3 Tough Questions to Ask Your Team of CEOs
Part of being a practice CEO is asking yourself tough questions. The answers can lead to positive change in your practice, growing your patient base and your bottom line. But if you want to be successful, you can’t be the only one answering these questions. As the CEOs of their specific practice systems, your team members can be a valuable resource. Getting input from your employees not only creates that CEO mentality in your team, it helps improve practice efficiencies and save money.
Training your team members to think like CEOs will give them a sense of ownership in the practice. They’ll see how important their contributions are to the practice’s success, and their insights will help you make necessary improvements.
Not sure what to ask? Here are three questions to get you started. Trust me, when you really listen to the answers and take action, your practice will thrive.
1. “What is it time to get rid of?”
Let me give you an example. Once upon a time, managing recall required a lot of paperwork. That isn’t the case today. It should be a streamlined system that’s mostly run through email and text messaging. Here’s another example. Remember those patient forms that you once had to hand out in person or send via snail mail? Today those forms should be available on your practice website or emailed directly to your patients.
Once you’ve been practicing for 10, 15, 20 years, it’s easy to settle into a routine and the “this is the way we’ve always done things” mentality. Unfortunately, that mentality gets you nothing but wasted time and unnecessary expenses. Asking this question gets team members thinking about streamlining processes and updating technology to improve practice efficiency and productivity, which will help you reduce costs and increase revenues over time.
2. “What would you change if you were paying the bills?”
Bottom line: Paying attention to specific budget targets will encourage both you and your team members to closely evaluate the value of large purchases. Look for ways to eliminate unnecessary expenses, and everyone in the practice will benefit.
3. “What systems are working well and how can they be improved?”
Here’s an example. Let’s say your schedule runs like a well-oiled machine. You always hit daily production goals and you rarely have to deal with the problems broken appointments bring. Take a step back and figure out why. What have you done to ensure consistent results? What type of training have you given your Scheduling Coordinator? Does your Scheduling Coordinator use a well-thought out script to ensure he or she always knows exactly what to say? Do you give regular feedback so the Scheduling Coordinator knows what’s working and what needs to be improved?
Answering these questions – with the help of your team – will enable you to apply successful protocols in other areas of the practice, leading to improvements that will grow productivity and profits.
If you want to be the proud owner of a successful, profitable practice, you need to continually evaluate and improve procedures. But this isn’t something you should do on your own. Empower team members to take ownership of their systems and to serve as CEOs in their respective areas. Ask them questions to get their input and make sure they understand how important that input is to achieving practice goals. Get them thinking like practice owners and, as a team, you’ll be well on your way to practice success and profitability.
For additional information on this topic and more, visit my blog: The Lighter Side
Interested in speaking to me about your practice concerns? Email email@example.com
Leadership: Overcoming Adversity
All leaders eventually face hardship. Great leaders overcome those hardships and improve themselves in the process. As a dentist, you have to look at your weakest moments as opportunities rather than limitations. Every obstacle, and every failure, is another step toward your ultimate destination: success. Not everyone is as good at handling adverse conditions. Those who turn adversity to their advantage are clearly the winners. So how do we “win” when things seem very difficult?
The truth is that no one can elude adversity forever, and we naturally and appropriately view adversity as a bad thing. After all, it has the connotations of weakness, hardship, suffering, misery and sorrow. However, the greatest personalities of our time have asserted repeatedly that hard times build qualities such as grit, determination, resolve and perseverance.
Whether you live your life on the edge or are someone who prefers playing things safe, life will never be free of hardship. Life – and yes, your dental practice – will inevitably and eventually throw unpleasant surprises and challenges in your direction. Sometimes, it will be your personal life at risk of going berserk while, at other times, you will find it difficult to manage your professional life. Maybe you feel confident that you’ve hired good staff and the office will now run itself, but then are shocked to find you missed some crucial bits of information. Now you can’t seem to figure out how to move those staff out and go back to the drawing board and hire better people. Or perhaps a family health emergency is threatening your retirement savings. Such situations often invoke feelings of despair and self-pity.
While it is difficult to avoid such emotions, quality leaders make it a point to learn from these situations and move on. What make quality leaders unique from others are their strong values and principles, which they reflexively go to when faced with an adverse situation. Here are some ways to face difficult situations in a more powerful way. Imbibe these principles in your life and you will see a remarkable increase in your resilience and success.
1. Determination: Actions speak louder than words. When the going gets tough, the tough get going. There are a thousand similar quotes that postulate the power of persistence. The one quality that will guarantee your success is the willingness to stick with it, and to refuse to settle for anything less than your dream. If you are determined to make it through any struggle, no matter the magnitude, then you will.
2. Take responsibility: When people face adversity they often shy away from owning the responsibility of their actions that have led to the situation. Instead of blaming others for your professional setbacks or finding comfort in the notion of your own misfortune, be mindful of behaving in ways that work in your favor. While the situation might be something that you could not have prevented, responding to it in a constructive manner will help you channel your energy in the right direction. The more of it you own, the better guarded you’ll be against the situation ever recurring.
3. Treat negative feedback as a gift: Failure is not a judgment of your abilities. It is a response to your actions telling you to make better use of your abilities the next time. Negative feedback is similar. If you receive feedback that you must improve, don’t make the mistake of hearing this as negative judgment. It may feel like a personal attack, however, you must interpret the negative feedback as a learning opportunity and then set about creating a personal improvement plan.
4. Focus on your strengths: People often work on improving their weaknesses while ignoring their strengths. While improving your weak points is helpful and the natural go-to when trying to improve, your innate strengths are what will truly carry you through difficult times. Great leaders focus on the positive side of things and how they can leverage what they already do well.
5. Identify new goals: If you feel you have stalled out in life and struggle to find meaning, this is the perfect time to realign your goals and establish a new direction to move on. Seeking professional assistance, such as leadership coaching or even personal therapy, can be quite beneficial. It is a strength, not a weakness, to reach out for help when in need. This is what great leaders do, every time.
Dr. Gale provides coaching and training to enhance leadership skills, interpersonal communications and team building. If you would like to learn more, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Staying On Time
Your first patient just called and said they are going to be late because of a car accident on the way to your practice. The patient in this scenario comes from quite far away, has referred a lot of patients to your practice and has many family members who also come to you. To turn them away when they worked so hard at getting there would not be recommended, as this could lead to the loss of quite a few current patients. Or perhaps you are running late with your first patient of the morning and you have a very busy schedule. Regardless of the reason, if you don’t plan ahead you are going to be late for your next patient, which will throw off the entire morning schedule.
Your patient is due for a full mouth series of x-rays and a periodic exam. They are on a three-month periodontal maintenance plan and have had many restorative and periodontal issues in the past, so you hate to skip the x-rays today. Telling the next patient why you are running late does not help. Everyone has excuses and patients plan their schedules based on getting out of the dentist at a certain time. No matter how much a patient loves you or the practice, they do not want to hear your excuses. The best thing you can do is look at how you can make your schedule come back together as quickly as possible.
So, you go ahead and set up the panorex machine. If possible, inform the assistant and doctor that your patient is going to be late or that you are running late. Have your room set up as much as you can without the actual patient being in the chair and have all of the notes ready to go. Ask one of your team members if they are willing to take care of the panorex machine and cleaning it when you are done, so you are able to take the panorex and walk away in order to get the bitewing x-rays.
While you are taking x-rays, there is no reason why you can’t ask the patient, “What problems or concerns do you have with your teeth?” You should have already reviewed their health history before the patient came into your room, and you may be able to update it while you are taking x-rays as long as it is not overly involved.
Now that you are done with the x-rays, you will want to start immediately. But wait, the patient now requests that you get them numb in #2, #3, #14 and #15 because those teeth are sensitive to scaling. So you get the proper materials to get them numb.
At this point you should consider what you may or may not do to bide some time. If you are considering that you may not probe at this visit, don’t say this to the patient until you know for sure. You may not know until the end of the appointment, and you may have to be flexible with the order in which you do things. Look at your next patient and see if they need x-rays. If they do, see if there is another team member who may be able to get those for you, and possibly have the doctor do the exam before the patient is even in the hygiene chair.
The handoff from assistant to hygienist is crucial, especially if the patient has treatment pending or there has been new treatment diagnosed by the doctor. Make sure you have all of the information necessary to go over treatment that was recommended and answer any questions they may have.
Another thing that may help you get back on schedule quickly is to move the patient for the periodic exam and actually have the doctor do the exam at the end of the appointment rather than during the hygiene appointment. It is also important that patients are scheduled properly and for the amount of time requested for the appointment.
As we all know, when you are running late, a minute here and a minute there adds up to five or ten minutes in no time at all. It’s not just the patient in your chair that you are concerned about, but every patient after that who may have to wait for their appointment, and may decide while waiting that this is the last time they will be waiting at your practice.
Planning ahead and good time management skills are imperative in a successful dental practice. What looks great on paper does not always work perfectly in our operatories. Getting into the habit of squeezing one more patient in is not worth the patients you may lose. When patients walk in the door, they are very in-tune with the way an office feels. They know when they are being well taken care of with the time needed to provide not only quality of care but also great customer service. Don’t think you are fooling anybody if your office runs on chaos.
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