Are You Leading Your Team to Average or Excellence?
Excellence can be an intimidating concept. After all, an entire industry has been built searching for it since Tom Peters released his bestselling book in 1982. With all the guides, books, formulas and motivational speakers that have dedicated countless pages of wisdom and endless hours of inspiration, we’ve learned this: Achieving excellence comes down to hard work, commitment, and most importantly, leadership.
At the root of excellence - or even “very good” - is change. And change in any organization, be it a corporate giant such as Microsoft or your own dental practice, is a huge undertaking. In fact, studies have shown that 60-90% of the efforts to change the way things are done never make it to fruition. Why? Because the culture of almost every business is “hardwired” from the top down. In other words, if those driving the train don’t change course, everyone else is just another cart on the same track, along for the same journey, and on their way to the same destination, yet again.
But the beauty of the dental practice is that if you, doctor, are not satisfied or don’t like the direction of your practice, you have the power to change it. In reality, only you have the power to change it. Yes, you need your team to be actively involved. But real change begins with you. From there comes the development of the plan, which involves asking a few fundamental questions, starting with: What’s your vision for your practice? What does a really good dental practice do differently? How do we get there?
Next, is fact finding. Talk to your patients about their experiences. You don’t need to conduct a formal survey, although it’s helpful if you can. At a minimum, ask how your practice can do things better. Just remember that only a handful will be honest with you - and those that do share less than stellar comments are doing you a huge favor in offering their candid opinions. Here’s why: studies indicate that if one person complains, at least seven have had the same negative experience and each of them has told nine others about the problem, meaning that at least one negative comment about your practice has been shared with 63 others in your community – not exactly the word-of-mouth marketing you want out there.
From there, begin to assemble the building blocks of practice excellence by examining each individual system and how it fits into the vision of the office that you have chosen to create. What does the new patient experience involve in a practice that is dedicated to setting itself apart from the others in the community? How do patients feel when they call a practice that is committed to excellence? How is the team involved in carrying out the practice culture that the doctor wants to create? Once the broad-brush concepts are identified, take an honest look at how your team currently handles specific systems. Don’t sugar coat it.
Next, ask your employees for their input. What do they see as the strengths and weakness of practice systems and protocols? What changes would they recommend to improve them? What protocols could be developed to reduce stress and improve the patient experience, practice productivity, and the total culture of the office? Develop your plan for each area and put it in writing. Focus on the specifics of each practice system, and create a timeline for addressing individual areas.
Remember, keep it manageable and establish realistic goals. Changing efforts frequently fall short because businesses attempt to take on too much too soon and quickly become overwhelmed. Some system changes can be implemented in a few weeks while others may require up to a full year.
Finally, recognize that there are many dental teams that simply cannot make the necessary changes on their own. Oftentimes, doctor and staff are too close to the situation to be able to step back and objectively consider what is truly working and what needs to be corrected. In those circumstances, it’s critical to seek outside help from a professional.
Next week, what to do when the desire for change and the reality of achieving it are worlds apart.
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