How to Improve Communication with Your Team
If you’re not communicating properly with your team, it’s likely leading to conflict in your practice. Your team members don’t understand why you handle treatment the way you do, which leads them to gossip about your methods over the lunch hour. You’re frustrated because team members aren’t meeting your expectations – even though you never really told them what those expectations are.
This is a common problem consultants see, and it’s one you can’t ignore. These unresolved issues often blow up, damaging your relationship with your team members and, ultimately, your practice.
If you want a successful practice, you need a strong, supportive team behind you. That not only means hiring the right people, it also means communicating with them, which can be a struggle for many practices. Here are a few tips to help you improve communication in your practice, which will lead to a happier, more productive team.
1. Don’t assume your team knows what you know. Just because your team members have years of experience doesn’t mean they have the same knowledge as you. And even if they have questions about the treatment you’re recommending, many hygienists and assistants have non-confrontational temperaments so they never ask. Instead, they form their own opinions, and sometimes those opinions are negative.
How do you work around this? Train your team members to see what you see. Help them understand why you formulate your treatment plans and deliver treatment the way you do. Take time during your monthly team meetings to discuss a specific case and your reasoning behind the treatment plan. This only takes about 10 minutes, but will do wonders to promote a sense of teamwork in your office.
It’s also important to train team members any time you incorporate a new technology, technique or material. Let them know what you expect from them and how to properly use the equipment or successfully perform new procedures.
2. Make your expectations clear. When you let team members know your expectations, they’ll be much less likely to disappoint you. Communicate this through detailed job descriptions that include performance measurements, as well as thorough one-on-one communication.
3. Let them know when they do something wrong. When you see a team member do something that’s not acceptable, you can’t just ignore the behavior and hope it won’t happen again, because it will. Take the team member aside and discuss your concerns privately. Many dentists prefer to talk about the problem during a morning huddle or a morning staff meeting, but this isn’t effective. The team member you need to address might not even realize what you’re saying is directed at him or her.
Now if the behavior brings up an issue that you feel should be discussed with the entire team, by all means do so – but never single out the employee who triggered the conversation. No one likes to be called out, and all this will do is lead to hurt feelings and resentment. Talk to the team member privately and he or she will be much more likely to correct the situation.
4. Let team members know it’s OK to express their concerns. Many team members just don’t feel comfortable going to the dentist with concerns, especially if the concern involves the dentist. You have to let team members know it’s OK for them to come to you with questions or if any problems arise. In fact, encourage them to do so. This will help keep any conflict from getting out of control. It will also give you the opportunity to educate team members, or to fix problems you didn’t even know existed in the practice.
Here’s an example of how these conversations might go:
“Dr. Miller, I noticed during the procedure with Mrs. Smith that you did_____________. So I can have a better understanding of why you did that, would you explain it to me?” Dr. Miller’s response should be, “Susan that is a great question. Let me explain.”
This type of communication will help team members truly understand the dentistry you provide, and the reasons you make certain decisions regarding treatment. It will also keep them from gossiping about you at the lunch table, which can only lead to trouble.
5. Keep your team members informed. Dentistry is constantly evolving. You pride yourself on keeping up-to-date with the latest, and attend CE courses to enhance your skills so you can provide your patients with the best care possible. That’s great, but do you share what you’ve learned with your team?
When you return from a CE class or a tradeshow, talk to your team members about what you’ve learned and why you want to implement certain technologies or techniques into your practice. This will help keep your team on the same page, as well as excited about any new technology you invest in. And don’t forget your team members want to improve their skills as well. Encourage them to attend CE courses with you or on their own.
When you communicate with your team, it reduces the chance for conflict and increases the efficiency of your practice. And when everyone works well together, your patients will notice. Focus on improving communication and you’ll soon see your practice begin to flourish.Forward this article to a friend
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