12.04.09 Issue #404 Forward This Newsletter To A Colleague

Dr. Nancy Haller
Dentist Coach
McKenzie Management
coach@ mckenziemgmt.com
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No Excuses Feedback

What would it be worth if you were able to improve the productivity and effectiveness of every member of your staff? To reduce employee conflicts? To prevent communication breakdowns? To increase practice revenues? To expand the quality of work-life satisfaction in your office?

It would be priceless!

You have two choices: you can tolerate mediocre performance or you can insist on a team that follows your standards and executes on your goals. If you choose the latter, you must start holding your employees accountable.

In coaching dental leaders, I have found that too many do not hold their people accountable. But it’s a leader’s job to provide effective feedback for his/her employees. Constructive suggestions can help them succeed. On the other hand, resisting your feedback may cause them to miss an opportunity to grow and develop within your practice. The key to creating a successful performance conversation is to emphasize what the employee needs to do to succeed, rather than focusing on what has caused them to miss the mark in the past. Here are some examples to illustrate how to improve your communication and overcome resistance and denial.

Jenny is your Front Desk employee. She has a challenging job that entails scheduling, billing, and general reception duties. You have a busy practice that requires her to juggle customer service with detailed tasks. Over the past three weeks, several patients have complained about how Jenny has talked to them. You are concerned about this and schedule a private meeting with her. She makes excuses as follows:

Jenny: “I don’t know what you’re talking about. I’m friendly with the patients”
Your response: “I think it would be helpful to review a couple of specific examples so let me give you those" (provide 2 or 3 behavioral examples).
Jenny: “It’s not my fault. Some patients ask me such stupid questions. It just annoys me.”
Your response: “I know you have a difficult job and a lot of responsibilities here in the office, and this might be difficult for you to hear. The fact remains that you are the first point of contact for patients in the office. You set the tone for how they view me. I need you to put patient service first no matter what other work you have to do.”
Jenny (in an angry voice): Why haven't you brought this to my attention before?” 
Your response (in a calm voice): “I know I should have brought this up before now. We can't go backward, but we're starting from today. The reason I'm raising this today is that I'd like to give you the opportunity to work on developing a friendlier approach with patients.”
Jenny (after some discussion): “Well, maybe…I’ll see what I can do.” (or, “I can’t make any promises but I’ll try”; or “Alright…whatever you say.”)
Your response: “Your tone tells me that you’re not fully committed. I'd like you to think about what we discussed and whether or not it's something you can put the required effort towards developing. In the meantime, I'll put together a written summary of our discussion so that you are clear on the expectations I've outlined. Let's get back together tomorrow morning at 9:30 a.m.”
Employee (in a challenging tone): “What are you going to do?  Fire me?”
Your response: “I'll outline exactly what I need for you to be doing differently. If you choose not to agree that's up to you. However, I cannot have you talking with patients the way you have. If you cannot agree to work on this, I’m going to have to pursue next steps.”

No one likes to listen to what they're doing wrong, and the words are not that easy to say either. It’s natural that people will react differently to information about their behavior and performance. Remember, feedback with employees can be uncomfortable, but it’s rarely as bad as you imagine. Getting to agreement should take no longer than 20 minutes. Additional time should be scheduled to discuss solutions to the agreement. If you’re still struggling to get an employee to acknowledge the issue at this point, it is time to stop the conversation.

Last but not least, hope for the best but be prepared for the worst. Create messages that avoid inflammatory wording. Anticipate how the employee is likely to react to feedback and prepare for how you will respond. Demonstrate leadership courage. Continue to give effective feedback and watch your people improve - both themselves and your practice!

To assist you in building skills in feedback, read the “Communication Series” Ideas into Action Guidebooks offered through McKenzie Management.

Dr. Haller provides training for leadership effectiveness, interpersonal communication, conflict management, and team building. If you would like to learn more contact her at coach@mckenziemgmt.com

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

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