you have a minute?” But providing feedback to your team is very important to them. They want to know how they are doing, how the practice is doing, how Mrs. Jones is doing, was the letter that your Financial Coordinator wrote to a patient okay, and so on. All day long they are wondering to themselves, “What is he/she thinking?”
Let’s start with the mechanics of a productive monthly meeting:
Where – in the staff lounge, if it is big enough. The reception area will work if you can conclude your meeting before patients start arriving, or you can go off-site if necessary. Have breakfast food available so your team knows you value this meeting and their time (yes, they are on the clock, but you still value their attendance).
When – avoid meetings during lunch. You will run behind or miss the meeting all together because of the emergency patient that needed a crown. We are only talking about once a month, so set aside a morning as early as possible the second week of the month and schedule these meetings out for the next six months to avoid appointment conflicts. A good monthly meeting with solid agenda items and practice statistics can take 90 minutes or more.
How – a pre-planned, printed agenda is a must. My guess is that historically, you have sat down with your team and opened a can of worms by saying, “What would you like to talk about?” The printed agenda should be prepared by that month’s Meeting Coordinator and everyone takes a turn, including you. The typed agenda should include a space for those in attendance, all the new agenda items that need to be discussed, any incomplete agenda items from previous meetings, and the practice statistics. Your team wants to know: Did we win or not win the ball game? We played hard, but did we win? They only know when the numbers are discussed, along with the goals to determine a “win” or not.
• Names of those in attendance
The order is not relevant. What is relevant is making sure that when a topic is discussed (an agenda item), a conclusion is drawn to either be implemented at the next meeting or researched so additional steps can be taken, and it must be determined who is going to take care of the task.
I often sit down with the team at lunch and listen to everyone share ideas that have been discussed at past meetings. They are enthusiastic and engaged, until I ask if these items were implemented. With saddened faces, they say “no”. Great employees want to feel as though they make a difference. You want their feedback, as it is difficult to carry the ball alone. It is simply a matter of having an organized and safe work environment, and knowing that what they have to say is important to you and the rest of the team.
Make it a priority to schedule a monthly meeting within the next 3 months. Review the schedule with your Schedule Coordinator and find a time that allows for at least 90 minutes. Pass out a form to your team that indicates when the meeting is, the purpose of the meeting (to share ideas on how to make your practice even better than it already is), and ask them to write down five topics they would like to have discussed. Ask that the form be turned in no later than two weeks prior to the scheduled meeting. Be sure that it’s upbeat, you don’t want them to think something is wrong if this is the first time you have done this!
If you have a “party planner” in your office, ask her/him to come up with a game that only takes a few minutes and has a winner. Bring a gift card as a reward. Be creative and make it fun! You may be surprised at how well your team will respond and enjoy having a voice.
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