Catch your employees doing something right and tell them every day. Ongoing feedback is absolutely essential in any business environment, but in a small business, particularly a dental practice, in which the success or failure of each system hinges on the performance of a small collection of employees, it is critical. Feedback from the doctor and other members of the team is the only means individuals have to better understand what they can do to improve their own performance. And it’s one of the most essential resources for continuously assessing what is working and what isn’t in your practice.
Most employees genuinely want to perform well. They not only want to meet your expectations, they want to exceed them. But you’re the coach on this team and the members are looking to you for guidance and direction. A practice environment that welcomes and encourages feedback not only helps the doctor shape his/her team, it also enables the doctor to better understand what might be interfering in the employee’s ability to meet specific objectives. It creates a climate in which the team can examine and solve problems, address challenges, and openly discuss what could be done to improve the performance of specific systems.
Verbal feedback can be given at any time but it is most effective at the moment the employee is engaging in the behavior that you either want to praise or correct. If Jennifer the hygienist reinforced your recommended treatment plan with the ever-reluctant Mr. Sullivan, gently convincing him that the time was right to move forward on those veneers now that the kids are all through school, tell her!
When congratulating Jennifer on her expert handling of Mr. Sullivan, explain to her what she did to deserve your praise. Express your sincere appreciation and emphasize the value of her contribution to the practice.
Conversely, if Mrs. Rakers is asking about veneers and Carla your new assistant makes an off-handed comment about the expense, she needs constructive guidance on how similar inquiries are to be handled in the future. Being new, she may not comprehend the impact of what she perceives to be innocuous comments and how those can have a profound influence on patient decisions. While you, obviously, wouldn’t correct her in front of the patient, she does need to know how you want her to handle similar inquiries in the future.
Make time to speak privately with Carla to provide constructive feedback. Focus on the issue and avoid personalizing the feedback. The goal of constructive feedback is correction and motivation not demoralization. You wouldn’t say, “Carla, your patient communication is poor.” You would constructively direct her how you want patient inquiries regarding treatment handled. But beyond that, consider whether Carla’s comment reflects a perception of the rest of the team. Do you need to consider scheduling a mini-clinic during the next monthly staff meeting to educate the team on the benefits of specific treatment such as veneers? Does Carla need a clearer understanding of the practice’s treatment financing options? In other words, how can this opportunity to give feedback be used to best educate and help Carla grow into a stronger, more committed team player. And can it be used to grow and shape other members of the team as well.
Keep in mind that feedback is not the doctor’s job alone. The dentist may be the head coach, but the entire dental team can constructively guide one another, provided guidelines are established and each member of the team commits to be open to feedback. Too often supervisors and coworkers are so overly concerned about offending a staff member they shun opportunities to give feedback. Ideally, the culture of the practice should encourage open feedback among the team members to continuously improve systems and patient services.
Verbal, on-the-spot feedback should be the goal, and the practice environment should encourage positive feedback and openly provide constructive feedback when necessary. Failing to give feedback fails both the individual team members and the practice as a whole.
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