The devastating hurricanes of last summer, the heavy snows and rains of winter, and the hundreds of spring tornadoes that have roared across the country recently forced many small business owners to reevaluate, if not establish, their disaster plans. Nature’s fury might have even prompted some of the more conscientious to make sure they are paid up on their disaster insurance premiums. They can rest at least a little easier knowing that if Mother Nature comes out swinging through their neighborhood any time soon, they’re covered. Batten down the hatches, go to a safe area, and wait out the storm.
Unfortunately, while you may be among those who’ve taken necessary steps to prepare for the “big one” which may or may not occur some day in the near or distant future, too few of you give much, if any, thought to ensuring that you prepare for a far more common calamity. This one may not blow the roof off your practice – at least not all at once- but it will leave you flooded with anxiety and constantly scrambling to pick up the pieces. But no blaming the whims of Mother Nature, the disaster I’m talking about is purely of your own making and completely avoidable. Are you heading into the storm? Let’s check the barometer.
It usually starts with a fair amount of aggravation precipitated by employees who aren’t carrying out their responsibilities. For example, Carol isn’t scheduling appointments correctly. The temperature rises as the day and stress pile on. Jill’s approach with patients seems to change with the wind. One minute she allows any and all to slip out the front door at the first hint that they may not want to pay today, the next, quick as lightening, she’s pummeling them with the financial policy – absolutely no consistency in her approach and it’s blistering the bottom line. And then there’s Mary Beth who should be one of the rainmakers, yet she almost never reinforces treatment recommendations when she sees patients for their oral hygiene visits. Inefficient, ineffective, unproductive, unfulfilled. Yep, conditions are favorable for a major squall.
Perhaps it’s time you created a better, much more predictable forecast. Start by answering a few questions. What steps have you taken to ensure team members are clear on their responsibilities? Have you told employees what you want and exactly what they are supposed to be doing? If there is a 2 p.m. hole in the schedule, does Carol know definitively that it is her responsibility to fill that opening and to schedule to meet daily production goals?
Oftentimes doctors cannot comprehend why employees don’t carry out their assignments as they expect them to, after all the dentist knows what he/she is supposed to do so she/he assumes the staff understands their duties as well. It seldom occurs to the doctor that they actually have to spell out specific responsibilities in the form of job descriptions for employees. The reaction is typically along these lines, “Well she worked in a dental practice before. I thought she understood these things.” Or, “I’m pretty sure we talked about that stuff in the job interview.” Or, “Don’t you think that should be common sense?” Or, my personal favorite, “I’ve told them what I don’t want.” Meanwhile the team is left to merely drift along.
Employees rely on the doctor for clear, fundamental direction as much as the doctor relies on the staff to keep the practice moving smoothly in the right direction. But too often the most elementary tool for ensuring everyone is on track, the job description, is never utilized. It’s the “preparedness plan” for every position on the team, and if it’s not in place chances are pretty good that those routine clouds that float into any day swirl into far more serious storms with little warning. Next week spell out the duties and plan for sunny days ahead.
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