Conflict in Eight Steps
Rolling eyes, snide comments,
poor attitudes, staff conflict bubbles to the surface in many different
and often subtle ways. It’s easy to ignore these undercurrents
of discontent and pretend they don’t really affect you. Look
the other direction and maybe the problem will just drift away.
Such delusional thinking is certainly comforting until reality kicks
in and the ramifications of this approach are plainly evident in
black and white: lost productivity, absenteeism, increased cancellations,
lower treatment acceptance, costly mistakes, etcetera, etcetera.
negative attitudes and poor performance that are too often dismissed
with an “Oh that’s just Shirley,” or some other
lame excuse cost practices thousands of dollars a year. Admittedly
most people prefer to turn on their heels and run in the opposite
direction than stand toe-to-toe with conflict. But the only way
to manage this subversive practice destroyer is to tackle it head
process need not be painful or particularly difficult, but it does
need to be clear and direct. Take charge. Yes, it’s easier
said than done, and admittedly many dentists would prefer to hide
in a patient’s mouth. But focusing on staff communication
and accountability can significantly reduce the differences and
get the practice back on track. Here’s how:
a conscious effort to expand communication with your staff.
If they are working against each other, exhibiting poor attitudes
and equally poor performance they may not be getting enough direction
and feedback from you - the doctor.
a small amount of time and resources in personality testing.
Staff members who understand the personalities of their colleagues,
including the dentist, are much better prepared to work with them
define job responsibilities. With job descriptions, team
members understand their roles on the team. Subsequently, they
recognize who is responsible for which systems and who is accountable
for those systems.
expectations for employees and, if necessary, provide
training to enable them to meet those expectations.
morning huddles to address day-to-day issues that can cause rifts,
such as placement of emergency patients both today and tomorrow.
regular meetings with staff and follow a specific written
meetings, require each employee to report on the system(s)
they are accountable for.
what is happening with each specific system – scheduling,
accounts receivable, recall, etc.
constructive strategies for addressing any concerns that arise
related to the performance of specific systems.
deadlines and delegate responsibility to individual staff
to pursue the problem solving strategies that have been identified.
that clear information be shared among the team. For
example, give front desk staff necessary details on time required
for procedures and charges associated with those procedures.
clear standards for professional office behavior. Do
not tolerate destructive personal attacks among team members.
Focus on systems and what is or is not working in the systems.
Give employees regular feedback. And celebrate the success of
both the team and the individual players.
Staff conflict will not disappear on its own. The best way to manage
it is to confront it head on. An understanding of diverse personalities,
job descriptions, and maintaining basic office systems all can significantly
reduce tensions in your practice.
you have any questions or comments, please email Sally McKenzie
in having Sally speak to your dental society or study club?
YOU FIND YOURSELF WAIST DEEP IN
HERE TO ANSWER THESE
10 EASY QUESTIONS
Would A Dentist Need Coaching?
Dr. Nancy Haller
explained the difference between coaching and counseling in your
last article. I run a relatively small operation in comparison to
a corporate executive with hundreds of employees. I’m having
a hard time understanding why a dentist would need coaching.
Dr. New York
Dear Dr. New York,
the problems of large organizations are not identical to yours.
You have a handful of people to look after, not hundreds. But the
job of leading is never simple, whether you are
the head of a multi-national company or an independent business
Take a few minutes and answer the following10 questions.
the job of being the boss frustrate you?
you feel that you are the only one who cares about getting the
work out day-in and day-out?
there employees you try to avoid or work around?
you think you communicate clear directions only to find mistakes
you find yourself with more and more work trying to compensate
you tried to get more commitment and motivation from your employees
but problems still continue?
you get angry at your staff because they don’t achieve the
level of results you expect?
you worry that you may not be successful?
you feel stretched too thin?
you questioning your choice of career paths?
These are the same issues confronting Fortune 500 executives. While
budgetary resources may be larger, leadership challenges
are equally demanding.
of us are thrust into many different leadership roles throughout
our lives. Somewhere you were asked to step forward – in school,
church or synagogue, as a parent, dinner party host/hostess, organizing
a carpool or community event, managing a household, guiding a youth
sport league. In each of those situations, you had to learn
new information, skills, strategies in order to be effective.
Learning to be a good leader is no different.
experience is that dentists are very smart people about what they
do, but their experiences do not guarantee that they can run a business
that works. The transformation from being an outstanding
individual performer to being ‘in charge’ is
one of the most difficult changes you may ever go through in your
career. The job of being the ‘boss’ is more
than giving orders.
many dentists, the process of going from expert professional
to novice leader is a stretch outside their range of experience.
The good news is that effective leaders are made, not born.
Just like the training you would pursue to learn a new dental procedure
or the use of a new product, leadership skills can be acquired with
information and rehearsal. Yet, one of the biggest myths I’ve
come across with dentists is about this very notion. When it comes
to managing people, dentists believe they should somehow know how
to do this, and if they don’t know, they need to learn it
potential to become a good or better leader is well within
your capability. One thing you must commit to, if you want
to practice better leadership, is the willingness to learn from
every experience, particularly the painful ones, because they teach
the richest lessons. Leadership is about improving yourself and
in that process you also strengthen your business. But it will take
time and dedication. It may require you to modify some of your behaviors,
or learn new ways of responding to staff. It is likely to be uncomfortable
in order to maintain your commitment, you need support. Coaching
is designed to help you to sustain focus and effort toward your
goal of becoming a more successful leader. Remember, coaching
is an opportunity to learn and grow. It is not a punishment
or a sign of weakness or failure.
are some additional questions to help you assess your coaching readiness.
devote 1-2 hours per week to work on myself (1 hour with a coach
and at least 1 hour on my own)?
to be patient, recognizing that behavioral change (mine or others)
to take a look at my strengths as well as areas for improvement?
to be honest and open-minded with myself and my coach?
to take risks and step outside my comfort zone?
to take an active role in the coaching process?
to involve others in my coaching when/if it is necessary?
can learn to lead. Let me know if you’d like some assistance.
in having Dr. Haller speak to your dental society or study club?
her at firstname.lastname@example.org
DOES YOUR OVERHEAD
ME IN COACH, I’M READY TO PLAY”
Belle M. DuCharme, RDA,
Director/ The Center for
Dental Career Development
success of any venture, whether it is a ball game or a productive
day at the dental office, depends on the people involved. Do they
have the knowledge and the training to get the job done well or
to win the “game”? Professional coaches
study the game stats of a potential team member before offering
a contract. They also consider the personal strengths and
weaknesses of the candidate and how these attributes will
affect the other members of the team.
dentists hire staff based on the “past” experience
at their last places of employment. Do they test the potential employee
for the skills necessary to do the job correctly at their office?
Some offices ask for a “working interview”
to determine the skill level of a potential employee. The clinical
candidate is usually asked to clean instruments, seat patients and
assist the doctor for simple procedures. The front office person
is asked to answer the phone, post some simple payments and schedule
some appointments. The staff has an opportunity to see the “personality”
of the candidate and decide if this person is a good fit. Of course,
this person is on their “best” behavior.
This is all accomplished in one day for someone you want as a team
member for ten years or more.
Very frequently there is a “rush” to get a warm body
to fill a position to relieve the stress placed on other staff members.
This can be a fatal mistake, especially if the
person you are looking to hire will be managing the business of
your practice. Without a thorough understanding of the systems and
numbers that create a profitable and smooth running practice how
can this new employee be expected to maintain any level
of success? Truth is, they can’t. In my many years
of going into offices and the occasional “cleaning house”
I can tell you that “turnover” at the front desk should
be called “bailing out of a sinking ship.”
No one wants to fail, however, without the proper training it is
inevitable. The following is a list of common reasons why efforts
to retain quality staff are not working and why new hires don’t
succeed or become mediocre performers.
descriptions and or job performance expectations do not
personality types of the applicants are not
considered. (Testing is available for Personality Types here at
techniques do not enable you to learn the most about
the applicant and their qualifications.
dentist embellishes the explanation of the practice
and the prospective employee’s opportunities for growth.
are not checked.
applicant’s skills are not tested. (Math
test for front office)
employees or the doctor trains the new employee
when “time permits.”
manuals or written operational systems for new
staff are non-existent.
office I recall was advertising to replace their Business Manager
who was retiring after thirteen years of service. Upon looking at
the accounts receivable, I was aghast. There was two and half times
the average monthly production in 90 days past due. I asked her
why she allowed this to happen. She explained, “There
should be enough in accounts receivables to support the doctor for
one year should he become disabled in any way.” Her financial
policy was “we will bill you.” I was glad she was retiring.
What if she applied at your office for your business manager position?
After all, she certainly is “experienced”.
employees work habits and attitude are greatly influenced by their
personality type. Personality cannot be overlooked
when hiring a new member of your team. There are several different
types of personality types. For example, extroverted
types like to have people around them in the work environment. Introverted
types would rather send a bill or letter instead of asking for payment
at the desk. Thinking types tend to be firm minded
and have no problem collecting when the fees are due but feeling
types may “feel sorry” for the patient and say “we
will bill you”. When you understand how personality can influence
behavior you will learn to recognize how you can overcome certain
traits to accomplish your tasks successfully. Skill and
experience are only part of creating the successful team.
The right personality for the position is just as important. Here
Center of Dental Career Development we have a Business
Administrator Training Program that provides the necessary skills
for your front office manager to become a knowledgeable expert at
managing your practice. Understanding how to best create a happy,
productive team based on skill, training and personality is an important
part of the curriculum. My next article will examine Job Descriptions
and attracting the right people.
this: Just because he can swing the bat doesn’t
mean he can hit the ball out of the park.
M. DuCharme, RDA, CDPMA
YOU LIKE TO HAVE
Exceptional Front Office Employees?
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than it is?. . .
. . . but not sure
where to start?
easy and effective method to measure your dental employee’s
employee performance is a dreaded task for most dentists. Now
it will be easier using objective performance measurements that
are specifically designed for the dental practice. These extensive,
ready-to-use appraisal forms help you measure an employee's performance
based on everything from Job Descriptions to Productivity to Work
Ethics and Coorperation.
Performance Measurements kit includes an extensive workbook with
copy-ready appraisal forms and measurement graphs to use for each
employee. In addition, you will learn how to determine the number
of employees needed for a successful practice, how to design results-oriented
job descriptions for all business and clinical staff, use performance
charting to objectively measure your employees, and make sound
hiring and firing decisions.
GOALS IN 2004?
us help you and your team establish an overall business plan
for the upcoming year. Achieve your goals with our two day
Team Building Retreat!
your time in La Jolla, we also encourage you and your team
to take advantage of some of La Jolla’s incredible activities:
golf, surfing, professional
sports, wine tasting, horseback riding and a whole lot more!!
new receptionist is willing and anxious to start calling some of
our patients that haven’t followed through with treatment.
Do you have any suggestions?
Dr. New Orleans,
is a proven fact that patients buy the benefits of your services
– not your services. They need to clearly understand how they
will benefit from making and keeping their appointments.
her to choose words, phrases, and questions that encourage patients
to take the desired action and use words that express conviction,
- “We definitely need to reevaluate that upper right side.”
- “I absolutely agree with you.”
Let me recommend – “Let me recommend
that Mary, our hygienist, provide you with information on the
whitening techniques now available.”
– “Certainly, I will tell Doctor about your concern
with that crown.”
assure you – “I assure you that you will
be out by 4 o’clock.”
communication with the patient also includes effective listening
– including listening to objections that you don’t want
to hear. The patient needs to be given the opportunity to talk,
to express concern, to offer alternatives, suggestions, etc. Demonstrate
that you care about what the patient has to say. Don’t interrupt.
Again, show respect for the patient. Empathize with the patient.
Always remember: to the patient, the person on the phone is the
Sally McKenzie, CEO
US TRAIN YOUR
Center for Dental Career Development
Business Education for Dental Professionals
737 Pearl Street,
La Jolla, CA 92037
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