2014: You Have a Choice
I have good news. Within a few days, we will be at the dawn of an entirely new year. Like a brand new car, you get to open the door, climb in, and chart a whole new journey. It’s the opportunity to embrace real, positive change as well as leave a few not so helpful behaviors in the rearview mirror. More on that in a minute.
This is the time of year in which we reflect on the choices we’ve made over the past 12 months. Perhaps they were choices made out of habit – the way you’ve always done things. All patients are scheduled for one hour with the hygienist. Or maybe they were choices made out of guilt. Raises for the clinical staff seemed like such a good idea at the time, until you felt the full financial impact. They may have been choices made in haste. The new employee seemed like such a good fit during the 15-minute interview, not so much after a few months in the office.
What if you could turn back the clock and reconsider some of the choices you made during the past 12 months? What amendments and course corrections would you make? What cliffs would you have the courage to leap off of this time around? What relationships would you nurture? What arrangements would you end?
No, you cannot alter the decisions you made in 2013, but 2014 will bring you a host of opportunities to make any number of positive choices and changes for the better. I have a few suggestions to help you get started.
#1 Choose to establish your practice goals and vision. In other words, chart your course. Where do you want to be when the next 12 months conclude?
#2 Take concrete steps toward achieving your goals every day in the coming year. Implement key management systems that enable you to monitor and measure every step along the journey and make course corrections as will be necessary.
#3 Foster a culture that enables everyone to perform at their highest potential. First, train your team to be truly excellent. Second, create an environment based on mutual respect and professionalism. Tune into those seemingly minor interactions that quietly chisel away at practice goals and undermine your success. Pledge to leave the following behaviors behind as you and your team move forward:
Negativity. I pledge that I will not complain about my personal life, my job, my colleagues, my boss, my staff, the patients. Nor will I shoot down another’s idea by telling them, “It won’t work. We’ve tried it before. It will never happen.”
Micromanaging. I pledge that I will not swoop in and take control just because I don’t like the way someone is doing something.
Temper Tantrum. I pledge that I will not blow my stack. If I am angry I will not take it out on my team or my colleagues. Just because I’m stressed, frustrated, and at the end of my rope doesn’t make it okay for me to throw a fit. Everyone else is probably just as stressed, frustrated, and clinging to the end of their own ropes.
Stinginess. I pledge to not withhold appreciation. I will not ignore the good things that my staff and colleagues do. Nor will I hog the credit for good ideas that are the result of my efforts as well as others.
Playing Favorites. I pledge to treat everyone with dignity and respect and demonstrate that I value the opinions of all – not just those whom I like and who agree with me.
Sniping. I pledge that I will not make destructive or cutting comments about others – the doctor, the staff, the patients, the salespeople, or anyone else. Nor will I gossip and spread the latest “news” about “so and so.”
Dodging. I pledge that I will not blame my teammates, the traffic, the weather, the doctor, the patients, my ex, my spouse, my children, or anyone else for my inability to effectively carry out my professional duties.
So this New Year, in addition to resolving to take your practice up a notch or 10, also consider how you can better yourself and your team by simply committing to leave a few potentially destructive behaviors behind in the year that was.
For more information on this topic, visit my blog: The Lighter Side
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My Favorite Things
I am a patient at many different offices, as I believe in preventive care and having routine physicals, mammograms, eye exams, and an examination at the dermatologist for lumps, bumps and growths - in addition to my dental preventive care. I would like to share with you what makes me want to stay at one doctor over another, besides quality of care.
It is recommended that employees make personal phone calls and any other form of communication on their own time. This may be done before the morning starts, at lunch, or after work. I practice this myself - my days are spent focused on my patients and clients. The doctor is not paying me to take care of my personal business on his or her time. As a patient, one thing I look for is an office that has someone answering the phone at all times of the work day (this may be done by staggering the lunch breaks of your front office staff). I am currently leaving a doctor’s office that I have gone to for years because they hide behind their answering machine and do not pick up the phone. Like many of your patients, I make personal phone calls - such as scheduling appointments - at lunch.
While we’re talking about the telephone, it’s very important to have timely follow-up, whether it’s a phone call, email, or text. If your patients have questions or concerns that need to be addressed, you want to be sure the follow-up communication happens within 24 hours - even if it’s just to let the patient know you are waiting to hear from the insurance or the specialist or whoever it may be. As a patient, I am impressed by follow-up phone calls from the doctor or a staff member to make sure I am doing all right. I once had two medical doctors call me on a Sunday night to confirm that I felt ok to go to work on Monday. As a result of this kind of care, I can’t even tell you how many people I’ve referred to my MD and the hospital that she works for.
If you are looking to attract new patients or make life easier for your existing patients, another big thing to offer are late night and early morning appointments. This flexibility allows patients who are not able to take time off to get appointments they would otherwise not make. Even just offering 7:00 AM or 5:00 PM appointments will make a difference to your patients.
One way to save on overhead is to have one front office person come in for the early appointment and work 7 to 4, while the other front office person may work 9 to 6. The person who works the earlier shift will take the first lunch, and the second person in will take their lunch immediately following. Department stores do this all of the time.
Many people have Fridays off now, so if you are only working four days a week you may want to make one of the days that you work be Friday. This allows patients to come in without having to take additional time off - particularly those who have already had a cut in their pay because of mandatory furlough days. This day may vary depending on what town you work in and the companies that help support your practice.
Saturdays are a consideration, but many times this day ends up being full of last minute cancellations and no-shows because people get wrapped up in soccer games, little league and community events. If you decide to work Saturdays, you may only want to work until noon.
Timeliness is an important consideration as well. When I take time out of my busy schedule to make an appointment during the workday, I appreciate knowing that I will be seen on time and will be done with the appointment by a certain time. This helps me to take the least amount of time off from work as possible.
With all of this said, I challenge you to meet and exceed the wants and needs of your patients in 2014. I also challenge you to make sure your own expectations are met in what you desire from your doctors. Remember - if you expect it, then it’s certain some of your patients or future patients will expect the same from your office and staff.
Interested in improving your hygiene department? Email firstname.lastname@example.org and ask us about our 1-Day Hygiene Training Program or call 877-777-6151
A New Journey for a New Year: What’s Your Tree?
The holiday hustle and bustle has passed. We now make preparations for a brand new year. December 31st is on the horizon. Soon it will be 2014. Of course this is resolution time, when people make all kinds of pledges… to exercise regularly, lose weight, refrain from favorite vices. This year, ask yourself a different question. Ask, “What’s my tree?”
The question originates from Julia Butterfly Hill, an American environmental activist who spent 738 days living in a 1500-year old California redwood tree to prevent loggers from cutting it down. It was 1997. She was 23. Her goal was to make the world aware of the plight of ancient forests. Her courageous act of civil disobedience gained international attention for the redwoods as well as other environmental and social justice issues. Her story inspired millions around the globe to take action in their own communities.
Wael Ghonim was haunted by the image of a man who had been beaten to death by Egyptian police. He didn’t know the dead man, Khaled Said. He could have averted his eyes and shrugged off the incident as something he could not change. But rather than look away, Ghonim used the photo to launch a Facebook page. His title was “We are all Khaled Said”. That phrase ignited a fear that had gone unspoken among Egyptians: What happened to Khaled Said could happen to anyone. The page garnered millions of views, rallied thousands to demonstrate, and inspired countless other citizens to find their voices in print, online and out loud. The Egyptian Revolution started on January 25, 2011. Seventeen days later, President Hosni Mubarak relinquished power. Ghonim’s tale shows the extraordinary power of a message, a deed, a single individual. One man, one message, and ultimately, a government overturned.
Naturalist, scientist and poet Loren Eiseley wrote his tale about a wise man who
He came closer still and called out "Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?" The young man paused, looked up, and replied “Throwing starfish into the ocean.”
"I must ask, then, why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?” asked the somewhat startled wise man. To this, the young man replied, “The sun is up and the tide is going out. If I don't throw them in, they'll die." Upon hearing this, the wise man commented, “But young man, do you not realize that there are miles and miles of beach and there are starfish all along every mile? You can't possibly make a difference!” At this, the young man bent down, picked up yet another starfish, and threw it into the ocean. As it met the water, he said, “It made a difference for that one.”
I am not advising you to quit dentistry and become a tree-sitter, a revolutionist or a starfish thrower. However, Julia’s question, “What’s your tree?” is a catalyst to consider your place in the world and where you really want to spend your energy next year. There is something special in each and every one of us. We are all gifted with the ability to make a difference, the power to shape the future. You can choose to be an observer in what happens to you, or you can take action and participate in the world around you. The question is not, “Can one person make a difference?” You already do. The question you need to ask is, “What kind of a difference do I want to make?”
May the New Year bring you, your professional and personal families many blessings, and may you look for opportunities to choose to change your world for the better.
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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