What You Say or Don't Say Will Be Held Against You
“It all comes down to communication.” Those immortal words have been used to describe success or failure in business, on the playing field and the battlefield, in the classroom, the treatment room, and virtually every other environment in which information must be effectively conveyed from one person to another to ensure a desired outcome. In the dental practice, your communication with staff and patients has a profound and powerful impact on whether you struggle or sail through your days.
Consider the case of “Dr. Robert.” He is a truly gifted clinician. His patients are tremendously fortunate, yet I suspect few have any real understanding of the talent this practitioner brings to the profession of dentistry. His employees, tragically, do not understand Dr. Robert. Few have lasted more than a year. He doesn’t have a “team” because the non-stop turnover in the office never allows a “team” to take shape. Thus, Dr. Robert has employees - mostly temporary. He does not understand how other practitioners can keep staff - sometimes for years - and he is on a seemingly perpetual quest to secure just one good worker who will not “find a better opportunity” within months.
In Dr. Robert’s mind, perfection is a must. He learned long ago that it is important to give “feedback” to employees immediately. Thus, as soon as he witnesses an employee performing a task that is not the way he would perform it, he gives immediate “feedback.”
The scenario typically unfolds something like this: “Nicole” is preparing instrument set-ups. Dr. Robert walks in and asks, “What are you doing?” Immediately, Nicole is put on the defensive. She can sense that Dr. Robert is upset. She responds sheepishly, “I’m preparing instrument set-ups, doctor. Is there something else you would like me to do?” Dr. Robert’s response: “Why are you doing it like THAT? They should be set up THIS way.” Dr. Robert has no regard for the impact of his communication. His intention is to set the employee straight on how he thinks the task, no matter how seemingly trivial, should be done.
Dr. Robert believes that to ensure things are done “just right” in his practice, it’s not important how the message is communicated. He has totally disregarded one of the most critical rules for effective communication: How you say it has far more weight than the actual words you use. In fact, as Dr. Nancy Haller explains in the McKenzie Management educational DVD You Said What? Mastering Communication - words alone are only 7% of the message you convey. Tone, attitude, body language and facial expression have a far greater impact on whether the recipient of your message actually receives it or shuts it out because your delivery of that message made them angry, upset, or uncomfortable.
Dr. Robert is both impatient and extremely direct. He doesn’t care to beat around the bush. His “feedback” comes across as criticism. It is neither helpful nor constructive. Sadly, because Dr. Robert is a boss whom his employees fear, no one is giving him feedback regarding his communication style. Thus, until he seeks to understand why he has a revolving door practice, his productivity will continue to fall well below its full potential.
Conversely, “Dr. Roseanne’s” practice is lined with mediocre performers, most of whom are convinced they are the “American Idol Superstars” of the dental team. Dr. Roseanne has made this bed of roses, or thorns as the case may be, herself. If there are issues or concerns with an employee she might dance around them, give a little hint here and there that maybe a few things could quite possibly be ever so slightly improved. She is extra careful not to be too specific about anything, so as not to offend the staff member who just might get mad and, heaven forbid, walk out.
The employees all go along assuming everything is fine and believing they are effective and contributing members of the team. Meanwhile, Dr. Roseanne is convinced that if she keeps dropping hints, the staff will figure it out and take steps to improve their performance. Nothing ever changes, except the percentage of lost revenues, which only increases.
“Hints” and subtle “clues” are not feedback. Constructive feedback, not criticism, should be given and received daily to help employees continuously fine tune and improve the manner in which the entire team carries out its responsibilities.
Next week - turning feedback into positive action.
Want more of me? Click here to visit my blog, The Lighter Side, for more Dental Practice Management info.
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