Put an End to the Ultimate Time Waster
It is the most maligned ritual in our modern business culture. For too many, it is viewed as a waste of time and resources. For others, it’s a negative black hole that sucks the energy out of the team. For some, it’s seen as the chance to talk and talk about change, but no real change ever occurs. For a few, it’s merely a social hour. The dynamics of staff meetings are as varied as the teams themselves, but most agree that this routine custom is not nearly as effective as it could or should be. Typically, meetings can’t produce results that satisfy anyone because there isn’t a system or standard established.
Here’s the common scenario: Most of the group shuffles in at the appointed hour, a few others straggle in a few minutes late. Eventually, the meeting begins. Oops, whoever was supposed to prepare the agenda forgot. The group will have to wing it. Caroline, the business manager, pipes up that she wants to give her report on collections and accounts receivables first because she has to leave the meeting early for an appointment. Caroline begins but is soon interrupted by Jennifer, the scheduling coordinator, who said she heard that the practice down the street raised fees. For the next 15 minutes the group discusses which businesses in town have the highest fees on everything from crowns to oil changes to happy hour drink prices. Caroline has to leave and can’t finish her report.
From there, the hygienist, Joe, reports on production in his area, noting that cancellations and no-shows seem to be fluctuating. One month they are up, the next month they are down. At that point, Ann, the assistant, reminds the group that Jennifer was supposed to develop a plan to fix those holes in the schedule. Jennifer bristles and reminds everyone that her maternity leave threw everything off schedule. She’s just now finding the time to take care of extra duties such as this one. As if on cue, Jennifer’s reference to maternity leave prompts everyone to start talking, sharing stories about the births of their children, their nieces and nephews, etc. Before you know it, time’s up. Once again, nothing has been accomplished.
The doctor silently vows never to have another meeting again. Yet she knows that meetings are critical to sharing information among the team. There has to be a better way, and there is. Staff meetings should be treated like any other practice system - with standards, roles and responsibilities, and expectations for specific outcomes. Too often meetings are called with no specific purpose or objective in mind.
Typically, in the dental office, there are two types of meetings - the daily meeting and the monthly meeting. The monthly meeting should be scheduled for at least two hours. This is the opportunity to review the various systems and focus attention on larger issues and topics that help move the practice toward achieving its goals. That being said, ensuring that your monthly meeting is not a time waster doesn’t just happen. It requires planning and preparation.
First ask yourself, what is the purpose of the meeting? What is to be achieved before the meeting concludes? For example, the purpose of the meeting is to define what actions need to be taken to address the frequent no-shows and last minute cancellations. You might also have a portion of the meeting dedicated to a quick review of each system/area of the practice. But the key is that everyone goes into the meeting understanding what the purpose is, and they are prepared to help the group work toward that purpose.
Next, identify the specific outcomes that need to come out of the meeting. Ask yourself what must be accomplished before everyone walks out of the room. For example, you and your team have developed an action plan with specific steps to address the issue of no-shows and cancellations. You’ve determined who is responsible for each step, and deadlines have been established.
Knowing your purpose and what specific outcomes need to come out of your staff meetings is essential to improving their effectiveness immediately. But it doesn’t stop there.
Next week, 5 key strategies to keep the team on task and focused during every meeting.
Want more of me? Click here to visit my blog, The Lighter Side, for more Dental Practice Management info.
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