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1.23.09 Issue #359 Forward This Newsletter To A Colleague

Nancy Caudill
Senior Consultant
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Are You Exhausted? Then Empower Your Team To Perform

Dr. Jim Beavers—Case Study #411

"I am so tired of thinking. I wish I could get my team to take control of their responsibilities so I don't have to think for them!" Dr. Beavers made this statement as he reminded one of his business employees to change the message on the answer machine. "If I don't remind them, they will forget!"

Do you feel that way, too? If you don't remind everyone how to perform their daily tasks, they will surely forget, or do it incorrectly. You must be exhausted having to remember everything that you need to do as well as what they need to do, too!

Dr. Beaver’s Practice Statistics:

  • 1 doctor, 1 full-time assistant and 1 part-time assistant, 1 part-time hygienist and 2 full-time business coordinators
  • Practice sees about 25 new patients a month and averages $83,000 a month in collections
  • 3 hygiene days per week
  • Overhead is 58%

Dr. Beavers has what he considers to be a "successful" practice, but he also feels that he is working himself into the ground. The reasons for his displeasure are explained with the following observations.


  • No systems—He feels that no one really knows what to do because there are no written protocols.
  • No accountability—He isn't really sure what his business team does all day long. He can "keep watch" over the clinical team but really has no idea what the "ladies at the front" are doing.
  • No confirmation from his team—He asks someone to call Mrs. Smith but he doesn't know if they did or not, so it stays in the back of his mind for several days until he finally asks.
  • No creative ideas from anyone—He claims that he seems to be the only one in the office that worries about how to market the practice, why there aren't more new patients, who didn't accept treatment and for what reasons, etc.

Some dentists walk around all day with checklists in their heads of tasks that need to be completed. It is very tiring to carry this list around; especially when the list gets longer every day and nothing is getting checked off. The following recommendations were presented to Dr. Beavers and his team to assist in managing his checklist and to be able to complete the list.


No systems—Make a list of tasks that you feel must be performed by your team on a routine basis. Train them to perform these tasks the way that you want them done. Don't leave anything to the imagination if you want it done your way. Assign the tasks to specific team members and have them write down the protocols step by step. Confirm that they can perform the tasks to your satisfaction.

No accountability—As tasks are assigned, confirm that the people that you have assigned the tasks to understand that they are responsible for the tasks being completed correctly. They are allowed to delegate the assignment if they choose but it is their responsibility to make sure that any person they delegate the task to can perform it correctly, and that they are the ones that you will be turning to if a task is not performed or performed incorrectly. This eliminates the "I don't know. I didn't do it!"

Job descriptions are vital in the area of accountability. You can't expect something to get done if the task is not assigned to a specific person. Everyone assumes that someone else is going to do it and no one does! Create a way of following up systematically for quality control.

No confirmation of tasks—Develop a system in which every team member understands the importance of completing a task in a timely manner. It is your responsibility to provide a time frame, such as "before the end of the day," "the end of the week," etc. What is urgent to you may not be urgent to them, so communicate! You also want to receive confirmation when tasks are completed so you can check them off your lists. Here are some ideas on how to receive confirmations:

  • Everyone makes notes in the same place in the computer (contacts, journal, clinical notes, etc.) Look to see if the follow-up was completed within the time frame. If not, go to the person that it was assigned to.
  • A sticky note on your desk in a certain place with all the pertinent information that you asked for, confirming that the task was completed, when it was completed and the outcome
  • An email confirming the same
  • Announcement at the morning/monthly meeting
  • A note in the physical patient record, with the record is placed on your desk for review

Creativity within the team—This is a tough one because it starts with employing the right team members for specific job descriptions. Temperament types can give you some guidance as to who would be the best fit for certain duties. Empowering your team to "think outside the box" is the most important step that you can take but is also the most difficult. This means that you have to learn to place some trust in their decision-making abilities. You also must be willing to LISTEN to what they have to say and give feedback that is not judgmental.

Your team must feel "safe" for them to express their thoughts and feelings to you. Learn to embrace what they have to say and reply in a positive manner. This doesn't mean that you must agree with what they say, but at least acknowledge and thank them for their comments. If you continue to squelch what they have to say or make them feel stupid, they will stop communicating. At that point, you are on your own!

If you would like more information on how McKenzie's Practice Enrichment Programs can help you IMPLEMENT proven strategies, email

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