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12.21.07 Issue #302 Forward This Newsletter To A Colleague
Unproductive Behaviors
Employee Termination
Leadership Lessons

Stop This, And Go from Good to Great in 08?
by Sally McKenzie CEO
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In just a few days, 2007 will draw to a close and the door will open on 2008. Naturally, it’s the time to evaluate where you are and where you’re going. For many dentists, you can look back on the past year with pride because you’ve enjoyed substantial success. The goals you set for yourself and your practice are right on track. The tough changes you knew you had to make you did, and now you are enjoying the reward.  

For others, you’re more than ready to shake off the dust of this year and start making your way down the road to the next. You’ve promised yourself that 2008 is the year you’re going to make real positive change in your practice. You’ve come a long way, but you’re in a holding pattern and have been for longer than you care to acknowledge. It’s not that the practice is failing or that you don’t enjoy what you do; it’s just that you know your practice could be so much more productive and so much more rewarding.

It’s time for you and your team to shimmy up that ladder of success from pretty good to truly fantastic. But to get there, you not only have to keep your eye on the goals, you have to take a close look at who’s implementing them. Turn the mirror on yourselves, if you will. Oftentimes, in practices that are good and have the potential to be great, the systems are functioning reasonably well, but it’s the interpersonal infrastructure that’s buckling. 

Let me explain. You and your team’s subtle day-to-day behaviors may be the tether tying you down. These are the seemingly minor interactions that quietly chisel away at practice goals and undermine your success. Although they’ll never be listed on your profit and loss statement, they have a profound impact on your bottom-line.

I suggest that before you craft that list of goals for ’08 and start making plans for what you want to do next year, step back and consider what you should stop. It may be time for you and your team to pledge Not do a few things. Try these for starters: 

  • I will not be the nattering ninny of negativity. I will not complain about my personal life, my job, my colleagues, my boss, the patients. Nor will I shoot down another’s idea by telling them, “It won’t work. We’ve tried it before. You haven’t been here long enough. Give it up. It will never fly.”   
  • I will not blow my stack. If I am angry, I will not take it out on my team or my colleagues. Just because everyone knows I have a temper, doesn’t mean it’s okay for me to display it.
  • I will not withhold thanks and recognition. I will not ignore the good things that my staff and colleagues do. I will not tell myself that they don’t deserve thanks because “they’re just doing their jobs.” Nor will I hog the credit for good ideas that are the result of my efforts as well as others.
  • I will not play favorites. Even though I prefer some staff to others I will treat everyone with dignity and respect and demonstrate that I value the opinions of all – not just those who agree with me.
  • I will not engage in the construction of destruction. I will not make destructive or cutting comments about others – the doctor, the staff, the patients, the salespeople, or anyone else.
  • I will not pass the buck. I will not blame my teammates, the traffic, the weather, the doctor, the patients, my ex-spouse, my children, or anyone else for my inability to effectively carry out my professional responsibilities. 

Although these behaviors come so easily that we’re hardly aware that we’re engaging in them, they stifle the opinions and voices of the team, and lessen others’ investment in the success of their systems and the practice. Left unchecked, they undermine the ability of the practice to move forward in accomplishing its goals.

So, this New Year, before you resolve to do this and accomplish that, think first about how you can better yourself and your team by simply stopping a few unproductive behaviors.

Next week tackling goals, starting with production.

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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Michael Moore, Esq.
Director McKenzie
HR Solutions
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Separating Yourself From A Bad Employee

A consistent source of inquiries about terminations is: “How do we deal with a nasty, unreasonable employee when we must let her/him go?” Most doctors are understandably confrontation-averse. And nothing causes the stomach to churn like the fear of a termination turning into a real donnybrook. There are definitely steps you can take to reduce the possibility of an unpleasant or even dangerous confrontation.

Let us begin with the observation that even the best employee can -- and sometimes does -- metamorphose into a vindictive, impossible burden. Sometimes, too, a really evil person can hide their true nature until you have brought them on board. It happens all too often.

The truth is that in almost all situations, there is a good deal of advance warning. Employee behaviors tend to deteriorate over time. Seldom, if your eyes are open, should a crisis come as a surprise.

If you have a solid policy in background checking applicants, you can often weed out the employee from “Transylvania” before they are on the payroll. If you have a well-constructed, affirmative employment relations policy, conscientiously followed, your chances of ameliorating the behaviors that lead to terminations are greatly increased. This can save thousands of dollars in replacing that employee.

But, even in the best run offices, the worst sometimes happens. And there are special dangers in handling these situations, which cannot be underestimated.

Who is the employee from Transylvania?
The answer to that question is we know them when we interact with them. Doctors frequently consult me about the productive long-term employee whose behavior has always been challenging, but who recently has been driving away good employees and patients. The doctor has resided increasing reliance on that employee over the years, and may often consider him/her a friend. So, the decision on what to do is a challenge, both from an organization and personal standpoint.

The other pretty common scenario is the employee who has but a few months with the practice, originally was an okay if not exemplary employee, but the doctor begins to hear through the grapevine that this person is complaining, abrasive and intimidating with colleagues and even patients.

Any doubts you might have had about how serious the situation is are put to rest when you try to counsel these employees. It is not unusual for the employee, when confronted with the behaviors and performance issues, to become immediately hostile and threatening. Whether they do so in your presence in the meeting, or you hear about it shortly after through the grapevine, inevitably things will go downhill and rapidly from that point on.

I was recently consulted by a doctor who was stunned to hear – when she presented a chronically low performing assistant with a final warning -- that she could do a better job “if Raymond [the general manager] was not sexually harassing me.” This bombshell creates a whole new set of hazards to be navigated – and we did with this employee – but the message came out loud and clear. There was no saving that relationship.

Legal liability for a termination gone wrong
A company called CinCom Systems, Inc., learned the hard way how not to handle a contentious termination. Carl Uebelacker was a sales rep for the IT company whose relationship with his supervisor, Veith, deteriorated – as the court described it. Ubelacker complained to Veith’s supervisor, who – as the jury found – minimized the issue and told Ubelacker he would talk with Veith.

What happened next was that Ubelacker received from Veith a “Final Warning of Dismissal” which he responded to by memo and challenged the performance issues set out in the warning. Veith’s superior eventually approved the termination.

One afternoon, Veith showed up at Ubelacker’s cubicle with two employees, Butler and Ream, who were carrying boxes. Veith told Ubelacker he was fired, and demanded that he immediately gather his personal belongings, put them in the boxes, and be escorted from the building.

The jury found that at that point, Ubelacker demanded to speak with the personnel office, Veith “became incensed” and stopped Ubelacker from calling on the phone by grabbing his wrist, while Butler stood in the cubicle entrance, blocking his exit. This incident spanned only a few minutes.

Ubelacker sued, alleging, among other claims, false imprisonment, assault and battery, defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress. After numerous court hearings, including a grant of judgment for CinCom that was reversed by the Court of Appeals, a trial was held on Ubelacker’s claims.

The jury awarded him $100.00 damages on each of the claims, and $90,000.00 in punitive damages. The court then awarded Ubelacker all his attorney fees and costs and assessed them against the company. On appeal, the judgment against CinCom was upheld.

The award of compensatory damages is very small in this case, so the potential hit was substantially greater than CinCom actually had to pay. This single example -– and there are many more – reveals the catastrophe that a termination can be.

In the next part, we will talk about the steps you must take to prepare for the contingencies in a termination from Transylvania.

Mike Moore is ranked among the best in employment law and named one of the top 10 lawyers in Ohio. As Director of McKenzie’s HRSolutions, Mike is the creator of The Employment Policy and Handbook geared to provide dentists who are unsophisticated in the legal arena with a step-by-step policy manual.
For more information Click Here.
Interested in having Mike 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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Dental Leadership Lessons from Santa

I just finished reading a cute book, The Leadership Secrets of Santa Claus. From motivation and communication issues to reindeer recruitment and red wagon production problems, Santa’s got a REALLY tough job with never ending challenges.

In the words of Santa…

"Believe you me, having to smile and be jolly everyday when you're wearing the same thick, hot, red-wool suit (that itches like crazy) is no picnic. This is a job that will definitely strain your sanity and drain your ego if you let it. Seems like everyone wants a piece of me. Yet many of the people I serve question my existence…or just plain don’t believe in me at all. And those who do believe often expect me to do the impossible – rarely caring about what I have to do, or go through (including chimneys), to meet their expectations. And they ALL have expectations.”

Except for chimneys, I bet there are days when you feel this way about your job. It’s not easy being a dental leader!

What is your vision of Santa’s workshop? Do you see candy canes and chestnuts or elves happily scurrying about smiling and making toys?

How about your practice vision? Is your office a happy place? Do you see it as a productive place despite the intense pressures and challenges you face? How do you create this atmosphere?

This first step is to focus on your mission. Santa has four tips:

  • Make sure employees know what your mission is and why it’s important.
  • Meet with staff individually and help them to understand how their job is crucial to meet the practice mission.
  • Post mission statements on walls and talk about it in staff meetings.
  • Make sure your mission statement is a core component of any decision-making or work-planning processes.

Focus on people who make your mission happen.  To keep the elves and reindeer happy, Santa makes himself available, physically and mentally. He provides them with tools, training, and resources to do their jobs successfully. The elves and reindeer are kept in the information loop. Santa always respects his employees and he appreciates them. He solicits and listens to staff members’ ideas and concerns. He works hard to help elves develop and grow to meet the future needs of his workshop.

Choose your reindeer wisely.  Santa knows that staffing is a leader’s single most important responsibility. The time you spend hiring the right people is nothing compared to the time it takes to deal with a bad hire. Carefully identify the tasks, duties and responsibilities for the position. It is equally important that the people you hire have the right personality characteristics, values and attitudes necessary to perform the job successfully.

Pay attention to how your elves see you. Santa does employee surveys to be sure that he’s aligned with his team. He tries to understand what it’s like to work in his shop. If Santa can occasionally put on a pair of green felt pointed shoes, you can take the time to find out what it is like to work in your practice. Encourage your employees to give you feedback so that you will become a better leader.

Get beyond the red wagons. The red wagon used to be the most popular toy that Santa and the elves produced. But the day came when Santa had to tell them that red wagons were out and video games were in. Santa did not enjoy taking this message to the elves because he knew it would take the elves out of their comfort zone.

To get the elves to embrace the change, Santa laid out the facts and helped them to understand the change. He validated the stress and uncertainty this created in the workshop. He patiently encouraged the elves to be sure they were adapting to the change. Most importantly, he helped them to understand how switching to new technology was ultimately going to make the children happier…and that meant more happiness for everyone.

Find out who’s been naughty and nice. The job that was the most difficult for Santa was confronting employee performance problems. As a jolly ole soul, he didn’t want anyone to be upset. However, through leadership coaching, he learned that problems left unaddressed do not go away…they get worse. Although occasional employee challenges are natural, Santa now confronts problems early. In turn his team respects him more and the workshop stays productive.  

Share the milk and cookies. One of the biggest benefits of being Santa is that he is in the spotlight and gets the glory. The elves and the reindeers don’t get to experience the same thing so their feelings of accomplishment must come in different ways. Santa posts thank you letters on a board at the North Pole that says, “See What You Made Happen”. Santa knows that one of the most important behaviors of a good leader is to recognize and reward those who work for him.

Goals for next year. Santa doesn’t wait until December to prepare for his work. Santa makes a list and he checks it twice. He’s busy all year long! Learn how Santa and his team accomplish big things in their workshop in my next article: Setting Goals for 2008.

May your days be merry and bright, and may all of your dental practices be right.

Dr. Haller is available for team building and dental leadership coaching. She can be reached at coach@mckenziemgmt.com.
Interested in having Dr. Haller speak to your dental society or study club? Click Here

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