5.25.07 - Issue # 272 Forward This Newsletter To A Colleague

Dr. Nancy Haller
Dentist Coach
McKenzie Management
coach@ mckenziemgmt.com
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Stop Battling the Office Battleground

You have 2 employees who are at odds with one another - Linda is the Scheduling Coordinator and Cheryl is the Hygienist. A new patient is waiting and Linda notifies the entire office via instant message. The patient is on Cheryl’s schedule. For whatever reason, she doesn’t see the message but she eventually goes up to the front and discovers her patient sitting there. Then she says loudly, "Oh I am so sorry I had NO idea you were here". Linda takes this as a slap in the face. Harsh comments are exchanged, tears flow.

You know the message went to Cheryl’s room because you were in there when it came across. You want Cheryl to realize that Linda is not her personal slave…that if her patient isn't here go check on it. You need to help Linda to be less sensitive and be more tough-minded.

Front office-back office conflicts are rampant in dentistry. The bad news is that when your business and clinical staff members fight over petty things like this there is a serious lack of trust among your employees. This kind of breakdown shows up big in your bottom line!

If you want your practice to skyrocket, you must develop an environment that maximizes collaboration and unity.  The foundation of strong teamwork is trust. Trust is about vulnerability. Team members who trust one another are comfortable being open about their failures, weaknesses, and fears.

Vulnerability-based trust is predicated on the simple and practical idea that people who admit the truth about themselves do not engage in back-biting behavior that wastes everyone’s time and energy. More importantly, when team members trust one another they accomplish more. They like their jobs more. There is less turnover. Patient care and satisfaction increases.

Unfortunately vulnerability-based trust is hard to achieve. We live in a society that rewards competition and self-preservation. The idea of putting oneself at risk for the good of others is unnatural. We have been trained to “look out for number 1”.

However, when team members can honestly say things like, “I was wrong”, “I made a mistake”, “I need help”, “I’m not sure”, and “I’m sorry” they are able to resolve conflicts quickly. They get back on track smoothly. They focus more on their work. They are more productive. The practice is more profitable.

While all dental leaders genuinely want to reap the benefits of having a cohesive team, getting them to conduct a team retreat or workshop is not as easy as it should be. Busy dentists have trouble slowing down and taking time out of their    hectic lives for anything that doesn’t seem urgent…even something that will make work easier and get more done in less time.

Money is also a common objective to conducting a team workshop. Dental leaders need to realize that investing in your team improves performance. It also helps the practice avoid painful, unnecessary costs such as the loss of a key employee who gets tired of negative office dynamics or wasted time spent rehashing the same issues over and over again.

If you aren’t convinced, start with a small investment by scheduling a team building staff meeting. Explain to employees that you will be doing an exercise that will enable everyone to get to know one another better. Tell them that the goal is to begin getting comfortable and learning to relate to each other on a more personal level.

Choose three (3) of the following questions that best fit the needs of your team. Distribute a sheet of paper to everyone with the questions you choose. Give 5-10 minutes for them to fill in the answers. Starting with the dental leader, go around the room and give each staff member about 3 minutes to share their answers. Spend another 1-2 minutes after each person to identify what you learned about each team member that you did not know.

  1. Where did you grow up?
  2. How many siblings do you have and where do you fall in the order (oldest, youngest, etc.)?
  3. What was the most difficult, important, or unique challenge of your childhood – of being a kid?
  4. Describe a time when you felt the most frightened.
  5. What was your first job? Your worst job?
  6. Other than your parents, who had the greatest positive impact on you? What did the person do? How did you feel about it?

Remind everyone that you are not interested in their inner child or their deepest, darkest secrets. This is a low-level vulnerability exercise that will help team members let down their guard about their strengths, weaknesses, opinions and ideas. Once it is over you will summarize: Trust is the foundation of teamwork. Trust is about vulnerability which is difficult for most people. Building trust takes time. Like a good relationship, trust on a team is never complete; it must be maintained and nurtured.

If you want to develop strong teamwork in your practice, contact Dr. Haller at coach@mckenziemgmt.com.

Interested in having Dr. Haller speak to your dental society or study club? Click Here.

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