11.24.06 - Issue # 246 Forward This Newsletter To A Colleague

Nancy Caudill
Senior Consultant
McKenzie Management
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Dr. Joe Garrison - Case Study #123

When a doctor and his/her staff begin working with McKenzie Management, a confidential “staff” survey is conducted.  This survey is used to gather information about the staff’s PERCEPTION of the doctor in his/her role of dentist and employer.

Dr. Garrison’s office was no exception. It was obvious from the survey review that there was stress in the office between the doctor and the team, as perceived by the staff.  This information was going to be difficult to share with the doctor, because he perceived himself differently.

Here was the compilation of the staff’s answers about Dr. Garrison

  • Doctor is not consistent with office policies and procedures – NEVER
  • Doctor changes policies and procedures that affect me without asking for my opinion – ALWAYS
  • The doctor listens and tries to use ideas raised by others in the group – NEVER
  • The doctor tells me in a constructive manner when I make mistakes – SOMETIMES
  • The doctor is sensitive to the feelings of his employees – SOMETIMES
  • The doctor takes it out on others when things don’t go his/her way – ALWAYS
  • The doctor is warm and friendly with the staff – SOMETIMES
  • The doctor treats patients kindly – SOMETIMES
  • The doctor tries to provide the highest quality of care possible – ALWAYS

This was not an office full of happy campers!  Above all else, he was an excellent dentist and clinician.  Patients don’t really understand the difference between good dentistry and poor dentistry.  However, they do know if they like the dentist or not.  The staff’s perception of Dr. Garrison was that many of his patients did not like him.  Patients don’t like change, and as a result of this, they will continue to visit their dentist even if they don’t like their personality.

In Dr. Garrison’s case, his patient retention was very low and he was not seeing new patients as a result of referrals from other patients, but rather from his insurance affiliations.

When I visited with Dr. Garrison’s staff, I asked the obvious question.  “Why do you stay if you are so miserable and you didn’t give him flying colors?”  Their response was, “We stay because we like one another – we just don’t like him!”  This was not the first time that I have heard this.

The team indicated that they liked their jobs and they enjoyed their patients of long standing.  Many of these team members had been with Dr. Garrison for over 20 years.  It is amazing to me that staff members can be so unhappy for such a long time.  Now, upon my arrival, they THINK that I can fix him!  I don’t think that they sell that magic wand in the stores where I shop!

Dr. Garrison’s temperament type makes decisions based on how he “thinks” about things.  He is “introverted” – meaning that he does not do a good job of communicating with patients or staff in many cases, thinking that everyone can “read his mind”.

On the other hand, the majority of his team members are the complete opposite, talkative and sensitive. Teaching Dr. Garrison how to communicate with “feeling” staff would be difficult because he doesn’t “feel” their sensitivity. When he read the compilation of the survey results, he was totally surprised and thought that we had the surveys mixed up with another office!  I tried to remind him that PERCEPTION IS REALITY.  It doesn’t mean that it is the truth, but it is how his staff perceives him.

McKenzie Management’s objective was to put protocols in place that would help improve the communication between the introverted dentist and the extroverted staff so they felt that he was “sharing” and he didn’t really have to put forth any effort, since that was not his nature.


A beginning of the day meeting to review the schedule, discuss patient’s special needs and treatment, recognize birthdays, celebrate the previous day’s production and concentrate on today’s production.

A monthly strategy meeting to review monthly statistics regarding production and collections, doctor and hygiene production, scheduling goals, overhead goals, accounts receivables and a “To Do” List with agenda items that are either completed or in progress assigned to an accountable staff member.


By conducting daily and monthly meetings, it helped Dr. Garrison to relate to his staff under specific guidelines.  He is making a concerted effort to thank his staff from time to time, but this is not his nature, so it may not continue.  His behavior is not intended to be uncaring, but can be viewed as such by others who are not of the same temperament make-up.

On the other hand, his team was encouraged to praise Dr. Garrison as well.  It is the old adage of, “reap what you sow”. 

I encourage all team members to “be happy or be gone”.  As adults, we all have choices.  If you are truly not happy in your practice, seek fulfillment elsewhere.  Doctors and other staff members will not change – we are who we are. 

If you would like more information on how McKenzie's Practice Enrichment Programs can help you IMPLEMENT proven strategies….. email info@mckenziemgmt.com.

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