Stop Making Excuses and Grow Your Practice
There’s no doubt you’re a talented, hardworking dentist. You love what you do and most days you couldn’t imagine doing anything else. You’ve also surrounded yourself with a solid team, though there are times when you wish they were a little stronger. OK, a lot stronger. Especially when chaos takes over your practice – a scenario that happens more often than you care to admit.
While it’s easy to blame your team when things go wrong, the truth is, you’re likely the one causing the problem. It’s human nature to blame others when challenges keep us from meeting our goals, and dentists are no exception. That’s why many dentists reach a point in their careers when they decide accepting frustration is easier than changing their behaviors or improving their systems. They start telling themselves their employees just don’t care anymore and this is just the way things are. They make excuses rather than focus on how to make the necessary improvements.
As you can probably tell, this isn’t a recipe for success. Dentists with this attitude continue to do things the way they’ve always done them, never moving their practice forward. I’m here to help you break out of that rut. It’s time to stop complaining about your team and start focusing on yourself and where you can improve.
Remember, you are the CEO of your practice and your team members look to you for guidance. You set the standard, and it’s up to you to create a productive environment and encourage teamwork. If you’re always negative or not willing to make positive changes, it will only bring your team members down. They’ll be afraid to come to you with problems, which could lead to destructive staff conflict or result in them looking for a new job. It’s important to encourage communication in your practice and let team members know you value both their contributions and their opinions.
In the coming weeks, I challenge you to pay close attention to your behaviors and the kind of environment they foster. If you find yourself engaging in the two counter-productive behaviors listed below, I suggest you take responsibility for them and commit to change.
1. You Micromanage Your Team Members
2. You’re Secretive
Let me give you an example. Team members know when the practice isn’t doing as well as it should be. If you repeatedly confirm their fears yet don’t give them the specifics or try to improve the situation, you’re doing nothing but creating an atmosphere of anxiety and trepidation. Team members are left with no idea how bad the situation is or exactly what’s keeping the practice from meeting financial goals, meaning they can’t do their part to help get things back on track. As you might imagine this is pretty frustrating, and might even lead some team members to start looking for a new job.
Keeping important information from your team will do nothing but hurt your practice, making the problem worse. If you want a successful, profitable practice, you have to communicate with your team. That’s the only way they can help your practice meet its full potential.
When problems arise, it’s much easier to blame everyone else and make excuses for your behavior. But sometimes you have to look in the mirror and see where you can make improvements. Acknowledging you’re part of the problem is a huge step, and will help you make the changes needed to start moving your practice forward.
Next week: 6 ways you might be hurting your practice.
For additional information on this topic and more, visit my blog: The Lighter Side
Interested in speaking to me about your practice concerns? Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Hiring by Behavior Predictors
Hiring, training and onboarding a new team member can be a quagmire if the new employee is not who you thought you hired. Dentists often blame this on an error of judgement, when it was actually due to using the wrong type of interviewing techniques.
Hiring should not be a game of luck; it should be a system of tools designed to identify the best candidate for the job position available. Dentists or their managers have traditionally hired based on what is written on the resume or job application regarding experience in dentistry. The industry demands experience in dentistry before it considers the possibility of hiring someone without any dental knowledge, and will usually weigh in favor of experience over formal education or potential to learn new skills.
Front office or business staff interviewing questions such as, “Have you worked in the business office of a dental practice? How long did you work there? What were your job responsibilities?” etc. are standard. The next step is usually checking references, which may or may not be honest in delivery, as many employers are hesitant to really express their discontent with the former employee for fear of retaliation.
Many problems can arise after hiring is complete. For example, your new Business Coordinator may have said she has experience, yet cannot get the deposit and day-sheet balanced by the end of the day. Or perhaps your new Office Manager, who came with a great recommendation and resume, is condescending to other members of the team and now there is turnover of valued staff. Maybe the new Scheduling Coordinator, who said he could keep the schedule full and had a great resume to boot, is being reported as “rude and abrupt” on the phone by patients and there is a negative review on Yelp. He is also double-booking appointments that require the doctor to be in two places at the same time, causing stress for the clinical team.
According to Katharine Hansen, Ph.D. from QuintCareers.com, “behavioral based interviewing is said to be 55% predictive of future job behavior while traditional interviewing is 10%.” Traditional interviewing techniques have been the standard for hiring for a long time. This method includes starting the interview with “Tell me about yourself.” The applicant can give you what you need to hear based on knowing what the job position is and enhancing it. “The interviewer has no way of knowing whether this is really the way the person would act in the circumstances demanded by the position.”
With “Behavioral Interviewing” there is much more probing, with open-ended responses required. “Employers use behavioral interviewing techniques to evaluate a candidate’s experience by past behavior so that they can determine the applicant’s potential for success.” In story form, a question is asked such as “Tell about a time when a patient was cancelling an appointment for that day.” Follow the probe with, “What were you thinking at that moment?” Probe more with “Lead me through your decision making process for doing what you did.” The applicant will have to engage listening skills instead of thinking ahead to try and anticipate the next question.
The formula for this system is called STAR (Quint Careers):
A sample STAR story for the Scheduling or Business Coordinator:
Situation: Patient phones office to cancel their hygiene appointment for that afternoon.
Many times the urgency of filling an important position in the practice forces the dentist or office manager to take shortcuts in the hiring process. Studies show that this can be very costly to the practice in the form of lost revenue to train and onboard the new hire. In addition, this can cause stress on the team to get to know and help the person, only to have the person not work out. Most important is the perception of the patients, who will leave your practice or complain on social media if their treatment is poor or below standard.
Need help with managing the hiring and training of your team? Contact McKenzie Management today for professional customized training courses for Business, Scheduling, Patient and Treatment Coordinators, Office Managers and CEOs.
Improve Communication with your Team
If you find your team members are annoying you just about every day, you’re not alone – you’re annoying them, too. Dentists and their team members often have different communication styles, which can lead to a lot of frustration and misunderstandings. This is a common problem in dental practices, but one that can be fixed with a little effort. Here are a few tips designed to help you improve communication with your team, which will ultimately lead to happier staff members, increased production and a more robust bottom line.
Hold Morning Huddles. And I’m not just talking about a few minutes right before you open your doors. Start the meeting well before patients start walking in, and be sure to arrive on time every day. Show your team members you take these meetings seriously and they will too. If you miss three out of four meetings a week, don’t get upset when team members aren’t there when you do show up.
There’s a lot you can talk about during these huddles to make sure you’re on the same page. Here are a few ideas for the agenda:
• Review the procedures scheduled for the day to make sure everything is accurate
Taking the time to meet each morning will improve team communication. It gives everyone the opportunity to address concerns before the day even begins, which means avoiding frustrating misunderstandings later.
Train team members not to ask you important questions in-between patients. You have a lot on your mind when seeing patients throughout the day, so if Susan your hygienist asks if she can take the day off tomorrow so she can attend a lunch at her daughter’s school, you’ll likely say yes then promptly forget about the conversation, leading to frustration for both of you.
Make sure team members know not to ask those types of questions when they catch you in the hallway. Instead, they should save them for first thing in the morning, before lunch or at the end of the day. And when they forget, tell them you’ll think about it and give them an answer the following morning.
Create a place where team members can voice their concerns. Oftentimes employees don’t bring up concerns because they’re afraid of being reprimanded. So they leave it bottled up inside, which could lead to staff conflict and other problems down the road. It’s important to remain open-minded about your team’s concerns and comments, and encourage them to share their thoughts. Create a suggestion box or whiteboard to give team members a safe place to express their opinions.
Let team members know they can come to you. It’s important for team members to feel comfortable talking to you, whether they’re having a problem with a co-worker or just need to request time off work. If they don’t, it could lead to trouble and chaos in your practice. Let me give you an example. Let’s say your team members know you don’t think anyone should ever get sick, making them afraid to call you when they need to take a sick day. They call one of their co-workers instead, leaving you to find out you’re short staffed at the last possible minute.
If this is a problem in your practice, I suggest you implement a system for team members to use when they’re under the weather. They should call you as soon as they realize they won’t be able to make it in today. Instead of giving them grief, you simply say, “Sorry to hear that. Take care of yourself and come back in when you’re feeling better.” The sick team member should also contact his or her working “partner” to relay anything they might need to know regarding the day.
There are many different personalities in a dental practice, which can make effective communication challenging. But if you make the effort, you’ll find everyone will work much better as a team. You’ll be more efficient and more productive, with fewer misunderstandings – leading to a healthier, more profitable practice.
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