Time to Pull the Plug on the Party?
It’s that time of year again: the holidays. Like it or not, for the next six weeks your team and your patients will have other things on their minds; namely, Thanksgiving, Hanukah, Christmas, New Year’s, etc. It’s the time of year in which many dentists find they are sweating the details – and I’m not talking production, collections, or the schedule – rather, the annual holiday party. How do you recognize your team for all of their hard work? Should you award bonuses? Realistically, can you award bonuses given the economics of the past year? And, most importantly, how should your practice be rewarding employees throughout the year – not just during the holidays?
First, it is a fact that the economy has affected party plans for businesses of all sizes. Results of Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc.'s annual survey showed only 62 percent of companies plan year-end festivities, despite positive signs in the economy. That was down from 77 percent a year ago, and 90 percent in 2007.
For some, the appeal of a traditional party has run its course and the team would like to try something new. Perhaps your community has been hit particularly hard by the recession and rather than spending the money on a party, the employees would prefer to donate the money to charity. That gesture of generosity and goodwill could be coupled with a volunteer activity. You and your team might help a local charity deliver holiday gifts and dinners to needy families or participate in a local fun run/walk for a good cause. The staff is out of the office in the community, and enjoying the time away from the stress of the practice.
Although this has certainly been a challenging year for many, a little “rockin’ around the Christmas tree” to build camaraderie and esprit de corps may still be in order for your office. If you’re in the mood to celebrate and you have the budget for it, involve your employees in the planning. Not only does it help ensure that it is a celebration enjoyed by all, it also takes the burden off of you, doctor.
But just because you’re partying like it’s 1999 and not 2009, doesn’t mean you need to break the bank. For example, if you’re going to a restaurant, choose items in advance from a limited menu. Include a selection of appetizers, pasta, chicken and fish, skip the prime rib. Limit the number of alcoholic beverages to two and the guest list to employees only. Rather than the annual holiday dinner at the expensive restaurant, consider a casual lunch and then an afternoon at the museum or the zoo, or lunch and a movie. The point is to get away from the office and enjoy each other’s company in a more relaxed environment.
If you do give gifts, know your employees’ interests well enough to present a personal gift. Gifts purchased en masse – be they crates of oranges, digital photo frames, holiday music CDs, etc. – are often viewed as meaningless tokens of obligation (regardless of the price) rather than genuine expressions of appreciation. If one employee loves the theatre, consider tickets to an upcoming performance. If another enjoys cooking, give a gift certificate to a special culinary class. In addition, with the stress of the holidays, offering staff members flexible scheduling this time of year is a potentially huge reward with little/no impact on the budget. It can be a relatively easy way to thank employees who, like most of us, struggle to keep their work and personal lives in balance. Finally, keep in mind that the holidays are a time of celebration. Yes, they are also an opportunity to recognize hard work and to thank employees for their commitment to the practice throughout the year. But they should not be the only time of year in which you recognize and reward employees. That is a process that should be taking place routinely in your practice.
Next week, create a rewards and recognition system that benefits you, your team, and your practice year round.
The commonly accepted definition of “recession” in economics is two down quarters of gross domestic product. Nobody living in this economy could put it so dispassionately. These are stressful times, with days of worry and nights of sleeplessness taking a physical and mental toll on everyone. In the headlines, we’re in a recession. In the strain we feel in our hearts and minds, we’re depressed.
Recent articles in Time and The New York Times discussed this downturn from an unusual point of view: the dentist’s. They said that some dentists are seeing a shift in their patients’ interest away from discretionary cosmetic procedures and toward maintenance and repair; others are witnessing new interest in cosmetic procedures from patients eager to present themselves at their best for job interviews. Many dentists say they’re seeing a rush of patients using insurance benefits before they lose them in another wave of layoffs; they see many others who have deferred basic care until a problem becomes too serious to neglect - a false economy at best. Finally, it seems there are widespread new cases of bruxism. That’s not surprising - the news has all of us grinding our teeth.
Beyond the Procedure
If you can give me that over and above the procedure you perform, you’ve performed a service greater than just the literal one. And you’ve earned my confidence. In this difficult economy, that’s a great way for you to cement a relationship.
A little enlightenment from you could make a big difference for me. One of the worst things about this economy is the uncertainty that haunts us day and night. Anything that makes us feel just a little more in control of things is a godsend in a time when we feel helpless against layoffs, downturns, and another dip in the Dow. Of course, I know I won’t find “personal counseling” on the bill I get from you, but a moment of insight and empathy might be what I value most from you on the day we meet. Your patients aren’t asking you to be psychologists. However, if you can be an emotional resource, you’re a better investment than the dentist who settles for being a repair person. Getting more back for the dollar is on everyone’s mind these days. You can win my loyalty even when I’m bargain hunting and deferring the high-end treatment until things improve. When they do, and I want those veneers after all, you’ll be the dentist I call.
On behalf of McKenzie Management, David Clow consults with dental professionals on practice culture, case acceptance, and patient expectations.
David Clow is a writer/consultant for Fortune 100 companies. His book, A Few Words from the Chair, is the first book written by a patient for dental professionals and students and is available here.
Hear David Clow’s FREE podcast at The Dentist’s Network – HERE
Learn to Focus
A few weeks ago the pilots of Northwest Airlines Flight 188 from San Diego to Minneapolis overshot their destination by 150 miles. Reportedly they were distracted during an intense discussion over a new crew scheduling system and lost track of their location. Although it is unclear what really happened, the bizarre incident confirmed our worst fear – these experienced aviators weren’t paying a lick of attention to flying the airplane!
You may not be operating at 30,000 feet but you do hold people’s lives in your hands. Not only patients, but employees as well. If you’re running around the office like the proverbial chicken-without-a-head, it’s time to stop. You may think of yourself as efficient, but others are likely to see you as scattered, self-absorbed, and uncaring. These perceptions are counterproductive if your goal is to create followership.
We live in a world of interruptions and constant partial attention. Multitasking has become a workplace and even a household buzzword as e-mails, pagers, cell phones and other technological advances push us into a 24/7 lifestyle – we’re “on” 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This constant life-on-the-go can make people feel a lack of control over their lives. Research from technology sociologist Gloria Mark indicates that the average worker is interrupted every 11 minutes on the job. Furthermore it is estimated that those same workers need about 25 minutes to return to the original task. The Center for Creative Leadership surveyed senior executives in Fortune 500 companies who stated that they are interrupted every 30 to 40 minutes. The bottom line is that long stretches of focused work are rare in today’s organizations.
It’s probable that even as you’re reading this you’re feeling pressured to hurry up because you have so much on your plate. Your to-do list may be several pages long. You’re overflowing with commitments, obligations, responsibilities and activities, many that you didn’t even put there yourself. No wonder you can feel like your mind is going to explode! When I talk with Doctors, they often tell me that they feel like they can't get anything done, even though they're trying their best. Although they have a written to-do list, they also keep a running tab of all the things they have to do in their head. Many feel overwhelmed and stressed. Some feel inadequate.
The skill of focus is the capacity to maintain attention to a situation or task despite distractibility, fatigue or boredom. Ironically research evidence indicates that multitasking actually erodes, rather than enhances, productivity. As people divide their attention between two even seemingly simple tasks - reading their e-mail, for instance, while talking on the phone - comprehension, concentration and short-term memory suffer. Switching from one job to another doesn’t work any better. It actually eats up more time than waiting to finish one job before beginning the next - an inefficiency that increases as the tasks at hand become more complicated.
Attention is a finite resource. The Chinese said it 3000 years ago - The mind can only be at a one place at a time. Technology has over promised and under delivered for years. It has not dramatically improved anything; it has simply added more work to the same amount of time. If you’re going to learn to focus better the first step is to admit that too much multi-tasking is not good for you. There’s a lot to be said about mindfulness. Second, do the most important things first. Just focus on those and nothing else. Update your to-do list every day. Limit it to only five of the most important things you must get done.
If you’re an avid emailer (or ‘crack-berrier’), check your messages on a fixed schedule. Don’t go there every few minutes. De-activate the sound that accompanies each new message. Know what time you work best. For me, it’s always the early morning. Others prefer late at night. Whatever your natural biorhythms, work around that.
Keep a journal or at least set aside think-time. Successful leadership requires reflection and planning. Self-relaxation practices such as yoga, meditation, and T’ai Chi all emphasize quieting the mind. The skill of focusing enables you to be more productive. Paradoxically, when you slow down you speed up.
Dr. Nancy Haller is ready to help you to increase your opportunity for a more profitable and rewarding practice. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dr. Haller provides training for leadership effectiveness, interpersonal communication, conflict management, and team building. If you would like to learn more contact her at email@example.com
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