Team Dynamics: Are They With You or Against You?
It’s likely you’ve heard or quite possibly stated yourself - and with great conviction - “There’s no ‘I’ in Team.” Sure, you are correct that there’s no letter “i” in the word, but there are most certainly individuals on your team and the effectiveness of each most assuredly directly affects the success of the group. Indeed, I do affect the success of my team, as do you affect the success of yours.
But first, what exactly makes a “team”? The word itself originally referred to a group of draft animals hitched together, such as oxen or horses or a team of dogs all pulling in the same direction. Clearly, if one wandered off course, it would affect the entire group. All of the others would have to work that much harder to stay on course and bring the wanderer back into the fold. The same holds true for groups of people.
We spend a lot of time talking about dental teams: their effectiveness, their cohesiveness, their efficiency, their productivity, etc. For all of our interest in teams - dynamics, operations, successes, structures, advantages, challenges - the team is largely in the Neanderthal stage in its evolution, still lumbering along. As Patrick Lencioni, leadership guru and author of the best-selling book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, describes it, “Teamwork remains the one sustainable competitive advantage that has been largely untapped.”
But just exactly how do you tap that competitive advantage? Coaching great Vince Lombardi noted, “Individual commitment to a group effort…that is what makes a team work…” Individual commitment. Like the team of draft horses, if one strays all the others must work that much harder to stay on course.
Think about your team. Are you all headed in the same direction? As the team leader, what are you doing to move each individual forward so that the group as a whole is moving toward common goals? There’s no question that many dental teams struggle to truly maximize their effectiveness. In fact, many are simply groups of individuals that come together and work under the same roof. Referring to them as a “team” is a stretch. They face daily challenges of merely getting everyone on the same page, let alone heading in the same direction. Often they simply avoid taking the necessary action to create high performance teams, preferring instead to muddle through and merely maintain the status quo.
Dentists become frustrated with team members because they don’t like the way employees handle certain procedures, tasks, or patient interactions, yet they routinely make excuses for those individuals rather than leading or engaging them. “Julie is new, so there’s a learning curve we have to consider.” “Rita is great at what she does, but she has difficulty dealing with some people.” “Jon is a really nice guy, but he’s afraid to mention a problem until we have a crisis.”
Conversely, team members complain that dentists don’t give enough direction, don’t provide enough training, or don’t hold others accountable. They’ll assert that certain staff get preferential treatment or that the office politics interfere with any real effort to change or improve systems. Some will become immensely frustrated with their inability to fix what they see as a problem or inefficiency because the practice has “always done it this way.” Others shun discussion of those issues that make fellow team members or the doctor uncomfortable for fear of making waves.
Take a look at your practice environment. Does your office foster a culture of shared commitment that is built on communication, trust, and mutual respect, where everyone is engaged and sincerely committed to moving the practice forward? Or is it a climate of competition, finger pointing, and blame where there is little or no interest in the success of others. In fact, your employees may see their coworkers as factions they must compete against for resources and recognition.
So how do you build the team that not only works together but truly excels together? It starts with a clear vision and a solid plan to implement the vision. The team has to know where they’re going before they can be expected to actually travel in the same direction. From there it requires “engagement.”
Next week, engaging your team.
For more information on this topic, visit my blog: The Lighter Side
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The ‘Must Have Skill’ for Your Next Hire
I had to chuckle when I recently read a doctor’s “want ad” online. The dentist said he had experienced some “staffing issues” lately. That’s a charitable way of putting it. In fact, if the local temping agency he used awarded customer loyalty incentives, he no doubt would have earned a “full-time free employee” by now.
While there were many telling signs that things were not as they should be, the ad for a “receptionist” was particularly revealing. “Busy dental practice seeks part-time receptionist to work 2-3 days per week. MUST know Dentrix.” It didn’t say DENTRIX experience preferred or a plus, it said, “MUST know DENTRIX.” Keep in mind the job posting was for a receptionist, yet the ad made no mention of excellent communication skills. It didn’t suggest that the ability to work with people would be important. The ad said nothing about the culture of the office, such as “Growing dental office seeks people-person to join our excellent team.” The ad didn’t promote the part-time schedule as a benefit or speak to any other benefits that might appeal to a prospective employee.
This doctor had one primary objective for this position: technical skill in a particular software program. I couldn’t help but wonder how many excellent candidates would never apply for the position because they don’t have the specific software experience being sought. Or how many good candidates would take the chance and apply for the position but be summarily dismissed because they didn’t list DENTRIX experience on their résumés.
The doctor suffered from hiring tunnel vision, and it wasn’t just this position. He had “staffing issues” across the board. It’s a common mistake that dentists make. They are so focused on specific skills, they can’t see potential. Nor can they see what the practice truly needs in terms of quality employees. They don’t build teams, they fill jobs. They hire staff; they fire staff; they gain staff; they lose staff. They are in a seemingly perpetual state of staffing turmoil.
Certainly, there are some positions that require very specific skill sets. But in others, technical skills such as a software program can be taught - aptitude and attitude cannot. Similarly, many dentists strongly believe that prospective employees must have “dental practice experience.” Consequently, they won’t consider that applicants from other sectors bring valuable fresh perspectives to the table, are more likely to be open and eager to learn, and they are less likely to grow bored quickly.
We’ve seen blockbuster dental teams that offer a mix of backgrounds and experiences. These groups are led by doctors who understand that hiring for attitude and culture fit in the practice, in some cases, will outweigh technical proficiency. But here’s the tradeoff: Hiring for attitude and aptitude takes time. Why? Because you are looking for more in this person than merely a list of specific skills. The temptation is always to get a body in the position.
One candidate may appear to be the “whole package” on paper. She brings plenty of dental practice experience. She has specific skills that the office is looking for, but she interviews with something of a chip on her shoulder. Another candidate brings a lot to the table as well, and although her skill set is outside what the practice is specifically looking for, she is eager to learn. She is bright and personable.
Doctors can easily convince themselves that the first candidate will hit the ground running. They tell themselves this person won’t need the upfront investment of time and training. They disregard the little “attitude quirks.” The first candidate may be looking at the position as just another job. She’s done all this before, no challenge here. It’s also likely she will have “her way” of doing things. “This is how we did it in the last office.” The other candidate is more likely to ask “How would you like this handled,” and will see it as an opportunity to grow and learn. Which employee would you want?
Let me be clear, you wouldn’t hire an employee purely on the fact that she has a good personality. Ideally the candidate has a solid foundation of skills, is a good fit for your practice, is an avid learner who seeks opportunities that stretch her skills, and has a good attitude. Given that, a little extra time training her to be your ideal employee may be well worth it.
Interested in speaking to Gene about your practice concerns? Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Do Dentists Really Need a Website?
Dear Dr. Findmeeasy: Yes, people are able to find you on these sites. However, after completing research they may find conflicting information or not enough information to make an informed decision about you or your practice. Recent studies show that more than 60% of potential new patients do an online search prior to selecting a practice. You have much more control of content on your own website, as the sites listed above often are found to have outdated or incorrect information. For instance, dentists who have purchased and started up a new practice are often still listed as associates at their previous employment location. A patient looking for you may call, only to find that you are no longer there. You do not want to appear outdated before you even get a chance to establish your practice. Think of how great it would be for them to find you at your new website address.
Now more than ever, people want the convenience of shopping on the internet. They get to choose whether it’s the break of day or the middle of the night when they find businesses. With a website, you are never closed. Your physical office hours limit the working person from calling you when their schedule allows. Your appointment reminder then goes on a list for the future, and often gets postponed.
Your website is where your potential patients or patients of record go to become educated about your treatments and services. Questions about financing or dental insurance are answered, and a map to the practice and parking information is provided. They can also see pictures of the physical location and the doctor and dental team. It is a forum where you can shine with your special talents and gifts as a cosmetic dentist or implant specialist. By providing this kind of information, the consumer can call to schedule instead of just to get information.
The website can provide support information for existing patients by offering them online appointment requests and post-operative information following a dental procedure, or even how to get emergency care after hours. The more information that you have with helpful tips and articles relevant to current dental trends, the more visits you will get to your website and thus more patients. An important part of relationship building is the confidence that the potential patient will gain when reading about your community involvement, your family, your team and your services. With the right information, a patient can decide if this is the right practice for them before they even call your office.
As for the expense, dental websites are very affordable due to the return on the initial and ongoing investment. If you own the website you have more control and less overall expense. With your own dental website you can add links to professional associations and social media such as Facebook. It is recommended to set up a business Facebook page rather than a personal Facebook page. Social media is a positive way to connect with your patients and with the current trends that affect society as a whole.
If you are using appointment reminder/survey software, you can link the reviews to your website also. Every practice has its patients that want contact by telephone only, but they are becoming the minority. With practice software allowing us to contact patients with email or text, it is becoming more and more obvious that being inaccessible online via a website is archaic.
Established practices with a solid patient base often underestimate the power of a website and social media. After twenty years or so in practice, the thought of change can be scary. But when patient numbers begin to drop and there are frequent unscheduled time units in the once busy day, thoughts should go towards creating visibility of the practice to new patients.
Once you are online, keeping your website updated and current is important. This task can be delegated to a team member who has experience or creative talent, or one who has a desire to learn. For more help with assessing your market strengths, contact McKenzie Management today.
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