5.25.07 - Issue # 272 Forward This Newsletter To A Colleague
Manageable Goals
McKenzie Case Study
Team Building

Jump Start Your ‘Mid Year’s’ Resolutions
by Sally McKenzie CEO
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It’s nearly the end of May, and in just a few short weeks we enter the second half of the year. Yes, 2007 is rapidly ripping right along. So, how are those New Year’s resolutions going?

Is your new elliptical machine getting a workout as an extra place to hang your clothes? Perhaps the 10 pounds you pledged to lose by Valentine’s Day is still sitting comfortably around your middle with no plans to relocate any time soon.

And what about those goals you set for your practice? You know, increase production, address no shows and appointment failures, and institute a performance review plan. Now before you click the big red X in the top right corner of your computer screen and make all this talk about resolutions and goals promptly disappear, stay with me for just another minute. I actually have good news.

You have an entire six months to turn this year into your most successful yet. Now let’s talk about how.

First, no guilt. Virtually all of us have made resolutions for the year, some of us even wrote them down. They may have sat on our desks for a while as daily reminders of what we had planned to achieve. Then we piled the usual challenges, routine struggles, and more immediate priorities over them and the goals of tomorrow were promptly buried beneath the concerns of today. Out of sight and out of mind. Time to dig out the list, better yet, create a new one.

This time, instead of making an exhaustive inventory of improvement musts, identify just two or three goals you’d like to accomplish in the coming months. The objective here is to establish attainable goals by breaking the process down into manageable steps.

Let’s say you want to “overhaul patient/practice relations.” This can feel like a large, unwieldy goal, too big to tackle today, so you put it off until tomorrow, then the day after, and so on. Instead look at the small steps - attainable goals - you can work toward to achieve that ultimate goal.

For example, if the manner in which the new business employee answers the phone has been bothering you for months. Make the goal to “improve telephone communication at the front desk.” It’s specific, attainable, and measurable –key components of goals that can actually get accomplished. Best of all it is real progress toward your ultimate goal to improve practice/patient relations. 

Perhaps your goal is to make more money, that’s another admirable goal but again it’s too vague. It can also feel too big for a team that isn’t sure how to go about reaching it. What’s more, the staff probably already feels they are working as hard and as fast as they can and equate more money with more hours in the office. Instead, focus on those areas that influence practice income, starting with production.

Establish a realistic financial goal for your practice; let’s say $700,000 in clinical production. This calculates to $14,583 per week (taking four weeks out for vacation). Working forty hours per week means you’ll need to produce about $364 per hour. If you want to work fewer hours, obviously per hour production will need to be higher.

Now you and your Scheduling Coordinator have a concrete number that she/he is working to achieve. She/he has a goal!  It’s a clear scheduling objective for each day rather than simply “keep the doctor busy.” Next step, make certain that your Scheduling Coordinator fully understands exactly how much time is needed for each procedure. You’d be stunned how many business employees simply have to guess how many units should be allocated for procedures. Consequently, the doctor and clinical team are busy, but not necessarily productive.

Now consider what needs to happen in the treatment room. Perhaps you need to streamline or delegate duties so that you are not interrupted multiple times for matters that someone else could or should be handling. Possibly you need to explore increased training for your dental assistant so that she/he can maximize any expanded duties that are allowed in your state.

Breaking a large goal, such as making more money, down into manageable steps enables you to reach that objective. What’s more, you can adjust and correct along the way. You evaluate and measure what’s working and what isn’t.

Next week, strengthen your team and achieve your goals.

Interested in speaking to Sally about your practice concerns? Email her at sallymck@mckenziemgmt.com.

Interested in having Sally speak to your dental society or study club? Click Here.

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Dr. Nancy Haller
Dentist Coach
McKenzie Management
coach@ mckenziemgmt.com
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Stop Battling the Office Battleground

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.

  1. Where did you grow up?
  2. How many siblings do you have and where do you fall in the order (oldest, youngest, etc.)?
  3. What was the most difficult, important, or unique challenge of your childhood – of being a kid?
  4. Describe a time when you felt the most frightened.
  5. What was your first job? Your worst job?
  6. Other than your parents, who had the greatest positive impact on you? What did the person do? How did you feel about it?

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 coach@mckenziemgmt.com.

Interested in having Dr. Haller speak to your dental society or study club? Click Here.

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Nancy Caudill
Senior Consultant
McKenzie Management
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Your Practice Is Only As Good As Your Weakest Team Member!

A McKenzie Management Case Study

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:

Practice Facts:

  • Dr. Sparks was a new McKenzie client of 2 months.
  • He had a Schedule Coordinator and a Financial/Hygiene Coordinator with Job Descriptions and a clear understanding of what their responsibilities are.
  • He conducted his monthly staff meetings following the McKenzie format of reviewing the previous month’s statistics and goals that were specifically established for his practice, as well as the To Do List.
  • Morning huddles were being conducted.

Practice Statistics:
A review of the monthly system monitor spreadsheet revealed:

  • Production goals were not being met for the month
  • Daily production goals were not being met
  • Too many openings in the schedule on hygiene and doctor side
  • Accounts Receivables over 90 days were improving
  • The practice was collecting over 100% of net production
  • Insurance claims over 60 days were dropping

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:

  • The Financial Coordinator WAS doing her job!  Her numbers were improving.
  • The Schedule Coordinator WAS NOT doing her job!  The lack of improvement in the areas that she was responsible for was obvious.

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:

  1. Make sure she has the tools to do her job (training and support which she has through McKenzie Management).
  2. Make sure she understands her job description and what she is responsible for.
  3. Conduct 2 one-on-one informal reviews with her discussing her lack of performance based on the facts.  Be sure to document these conversations in her personnel file.
  4. If no improvement, conduct a formal review with a written warning that you both sign, asking her what you can do to assist her in reaching her peak performance.  Give her 30 days to improve or assume that this position in your office is not a good fit for her.
  5. Bottom line – dismissal if performance has not improved!

Conclusions:
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!

If you would like more information on how McKenzie's Practice Enrichment Programs can help you IMPLEMENT proven strategies….. email info@mckenziemgmt.com.

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