Jump Start Your ‘Mid Year’s’ Resolutions
Dr. Nancy Haller
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You have 2 employees who are at odds with one another - Linda is the Scheduling Coordinator and Cheryl is the Hygienist. A new patient is waiting and Linda notifies the entire office via instant message. The patient is on Cheryl’s schedule. For whatever reason, she doesn’t see the message but she eventually goes up to the front and discovers her patient sitting there. Then she says loudly, "Oh I am so sorry I had NO idea you were here". Linda takes this as a slap in the face. Harsh comments are exchanged, tears flow.
You know the message went to Cheryl’s room because you were in there when it came across. You want Cheryl to realize that Linda is not her personal slave…that if her patient isn't here go check on it. You need to help Linda to be less sensitive and be more tough-minded.
Front office-back office conflicts are rampant in dentistry. The bad news is that when your business and clinical staff members fight over petty things like this there is a serious lack of trust among your employees. This kind of breakdown shows up big in your bottom line!
If you want your practice to skyrocket, you must develop an environment that maximizes collaboration and unity. The foundation of strong teamwork is trust. Trust is about vulnerability. Team members who trust one another are comfortable being open about their failures, weaknesses, and fears.
Vulnerability-based trust is predicated on the simple and practical idea that people who admit the truth about themselves do not engage in back-biting behavior that wastes everyone’s time and energy. More importantly, when team members trust one another they accomplish more. They like their jobs more. There is less turnover. Patient care and satisfaction increases.
Unfortunately vulnerability-based trust is hard to achieve. We live in a society that rewards competition and self-preservation. The idea of putting oneself at risk for the good of others is unnatural. We have been trained to “look out for number 1”.
However, when team members can honestly say things like, “I was wrong”, “I made a mistake”, “I need help”, “I’m not sure”, and “I’m sorry” they are able to resolve conflicts quickly. They get back on track smoothly. They focus more on their work. They are more productive. The practice is more profitable.
While all dental leaders genuinely want to reap the benefits of having a cohesive team, getting them to conduct a team retreat or workshop is not as easy as it should be. Busy dentists have trouble slowing down and taking time out of their hectic lives for anything that doesn’t seem urgent…even something that will make work easier and get more done in less time.
Money is also a common objective to conducting a team workshop. Dental leaders need to realize that investing in your team improves performance. It also helps the practice avoid painful, unnecessary costs such as the loss of a key employee who gets tired of negative office dynamics or wasted time spent rehashing the same issues over and over again.
If you aren’t convinced, start with a small investment by scheduling a team building staff meeting. Explain to employees that you will be doing an exercise that will enable everyone to get to know one another better. Tell them that the goal is to begin getting comfortable and learning to relate to each other on a more personal level.
Choose three (3) of the following questions that best fit the needs of your team. Distribute a sheet of paper to everyone with the questions you choose. Give 5-10 minutes for them to fill in the answers. Starting with the dental leader, go around the room and give each staff member about 3 minutes to share their answers. Spend another 1-2 minutes after each person to identify what you learned about each team member that you did not know.
Remind everyone that you are not interested in their inner child or their deepest, darkest secrets. This is a low-level vulnerability exercise that will help team members let down their guard about their strengths, weaknesses, opinions and ideas. Once it is over you will summarize: Trust is the foundation of teamwork. Trust is about vulnerability which is difficult for most people. Building trust takes time. Like a good relationship, trust on a team is never complete; it must be maintained and nurtured.
If you want to develop strong teamwork in your practice, contact Dr. Haller at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Dr. Byron Sparks– Case Study #45
Let me set the stage for you so you can appreciate this situation, as it may be happening to you at this very moment:
A review of the monthly system monitor spreadsheet revealed:
It’s one thing for a practice to gather statistical data but another if the practice does not understand the meaning behind “all the numbers”.
Practice Performance Analysis At the Two Month Interval:
Telephone conference meetings identified Dr. Spark’s true feelings about his employees after 2 months of implementing the new protocols and systems and tracking the results:
“Sandy, my Schedule Coordinator, seems to spend too much time on the phone with her family and friends.”
“Sandy isn’t making appointments when the assistant or hygienist hand off their patient to her, even though the clinical staff are telling her what the patient needs and has accepted”
“Sandy always seems to have an excuse for not being able to fill the openings in my schedule when they occur.”
Sandy had NOT accepted her role as Schedule Coordinator. To her, nothing had changed. It was “non performance as usual”. The only difference was Dr. Sparks actually knew it instead of assuming it because the numbers don’t lie!
What to Do?
Dr. Sparks realized that Sandy was not performing. He suspected it all along but just didn’t have the “proof” to discuss it with her. She always seemed to have an excuse for everything. He asked the question, “What do I do to motivate her?” The solution:
Dr. Sparks must understand that the practice is only as good as his weakest employee, just like a basketball team. The smaller the staff size, the more important it is that EVERY employee performs at their peak. There is no room to “hide” a poor performer.
It is also important that he understands that his non-performers are affecting his income, as well as the salaries of his team members that are giving 100%. He is running a business and businesses are meant to be profitable. It takes ALL his team members to achieve this.
It is not easy to dismiss an employee…I understand that. It is also not fair to the other team members that work hard each day for the profitability of the practice to observe a non-performer and wonder why their doctor allows it.
Dr. Sparks finally stepped up to the free-throw line and made his shot. The rest of the team will be in complete support and will respect him as an employer. More importantly, your team will WIN the game!Forward this article to a friend.