How to Turn Feedback into Positive Action
You’ve finally committed to offering your team members feedback every day. You know giving them the guidance they need to succeed will improve efficiencies and practice productivity, not to mention boost your bottom line. That’s great, but it doesn’t end there. If you want to create real change in your practice, employees must be willing to accept feedback and then take action.
So how do you make that happen? First, I suggest you have your employees read this article. I’ve put together six tips designed to help employees take feedback, whether they receive it from you or another team member, and turn it into positive action. I want to help ensure feedback doesn’t go to waste, and leads to changes that will help your practice achieve true success and profitability. Here are my tips:
1. Don’t take constructive comments as criticism. Some employees find any type of criticism difficult to take. They only want to hear how well they’re doing, not what they need to improve. To turn this around, ask employees to take a good look at how they respond to suggestions and comments, and remind them to not take feedback personally. No one is trying to be critical; the goal is to help everyone excel in their roles so they can contribute to practice success.
Employees should ask themselves these questions about how they respond to constructive comments:
Make sure team members understand the importance of separating themselves from the action. They should look at feedback as an objective view of a specific task or procedure. The person offering the feedback only wants to help them grow and excel in their role.
2. Ask for feedback. If your employees want to become more comfortable receiving and acting on feedback, they should ask for it. We simply can’t see ourselves as others do, which is why feedback is so vital. Constructive feedback helps your employees see the unprofessional habits they didn’t even realize they’d developed, giving them the opportunity to change them. Once they learn to embrace it, feedback will help your team members grow as professionals and meet their full potential.
3. Don’t be concerned about offending your co-workers. While it’s important for team members to know how to handle feedback, they should also be encouraged to offer it. Unfortunately, many employees bite their tongues because they don’t want to offend anyone. So while feelings are spared, nothing changes and the practice suffers.
I suggest creating a culture that encourages feedback among team members. After all, this is the best way to continuously improve systems, customer service and patient care. Just remember, whether feedback is coming from the doctor or another team member, the conversation should be kept as positive as possible and suggestions should be offered politely.
4. Ask questions. Make sure team members don’t just shrug feedback off. Some might think the person offering the feedback doesn’t know what they are talking about or might just be in a bad mood, especially if the person giving the feedback is angry. Rather than ignoring it, team members should ask questions to better understand where their co-worker is coming from. They might even want to set up a time to talk later. That way, they can both respond calmly and work together to develop a plan to fix the problem.
5. Thank them. When someone offers feedback, team members should thank that person for taking the time to help them improve, even if they don’t necessarily agree with the comments or suggestions. Remind employees to focus on the substance of the message, rather than what they might perceive as a negative tone from the messenger.
6. Write everything down. Every time employees receive feedback, they should write it down. Encourage them to think about the comments and then come up with three to five steps to help them start implementing changes and making improvements.
Most people don’t want to hear when they’re doing something wrong, but trust me, fostering an environment that encourages both positive and constructive feedback will strengthen your team and help your practice thrive. Just make sure team members don’t ignore feedback or become angry when someone suggests handling tasks in a different way. Train them to take positive action and make necessary changes. This will not only help them grow, it will help you increase production numbers and your bottom line.
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
Practice Builder: Answering the Phone
Do you dread making any type of phone call to find out what is happening with a service or activity you are involved in? Do you look for an email or website or other type of alternate communication system before making the dreaded call? Have you found yourself waiting on hold for longer and longer periods of time just to find yourself dealing with yet another set of “menu choices” or “account identification requirements”? Have you ever found yourself repeatedly yelling into the receiver “REPRESENTATIVE” in an effort to finally reach a human being who might be able to deal with your issue?
Few things are as irritating as dealing with the modern invention of automated customer service. It seems we pay more for “services” only to find ourselves attempting to maneuver through a maze of phone prompts and “press 5 to hear these choices again” instead of finding an actual person who might be able to deal with our problem.
Therefore, companies who are able to provide actual human beings to answer the phone and help people deal with questions or problems are typically viewed very favorably by their clients – and these companies know to advertise the fact! When broadcasting their services in commercials, customer care companies, banking agencies, and credit cards loudly proclaim that human beings will talk to you when you call for help. They know that having an actual person answer the phone is a plus.
So, how is the phone answered in your practice?
Who is responsible for answering the phone at the office? Do you have a “recommended” way to answer, such as a phrase or statement that is routine? Do you have any automated services? Does the entire staff go to lunch at the same time leaving the phone “unmanned” or on voicemail? Is an answering service with live human beings on-call during the lunch hour and on weekends?
Here are some ideas:
Have one person responsible for answering the phone. A second person can be ready if the first person is busy. For example; Helen is “first hit” for incoming calls. Judy is “second hit”. By having a set order, both Helen and Judy know their responsibilities and are not looking at one another when the phone rings wondering whose turn it is to answer. Also, if Helen is busy with a patient, Judy knows that she is expected to answer the phone. It is a very poor practice to make a patient who is physically in the office wait while a front desk person talks on the phone. Of course, in an office with multiple lines, anyone who is available at the desk can answer to prevent the call from going to voicemail. In small offices where only one person is at the front desk, that person should answer ringing phones as quickly as possible, but take care of the patient at the desk before dealing with the call. These recommendations may seem simplistic, however, you would be surprised at how many practices have no organized method of answering the phone.
Also, everyone should know the proper verbiage to use when answering a call. For example; “Dr. Smith’s office, Carol speaking, how may I help you?” Don’t make your verbiage too long, as patients don’t want to wait. Be direct and to-the-point.
If you use voicemail, review what is being said and how calls are being returned. A suggestion; during the lunch hour you may say: “This is Dr. John Smith’s office. We are helping other patients and want to call you back. Please leave your message at the tone and we will return your call within a few minutes.” And then do it!
In the evening, the voicemail message might be: “This is Dr. John Smith’s office. Our normal office hours are 8am to 4pm Monday through Thursday. If you are calling before or after these hours, leave your message at the tone and we will call you back on the next business day. If this is an emergency, please call Dr. Howard Williams at 555-5555 for immediate assistance. If you need to change an appointment, please call during regular business hours. Thank you!”
This after-hours message gives patients the information they need concerning when the office is open, who they can contact in an emergency, and also that appointments cannot be changed by leaving a message on voicemail.
Better than having everyone leave for lunch at the same time, have a live person answer the phone during a staggered lunch hour. The more often a human being is available, the better the impression on possible patients.
Many of us spend quite a bit of money on marketing or office advertising to bring in new patients. Effective phone answering can be a practice builder and it costs very little – you already have staff manning the front desk! A potential patient will be interested in coming to you if they receive a friendly, professional greeting when they call. Your office will be way ahead of many other practices who are using automated services or who have unfriendly phone answering. “Doctors office; please hold”, is not an effective way to invite someone in to your office.
Carol Tekavec RDH is the Director of Hygiene for McKenzie Management. Carol can improve your hygiene department in just one day of training “in your office.” Interested in knowing more about how to improve your hygiene department? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Strategies for Introverted Dental Leaders
Leadership is a process by which a person influences others to accomplish specific goals and objectives. As such, the basic nature of leadership is interaction between people. This can be difficult for introverted dentists. Introverts are not necessarily shy (although shy people are introverted). The difference is that shyness is about feeling anxious in social situations. Most introverts are not necessarily apprehensive. In fact, introverts can have great people-skills.
• Have you been told you’re too serious?
If you answered “yes” to these questions, chances are you’re an introvert. No, you don’t need psychoanalysis or medication. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with you. However, it you want your practice to be more productive and profitable, you will need to “stretch” outside your interpersonal comfort zone.
Science has learned a good deal in recent years about the habits and requirements of introverts. Through brain scans, we know that introverts tolerance for external stimulation is lower than extraverts. Introverts process information better when they can think and reflect. As such, introverts do best when they have time to mull things over, and they can be quite interactive if they balance “people-time” with time for solitude.
Introverts can be outstanding leaders. They generally listen better. Typically they think through issues in more depth than their extraverted counterparts. They are more focused. When they speak they are more concise. In my coaching and leadership training with dentists I have found that introverted dental leaders can be wonderfully warm and witty with their patients – but when it comes to employees, they’re just worn out. Low on interpersonal fuel, many introverted leaders rely on hibernation; they retreat to their office and close the door. Employees are left on their own with little to no guidance, direction or support.
If you’re an introvert, I am not suggesting that you change your private nature. But I am recommending that you shift your behaviors to engage more with your team. These are skills you can develop and practice.
2. Express thoughts rather than rehearsing ad nauseum. This is especially true when something displeases you. For introverts, problems in the office are internalized. Introverts can spend so much time on inner dialogue that the issues don’t get discussed openly. This can snowball into serious conflict.
3. Seek out opportunities to convey your message to your team. Plan to let your staff know more about your practice vision at staff meetings. Remind them during morning huddles - great ideas can be expressed in short segments of time. Script it. Come up with a few talking points on important practice issues.
4. Add a little enthusiasm to your words. This is a skill you can practice with the help of a tape recorder or with a trusted ally. By putting more “punch” to your communication you will ignite more believability and credibility in your message.
5. Be the first to speak rather than the last. By going first, you’ll be more relaxed as you listen to others. In turn you may actually speak up more.
6. Reduce the amount of time you spend in your office. Walk around. Have lunch with employees at least once a week.
7. Say “good morning” when you come in each day. Never leave without saying goodbye or letting your staff know you’re stepping out of the office for a while.
8. Smile. Misunderstandings are often based on small nuances…like an overly somber facial expression or a frown. When you smile, it shows others that you are approachable and confident. Employees will want to follow.
If you are an introvert, celebrate your strengths. Remember that your natural gifts are essential for team harmony. Your style can be calming and reassuring during stressful situations. Now it’s time to expand your skills. The key is to remind yourself, and as Nike says, just do it.
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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