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  03.17.05 Issue #158

Surviving Team Meetings

Belle M. DuCharme
RDA, CDPMA. Director
The Center for
Dental Career Development

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I stopped having staff meetings because they just cause negative feelings and nothing seems to get accomplished. They are a waste of time because I lose productive chair time with patients and time is money.”

-Anonymous Dentist

This same anonymous dentist nine months later said, “ I am running in the red. I have to scrape to make payroll. I don’t know why my schedule is not full. What happened to my patients?”

Have you asked your staff?” I replied. “I think it is time for a “Team Meeting.”

The much overdue Team Meeting revealed the following information:

  • Follow-up calls to patients were not being made.
  • No new marketing ideas had been introduced and the old ones were being ignored.
  • No one knew how many new patients were coming in but everyone felt that the numbers had fallen off.
  • The staff felt like they were working in a factory and the interpersonal aspect was being ignored.
  • No one knew how much treatment was being presented and how much was actually accepted. How could they improve if there were no set goals?
  • Some team members had ideas on how to improve things but there was never any time or encouragement to share these ideas with the doctor.
  • The team had become several independent workers who showed up everyday, did their work and left with no feeling of “ownership” or the feeling that they “make a difference” to the practice.
  • The plans to design an office Website had been abandoned and…the list went on.

The Team Meeting is an instrument designed to solve problems and critical issues that arise on a continual basis in every dental practice. Meetings are a critical link between team members that is lost when the fast paced, multi-tasking business of dentistry rockets you through the busy day. Many dentists are frustrated in ways to motivate employees but unless there is communication there can be no motivation. Participation in team meetings become automatic if each employee knows they have an area of responsibility for performance of a particular part of the practice and will be expected to present the status of their area. Assigning areas of responsibility to team members is related to their job description or job duties. For instance, the Scheduling Coordinator would be responsible for reporting the number of new patients that had been seen each month and the number of cancellations and failed appointments the practice had experienced that month.

Who is responsible for the failure of Team Meetings, the doctor or the staff? Usually both are at fault either because they have not properly prepared themselves for the meeting or did not perform their function during the meeting. If the doctor is an autocrat who dominates the meeting with his or her own ideas this will stifle the rest of the team who may have great ideas but are afraid to “rock the boat.” Taking turns running the meeting is the best way to insure that there is a fair exchange of ideas and energy.

Having an agenda and timing each area of discussion to make sure that every area is discussed and each team member have an equal opportunity to participate. No personal issues or gripes are to be part of the meeting. These issues need to be resolved outside the arena of the meeting. An AGENDA sheet is to be posted a month before the meeting.

Anyone who writes a problem for discussion must bring a possible solution to the team, this assures that careful thought has been given to the issue to be discussed. A copy of the agenda is given to each member at the start of the meeting. The goal is to encourage the group to improve lines of communication. Sometimes it takes time to get the team moving in the same positive direction. Evaluating the success of each meeting and determining how meetings can be improved for everyone is an ongoing goal. How to facilitate a productive team meeting is part of the Advanced Business Training offered at The Center for Dental Career Development.

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Date Location Sponsor Speaker
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Apr. 15 Destin, FL Excellence in Dentistry Sally McKenzie & Exhibit
Apr. 21 Nashville, TN American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry Sally McKenzie & Exhibit

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