Purge the Negative Labels and Maximize Your Team
Conflict is a huge source of stress in the workplace. In the dental office, dentists and their teams will go out of their way to avoid confrontation - at a big cost. They tell themselves that the “go along to get along” approach is working, when in fact the practice is spinning out of control. It’s not until the situation between employees explodes or the system breakdown is so dramatic that it’s having a potentially devastating impact on the practice that conflict is actually addressed.
Typically, the greatest cause of conflict in the workplace is the fact that individuals fail to really understand one another. Rather, they assign labels to what they don’t understand or what they think they see in another’s behavior. If Carol doesn’t say “good morning,” then others assume she’s “rude.” Or if Paula procrastinates on some of her duties, she’s “lazy.” Amanda is “controlling” because she likes certain things done a specific way.
It’s easy to feel negatively toward people who exhibit behaviors that we don’t like, don’t agree with, or simply don’t understand. As Dr. Nancy Haller points out in the McKenzie Management Educational DVD Team Bonding & Building, it is common for extroverts to label their introverted colleagues as being “stuck up” or “moody” because extroverts don’t understand that introverts simply don’t share the same communication style.
Similarly, the dental practice may have several individuals who are much more feeling in their temperament, meaning they care deeply about the feelings of others and are quite sensitive to those feelings. Pair that with a doctor who may be more thinking in her personality type, and she may come across as abrupt, too direct, or even uncaring. The communication styles are misread because the individuals on the team do not have the tools to better understand each other. The challenge for dental teams is to set the labels aside and commit to appreciating each others’ differences and making those differences a source of creativity, problems solving, and positive energy. And that begins with temperament testing.
Temperament testing is essential in getting the right people in the right seats on the bus - to borrow from Jim Collins' reference in his book Good to Great. Choosing the best temperament types for specific positions from the beginning of employment is ideal, but not necessarily realistic. It’s likely that you may be in a situation in which an employee is working in a position for which s/he is not best suited. The first step in addressing a circumstance such as this is identifying what tasks within the job are not being handled to your level of expectation. Once you have identified these, establish performance measurements for the tasks.
For example, let's say your accounts receivable is 3x your monthly production when it should be no more than one month’s. And you know that Emily, the business assistant responsible for this duty, doesn't like to ask patients for money. It’s time to sit down with Emily and discuss the situation honestly and candidly. You may find that Emily needs additional training to help her effectively request payment from patients. Perhaps she needs scripts to guide her in politely asking for payment from some of the older patients who were used to being billed by the previous doctor. Or, you may discover that Emily absolutely hates to ask for money and this is simply not the right “seat on the bus” for her. She's been with you for five years and she knows all the patients. Thus, she may be much more suited to handle scheduling and recall.
The key to better identifying Emily’s role in the practice is first considering her temperament type. And you have to be honest with yourself. Some people are not cut out for certain roles in the practice. You would no more hire an assistant who faints at the sight of blood then hire a collections coordinator who is terrified to ask for payment.
It’s essential that you and your staff utilize the tools that are available to most effectively work together as a team. Not only will everyone be better positioned on “the bus,” you’ll be heading directly toward achieving your most desired goals and objectives.
Want more of me? Click here to visit my blog, The Lighter Side, for more Dental Practice Management info.
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