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Dr. Delbert Hughes – Case Study #28
“How do I hold my business staff accountable? I work side-by-side with my clinical staff so I know what they do all day. I have no idea what my front desk team does!”
OK…I can see why a doctor might wonder this kind of thing. Not only does the tooth fairy bring money for teeth left under the pillow but she also answers phones, files insurance, schedules appointments, makes plane reservations, keeps up with the doctor’s meeting schedules, cleans out the “frig” in the staff lounge, replaces the toilet paper in the patient restroom, etc. Yes, I am sure that he wonders what they do all day long.
Dr. Hughes’ practice demographics
The Business Team
I assume that you get the picture. They both do everything and neither one of them is held accountable for any of the tasks. Now don’t get me wrong…it was not their fault.
What is the Purpose of a Job Description?
The concept of “job descriptions” is misunderstood by many doctors and staff. The first thought is that it means that certain people are capable of doing only certain things and no one else should know what the other does. This is not true in most dental offices. Because the staff is usually limited to one – three people, it is necessary that everyone is familiar with what the other does. Then, you ask, what is the purpose?
Where certain tasks are assigned to specific team members, it means that they are “responsible” for getting the job done and done correctly. They can certainly “farm out” the task to another team member that is willing to assist when they have time. However, the owner of the task is ultimately responsible. If the person they “farmed out” the task to performed it incorrectly or incompletely, the doctor looks to the responsible party for correction. No more, “I don’t know, I didn’t do it.”
How to Assign Job Descriptions:
Let’s take Joyce and Kathy. After I interviewed both of them and having reviewed their temperament type, this is what I discovered:
Joyce was Extroverted. She enjoyed talking with patients and knew how to make them feel welcome and comfortable. She was also a Thinker. She made her decisions on how she felt about situations and tried not to allow her feelings to get in the way of the systematic way of doing things. Her new job description of Schedule and Financial Coordinator included the following tasks:
Kathy was Introverted and a Feeler. She was better suited and felt more comfortable “behind the scenes” and not multi-tasking. She preferred to complete a task before starting another one. She didn’t feel comfortable talking with patients about their finances because of her own. She was extremely dedicated to her job and was proficient at what she did. Her new job description of Insurance and Hygiene Coordinator included the following:
When anyone in the office has a question (including the doctor), they know who to go to for the answer for accountability. Monthly statistics are presented to the doctor and team by Joyce and Kathy of their own “department”, illustrating their performance and ability to reach designated goals.
Dr. Hughes understood now why it was important to “coordinate” his business staff for better performance and, more importantly, accountability. No more, “I don’t know.” or “Gosh, Dr. Hughes, I didn’t post payments that day.”
I offered a concept to him: “If they are performing and reaching goals – the patients and other staff members are happy because they are team players – so what if they spend a few minutes talking about American Idol? They are coordinated!”
Dr. Nancy Haller
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In my last article I talked about the importance of hiring the best people for your dental practice. Turns out that the old adage 'Employees are your most important asset' is not quite accurate. Jim Collins, author of the book "Good to Great", summed it up by saying that great companies "first get the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus, and the right people in the right seats”. He added, “People are not your most important asset. The right people are”.
Your challenge is to keep them on your bus. Here are five important ways to help you retain and inspire your staff.
Don't try to fit a square peg into a round hole. No matter how talented the person, matching employees successfully with the work they do is the key. When people feel competent, they are more inclined to take interest in their daily duties. When they are given the opportunity to use their natural skills, productivity increases. Even the most hardworking employees will be stressed if the job they’re hired for is a poor fit with their personality. That’s because personality predicts aspects of performance not necessarily related to knowledge, skills and abilities.
For example, in the long run, most shy individuals do not make very good treatment coordinators. They can go through the motions but they get exhausted being around people. On the other hand, true extroverts generally grow weary if they are assigned to work alone doing your billing.
Give regular feedback; avoid surprises. A study in 2001 involving some 20,000 exit interviews found that the No. 1 reason people leave jobs is "poor supervisory behavior." In other words, bad bosses. And the biggest factor cited was poor communication skills.
If you are going to keep the right people on your bus you need to make time for employees. Voice appreciation and recognize their efforts to do good work. Schedule short, one-to-one meetings with them at least once a month. Find out how they feel about their work, the practice, their interactions with co-workers and patients.
If employees have performance problems let them know and discuss ways to improve their work. Don’t wait until the annual evaluation. Your staff should be told well beforehand, and as kindly as possible, if there is something you want them to do differently.
Water your garden. The number one reason that people stay ‘on the bus’ has to do with developmental opportunities, not how well they are paid. You may have a small practice but you can still talk with your employees about what they like to do most, and how you envision them growing in their job. Top performers want and need to feel challenged. Explore what new opportunities they see in their work with you. Providing your staff with opportunities to expand their skills will show them that you are interested in them as people not just as employees.
Be a model of trust and respect. If you want good morale, high production and low turnover, you need to set the example. Leadership is about influencing others and nothing speaks louder than a leader’s actions. Above all, be honest in what you say and do.
The first ingredient of trust is competence. People will only follow someone they feel is competent. Articulate your vision, provide a workable plan, and then execute. Next, back up words with actions. If you don’t follow through with your commitments your employees will become cynical and disengaged. Then place your trust and confidence in your staff. Demonstrate that by delegating well and not micromanaging.
Remember, employees leave companies because of poor leadership and management. And human nature is that employees will accept mistakes if you are open about them. Apologize for your errors and be a model of accountability.
Make time for camaraderie and rejuvenation. When employees understand the importance of mutual cooperation, they assimilate the belief that “none of us is as good as all of us.” Plan a retreat that integrates team building with real-time work goals. Establish a systematic workplace integration and follow-up process before the event. You need to make the good feelings and the outcomes from the team building activity last beyond the final team building exercise.
Every dental leader wants employees who are happy in their jobs with great attitudes. When employees like their work, they perform better. Thus, productivity is higher. You experience less turnover. You save money. Your practice is more profitable.
Do you have the right people on your bus? Contact Nancy Haller at firstname.lastname@example.org and she’ll help you with hiring and retention.
Dr. Haller can help you to get your practice from good to great.
Contact her at email@example.com.
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