When it Comes to Staff, Is ‘Potential’ Enough?
by Sally McKenzie CEO
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When good help is hard to come by and you have what you consider to be a rising star on your staff, it’s easy to convince yourself that she/he could handle just about anything you toss her/his way. Consider Dr. Morton’s experience. Carolyn was a rising star on Dr. Morton’s team. She seemed to bring the whole “package.” She was bright, energetic, and enthusiastic. She was good with the patients and great with her teammates. The kind of employee who has tremendous potential, a rising star who could be a superstar given the right opportunity.
Dr. Morton felt confident promoting Carolyn from business assistant to office manager when the opportunity arose. She had been with the practice for just over a year and had indicated an interest in taking on additional responsibility. But it was a move that both Dr. Morton and Carolyn would eventually regret.
Here’s where things went wrong. Dr. Morton assumed that because Carolyn was bright and confident she could “figure out” her role as office manager, after all she’d worked for the previous office manager. But Carolyn was never given a job description. Consequently, she was making up her duties as she went along. With little direction as to what the expectations of the job were, she was left to interpret her responsibilities as best she could. Every employee must have a job description that clearly defines the job, spells out specific skills needed for the position, and outlines precisely the duties and responsibilities. A job title is not a job description.
Guidance from Dr. Morton was vague at best. For example, she would tell Carolyn that she wanted her to improve cash flow, but there were no specifics. Carolyn, for her part, would take the ball and run with it. In some cases, that can be a tremendous employee strength, in others it can be disastrous. In this case, Carolyn began unilaterally implementing policy with little input from staff and the doctor.
Direction from the doctor in the form of ongoing feedback is critical, especially for a new employee or an existing employee in a new position. Constructive feedback given regularly helps employees continuously fine tune and improve the manner in which they carry out their responsibilities. It’s also the dentist’s most effective tool in shaping and guiding employees into high-performing team members.
In addition, Carolyn was never offered any type of office manager training. It doesn’t matter how bright, how energetic, how seemingly good with patients your rising star is, if this person does not receive training, they will very likely fail. In fact, the number one reason why practices don’t reach their potential is the number one reason why teams don’t reach their potential – lack of training.
Although it was completely unintentional, Carolyn was set up to fail. In addition to zero training in her new position, she had also never been given any real management duties before being tapped for the role of office manager. She was promoted based on her potential not proven experience. Yes, she’d been a business assistant who seemed competent in that role, but she’d not been given enough management duties to prepare her for the demands of the new position. She’d been given the title, the salary, and the authority but was tossed into the role with no training and very little guidance.
This bright, energetic person with great potential couldn’t single-handedly overcome the odds. And the negative impact of her failure reverberated across the practice. Patients left, staff turnover spiked, Carolyn quit in frustration, and Dr. Morton posted what was financially her worst year in practice.
Great “potential” is no guarantee. Give your employees the tools and training they need to succeed and you’ll virtually ensure that your rising stars will, indeed, become superstars.
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