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  9.10.04 Issue #131
   

What Not to Say


Sally Mckenzie, CEO
McKenzie Management
sallymck@
mckenziemgmt.com

       If everyone is covering for everyone else, chances are pretty good that the only thing covered well is everyone’s tracks. Dentists love to embrace the illusion that in their practice team members can just step in and take over virtually any function when duty calls. They like to say that the team members are “cross trained.” In reality little, if any, actual training has ever occurred.

Dentists will cling to this method – if you can call it that – even as production, patient retention, collections, scheduling, and other systems are

spiraling. The doctor’s stress builds, revenues fall, and no one is accountable for anything because everyone is doing everything … poorly.

If staff are simply expected to “fill in” wherever they are needed, no one has the opportunity to take ownership or to shine because the focus is merely on getting the job done, not getting the job done well. Giving staff members the opportunity to do the job well means explaining in writing job duties and the expectations. In other words, you simply must provide job descriptions.

Spell out for the employee their individual responsibilities and your specific expectations in black and white. Explain how those responsibilities fit into the overall practice goals so that the employee has some understanding of the big picture. If your newly designated scheduling coordinator understands why it is important that the hygienist be scheduled to meet daily production goals she can better appreciate the value of her contribution to your team.

Start with the fundamentals. The job description doesn’t need to be long and complex. You can modify it as time goes on but begin with the job title, a summary of the position, a list of the responsibilities, and duties of the position.

Now involve the employee. With the team member’s input, establish individual performance goals that compliment practice goals, such as increasing collection ratio, reducing accounts receivables, improving treatment acceptance and maximizing the hygiene schedule.

Establish standards for measuring results. For example, if you expect collections to be at 98%, tell your front desk staff, help them to develop a strategy to achieve that rate, including collections training if necessary, and each month during the staff meeting give them the opportunity to report on how well the new system is working. When they are responsible for reporting on the progress of a system they take ownership and recognize they are accountable for its success.

Remember, the difference between doing the job well and just doing the job is in the commitment, attitude, and expectation of each employee. Once you’ve given them the opportunity to shine, sit back and enjoy the glow.

If you have any questions or comments, please email Sally McKenzie at sallymck@mckenziemgmt.com.

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Developing Your GAG Reflex: Making Learning Easier to Swallow


Dr. Nancy Haller
Executive Coach
McKenzie Management
coach@
mckenziemgmt.com

        Eliminating the gag reflex is an important step when treating patients, but it will stifle success if you avoid it yourself.

G.A.G. - Going Against the Grain

The willingness to learn and grow is key to developing yourself as a leader and taking your practice to its fullest potential.

Yet I am amazed how bright, talented people avoid stretching themselves and going outside their comfort zone.

The "comfort zone" is a state where you are "comfortable" in your role. You may be doing enough to "get by" and there is little pressure or even interest to do things differently because there is some success, albeit only average. Many dentists who are in their own comfort zone will not challenge this situation even though they know that they could achieve a lot more. They tell themselves that it’s too time consuming or counter productive to upset the "apple cart". They let the status quo remain. End result - average performance and average results at best!

As we age, the ability to adapt, to move outside our comfort zone becomes more difficult. But if you don’t force yourself to grow, you will never achieve the highest level of performance.

Think of a business expansion strategy that will require you to "stretch" beyond the current capacity of both your practice and yourself as CEO.

What makes this stretch attractive to you?
What makes this stretch unattractive or frightening?

Are you limiting the growth potential of your company for unresolved personal reasons? What are they?

Dentists are notoriously perfectionists. On the positive side, this bodes well for precision, accuracy, follow-through. However, perfectionists are fearful of uncertainty or ambiguity, of giving up control and ‘letting go’. They demand immediate results from themselves (and others), and are unwilling to go out on a limb and take the chance of being embarrassed. Unfortunately, this prevents true learning.

Many of us prefer to stay in the comfort zone and then, over time, the comfort zone becomes more uncomfortable than ever before. How ironic! The act of avoidance that offers a temporary sense of security becomes unrelenting insecurity. And, thus a disabling condition of stagnation sets in.

If you don't step out of your comfort zone and face your fears, the number of situations that make you uncomfortable will keep growing. Over time, you run the risk of feeling "surrounded" by previously avoided situations. It is difficult to go against the grain. Here then are some ways to make learning easier to swallow.

  1. Recognize and accept that learning or doing something new is uncomfortable. The discomfort is normal. And while it’s natural to want to avoid that feeling, commit to do one thing differently each day.
  2. Manage your emotions and your mood state. Anger, worries, doubts, depression, and other negative emotions interfere with learning and performance. Practice deep breathing when you feel overwhelmed and pressured.
  3. Be sure you maintain healthy habits. Exercise, eat nutritionally, get sufficient sleep. The stronger you are physically, the faster you will incorporate the new learning.
  4. Mentally and emotionally, prepare yourself for the change by anticipating what it will be like. Visualize the completion of your goal and imagine experiencing the adrenalin rush of "I did it" feeling. Envision the benefits of a smoother running office, more income, more time off to spend on recreational activities.
  5. Nurture self-confidence. Your thoughts shape your future. Almost all anxious thoughts are irrational. Instead of worrying about possible failures and slip-ups, recognize your strengths. Remember times when you have succeeded. Reflect on experiences when you overcame adversity.
  6. Give yourself ‘time out’ from learning. Build in time to escape into music, games, reading.
  7. Get support from family and friends. Get a mentor or hire a coach. Learning is hard work and you need encouragement. Feeling connected with others also reduces inner tension.
  8. Avoid regret or self-blame. It will only prevent new learning.
  9. Use humor. Norman Cousins said that laughing is "inner jogging". He called it a work out. Several studies show that laughing lessens the need for pain medication and shortens recuperation time.
  10. Celebrate progress. Reward yourself and your staff when positive change happens. By recognizing even small accomplishments, you build motivation to sustain learning.

If the desire to stay in your "comfort zone" is preventing you from reaching for the stars, give me a call. I will help you to develop your GAG reflex.

Dr. Haller is available to speak to your dental society or study club on subjects such as interpersonal communication, conflict management, and team building. If you would like information about any of her practice-building seminars, contact her at coach@mckenziemgmt.com or 1-877-777-6151 Ext. 33

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Olympics and Dentistry

From the Patient’s Perspective


         The Summer Olympics of 2004 have concluded. For two weeks this celebration of body, mind, and unshakeable spirit captivated the world. Countries from every corner of the globe converged on Athens to peacefully demonstrate their mastery in a multitude of Olympic sports from swimming, to taekwondo, to

track and field, and many more. Each nation sent their hometown heroes, superstars, as well as virtual unknowns.

Focus, concentration, skill, determination, and practice, practice, practice - no athlete earned the opportunity to enter this magical arena, reserved for only the most extraordinary and truly elite, without all of the above. United States gymnast Carly Patterson is no exception. She bounded onto the Olympic stage stunning audiences with her acrobatic abilities and capturing them with her poise beyond years and electric smile.

Carly’s orthodontist had to have been proud as she fielded one question after another from the swarming media answering each with that smile gracing her young face. It was just before the Olympics that Carly’s braces came off. Very aware of the impact of that smile, Carly recently was quoted in Parade Magazine that she would like to become an orthodontist saying, “You smile a lot in gymnastics, and I think one thing everyone should have is great teeth. Clean, white, straight teeth.”

Carly’s desire to consider dentistry as a career likely stems from not only seeing the end result but also the relationship that grew between her and her orthodontist. The regular check-ups, adjustments, etc. were the moments in which her orthodontist showed interest in her and her life.

Perhaps Carly’s orthodontist made sure that both Carly and her parents knew that he/she appreciated the opportunity to provide care for Carly. Perhaps he/she always encouraged Carly and her parents to ask questions. Chances are that Carly’s orthodontist took other steps to leave a lasting impression on this young girl, perhaps by making follow-up phone calls from time to time and making sure that he/she was focused on the patient in the chair and not interrupted with other non-practice related issues. Granted, it’s purely speculation what steps Carly’s orthodontist might take to make the experience for his/her patients special, but with even the smallest overtures dentists can have a profound positive impact on their patient interactions. Indeed, success in dentistry is often defined by the quality of those relationships, for without them there are no patients and there is no dentistry.

Most of your patients will never see the inside of an Olympic arena, let alone compete. They are the people who keep the everyday world in motion, the mothers, fathers, and children, leaders and followers, blue collar, white collar, and no collar workers. But the beauty of dentistry is that each patient can be treated with the same care and commitment to quality that you would treat the next luminary to enter your practice.

And just as there will be no Olympics for the majority of your patients there are no Olympics for dentists. You don’t wait four years for one moment in time that defines you as a superstar or relegates you to the ranks of those who tried and failed. Your gold medals walk in every day. They are the patients who can be difficult and don’t think that they deserve any care; yet you stay focused on providing them only the best treatment. They are the patients who are so good that you feel that they should be given even more attention – like routines that you know too well. They are those who are demanding and argumentative or try to take advantage of you that enable you to demonstrate your remarkable grace under pressure.

No, you won’t be featured on the Wheaties™ box anytime soon, but focus a bit more on the quality of your patient relationships and you can be assured that your performance with today’s challenging as well as routine “exercises” will resonate across your community for decades to come.

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Sally's Mail Bag

Dear Sally,
What is your opinion about confirming appointments? I have front office employees who are complaining about the time it takes to do them.
Dr. Peter Lexed

Dear Doctor,
Some things in business that are worthwhile take time. Not confirming invites people not to show up. Patients are conditioned to getting a call from your office. Successful confirmation is not leaving a message with a person other than the patient as leaving a message on a voice mail system is not reliable. The calls should also begin within an hour or two hours from the beginning of your work day which leaves the rest of the day to trouble shoot any problems. I would also recommend getting email addresses from your patients, asking them if they check email everyday and informing them you will begin confirmation by email and then programming your preferences to give you a return receipt. I would also suggest when calling that instead of saying “calling to confirm your appointment” to say “we’re looking forward to seeing you tomorrow”.
Hope this is helpful.
Sally


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