Training Your Team? In-house Often Equals Inept
The unfortunate reality is that while most dentists recognize the value of ongoing education for the clinical team, they commonly disregard the importance of educating those who have direct control over thousands upon thousands of dollars in practice revenues. What’s more, they fear that the freshly trained staff member will pack up and take their newly developed expertise to the practice down the street. In reality, employees that have the opportunity to improve their skills tend to be much more vested in the success of the practice.
Oftentimes if there is to be any training of the business team, it will have to come from the other staff. Doctors convince themselves that they can simply rely on existing employees to prep the new recruits. Realistically, how much accurate information can actually be passed down from one team member to the next when the typical educational chain runs something like this:
Ellen, who left the practice in 2009, trained Jill. Jill left the practice in 2010 shortly after training Jackie, who was fired from the practice in 2011. Jackie trained Kelsey who was there when the new computer system was installed and was viewed as the office expert, but Kelsey left suddenly in 2012. Since then, Jo has been trying really hard to figure things out. Somewhere in between the comings and goings of all those employees and the dissemination of wrong or partially correct information, the new employee might pick up a kernel or two of useful knowledge. But to a large extent, the new employee, without proper training, has a very slim chance at succeeding in the practice.
In the rare event that a practice actually has a staff member fully versed and able to train a new employee on all the aspects they need to know about the practice systems, when, exactly, will they have the time to do so? In reality, a busy dental team does not have the time or breadth of knowledge to train a new employee to succeed. Is it any wonder that the single biggest contributor to inefficiency and mismanagement in a dental practice is a poorly trained team?
So where’s the good news in this seemingly bleak training picture? There’s plenty, and the best part is that staff can be trained without spending days away from the office or thousands of dollars. The marketplace today provides numerous affordable training options for dental teams. At a minimum, every new employee should receive professional training on the computer practice management system, which is the central nervous system of the practice. And, although I strongly discourage reliance on internal training exclusively, particularly with new employees, in-house knowledge sharing across the team can be highly beneficial in helping all employees understand the importance of certain practice systems and philosophies. Dental teams can reap significant rewards when they set aside time each month to educate each other on specific protocols and systems. Moreover, the sessions enable each member to better understand they are essential to the success of the entire practice.
For more information on this topic, visit my blog: The Lighter Side
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Leadership Lessons on Fatherís Day
This Sunday we celebrate fathers. The most important job a man can have. Being a father requires you to be a leader and manger. As the leader you share the vision of what’s possible for your children, and as the manager you provide support, guidance and coaching to help them make it happen.I talk with a lot of dental leaders who are great fathers. They spend time with their kids. They support and encourage them in growing. They teach them right from wrong while guiding them to make better decisions. In my coaching conversations with these great fathers we often talk about challenging employee behaviors occurring in the practice. I continue to be surprised by how effective fathers don’t leverage their skills as a parent into their office leadership.
It just so happens I believe the behaviors that make someone a good father are the very same actions that make him an effective leader. Leadership is a process of development and discipline, no different than being a father. Fathers take action and make decisions that are right, even when they are unpopular…and they stand by those decisions. So too with good leaders. Here are some other ways to take those transferable skills from home to office.
Lead by example. As any good father and leader knows, you can preach and you can teach but if your example is bad it just isn’t going to work. Make values count. Among the most important is integrity…the congruence between what you say and what you do. Demonstrate strength by learning to deal with the unexpected. Stay calm and be resilient. You can teach a lot without saying a word when you handle things in stride.
Communicate. Successful fathers talk with their children regularly. They show interest in them. Spend time with your staff. Meet with each of them individually at least once per quarter to ask how they are doing, what they enjoy about their work and if they might need resources or help from you. Provide specific behavioral feedback to let them know when they are doing well. If there are gaps in their work performance, communicate what you want them to change. Don’t assume the person knows what you mean. Even if you think people know how you feel, say it anyway. Remember to be honest and kind at the same time.
Encourage responsibility and accountability. Raising children is more than just having fun and building relationships. It’s also about setting rules and expectations. When children know the boundaries and limits of what is allowed they feel safe and trusting. So too with employees. Provide them with clear job descriptions and guidelines about job performance so they know what they are supposed to do. Tell them when they are successful and reward their accomplishments.
Set limits without being abrasive or threatening. Children, like employees, feel more secure when they know the rules as well as the consequences for ignoring them. Limits are like values - they are communicated by what you do far more than what you say. Setting a limit without enforcing it is damaging. It undermines your credibility. Your words are meaningless if you do not stand behind them. At the same time, you don’t need to yell or demean to teach those necessary lessons. Being firm and being kind at the same time is the goal in setting limits. It’s normal to see disappointment or even anger, so be prepared.
Learn to earn respect without trying to be their friend. I know fathers who have been so concerned that their kids (and their employees) like them that they forgot their leadership role. As a father your job is to give your children the best tools you can so they can navigate the world independently. To achieve that goal you need to establish and maintain healthy boundaries. Respect gives you much more authority than likeability. Conversely, leadership without expression of genuine concern and affection is empty and misses a critical component of true human connection.
Adjust your style. Just like children, employees are not all the same. Each one has a mixture of different skills and personality traits. Some follow our lead easily and others are more spirited. How you parent - i.e. lead - depends on the person and the circumstances. As children mature and employees gain proficiency in their jobs, they have different needs of you. Your flexibility in when, why and how to adjust will help you to develop their abilities at a faster pace while creating a more productive team.
When you make a mistake, apologize. One of the best lessons you can teach your children and your employees is how to step up and own mistakes. Model that behavior and set the standard. Sometimes we get it wrong and it’s not the end of the world.
Make time to recharge. Being a father and a leader is hard work. At times it can feel overwhelming and you can lose your patience. Time away from your role is a necessity to influence effectively. It allows you to hit the ‘reset’ button and gain perspective.
Like your children (of all ages), employees are watching and listening. They see how you navigate your life and career, and are learning the lessons that will shape their futures and your practice. Be sure you’re teaching them well.
Dr. Haller provides training for leadership effectiveness, interpersonal communication, conflict management, and team building. If you would like to learn more contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org
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So, You Have a New Doctor
This article is not only for the new dental graduates that will soon be entering the work force, but also for the practices that may bring on an associate this year, offices that may be bought by a new owner, and hygienists that may decide to make a change when it comes to the doctor they are working for. I would like to say congratulations to all of the graduating dentists and hygienists that will be entering the work force, and to all of those doctors that are buying or starting their first practice. I hope you love dentistry as much as I do.
One of the first recommendations when it comes to a new practice, whether you are a doctor or hygienist, is to get to know how things are done in that practice, and why. Once you have really seen and experienced how and why things are done, evaluate if they are working. If it isn’t broken, don’t try to fix it. Oftentimes new employees enter a practice and try to suggest and make a lot of changes, so that things are done the way they are used to. This makes it a lot easier for them to do their job, but makes everybody else change. With so many different personalities on the dental team, it’s important that the office be run in the way which is best for the practice overall, as well as what’s best for patient care.
Transition is not something that should be rushed into quickly. There are many different systems that need to be analyzed in order to determine if they are working. If there are areas that need to be changed, it is recommended that you consult with professionals that have been into many practices, and are able to help with what works best when trying to increase your new patient flow, patient retention, and profitability.
Hygienists, you are a very big part of this transition if you have a new doctor or associate joining the team you work for. Not only should you support the doctor’s treatment plans, as you always should have been doing, but you also need to support and help the new doctor build patient rapport with the clients you have seen for a long time. Take the time to not only introduce the patient to the doctor, but also help bridge the gap between the patient and the doctor when it comes to their comfort level with one another. This may be done by encouraging conversation between them about similar interests, specifically getting the new doctor to check an area, or explaining to the patient how excited the practice is to have the new doctor on board.
Don’t miss this perfect opportunity to ask patients to refer in their friends, family and co-workers. Tell them that you are looking forward to the practice growing and being able to provide quality care to more people, now that the new doctor is on your team. This goes the same when it comes to hiring a new hygienist into the practice. The doctor and entire team should make a conscious effort to make him/her feel comfortable seeing your patients, and making the patients comfortable seeing the new hygienist. This can begin with the confirmation phone call. “Tom, you will be seeing our new hygienist, Sally, today. We are very excited to have Sally on our team as she has a lot to offer you as a patient, with her skills and expertise as a dental hygienist.” This will help stop the surprise the patient feels when a new hygienist walks out to get them, and they want to know “What happened to the other girl?”
The morning meeting is a perfect time to give the new doctor or hygienist some of the patient’s background info. If needed, you may want to even give your patients some background on the new doctor or hygienist. This will make them feel like they know the new team member, at least a little bit, when they walk in the door. All of this takes time, and quite a bit of energy, but it is also priceless when it comes to how smoothly (or not smoothly) the transition of a new doctor or hygienist into the practice is.
The key to helping the practice grow is asking every chance you can for referrals from existing patients, retaining existing patients through the efforts put forward by the entire team, and increasing profitability through new services that are offered by the new doctor or hygienist.
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