Leading your Office Manager Effectively
If you are doing the work of both the Dentist and the Office Manager, you might be inadvertently detracting from the potential effectiveness of both roles. If you have an office manager and you really don’t provide much oversight, figuring, “I handle the back and my office manager handles the front,” you might similarly be setting yourself up for unnecessary challenges. To better manage the management of your practice, here are some things to consider with regard to the office manager role and how it can be carried out more effectively.
1. Don’t allow your manager to ‘manage’ solely from their desk. They should ideally move about frequently to ensure that their staff and the practice are functioning properly. A present and involved office manager, who interacts with the staff, dentist(s) and patients regularly, is vital to maintaining a healthy practice environment. In larger practices, the office manager should primarily do their work at a workstation outside of their office, and use their office for one-on-one staff meetings or employee counseling.
2. Schedule meetings with vendors to benefit the practice. Your manager should ideally be the one scheduling and setting up meetings with representatives, and then reviewing their proposals with the dentist(s). There are many lost opportunities beneficial to dental care and your practice that are never even looked at simply because an office manager is busy with other things, or does not take initiative. Part of the job of an office manager is to find ways to increase revenue and help the dentist(s) provide the best dental care possible. If your office manager avoids opportunities because some sales representatives drive him/her crazy, coach your manager to call their corporate office and ask for a different representative to handle your account.
3. Make sure your office manager lives by and enforces a no-gossip policy. The manager needs to be the one to “set the record straight,” and disseminate information to mitigate the reason why gossip happens to begin with. You will need to ensure your office manager has all the information at their fingertips, and if not, knows where to find it. Share openly and regularly with your manager your thoughts and ideas about where the practice is heading, what are the threats, etc.
4. The manager should understand all aspects of the practice. Have your office manager round on staff and shadow hygienists so they know the work, and could potentially assist as needed. Managers cannot be afraid to get their hands ‘dirty.’ Theoretically, the office manager should know every job function in the office, and therefore be better poised to help or coach when necessary. If the office manager can show interest and curiosity about everyone’s role in the office, they will be considered part of the team, and your practice’s level of cohesiveness will soar. To help facilitate this process, make sure to demonstrate curiosity and interest in your office manager’s job duties, and when you can make the time, consider shadowing her/him so you model the behavior you want your manager to carry out.
5. Does your office manager regularly make time to market your practice? There are numerous avenues for office managers to pursue networking opportunities with other office managers. Many areas have regional clubs and associations that span many specialties. Networking with other office managers allows your manager to market your services, and your practice in general, to other offices. This can also help your manager to learn what is working for other offices, which can directly benefit your office. These groups often offer educational pieces for your managers and other key employees.
6. Your office manager ultimately needs to set a good example. He or she must demonstrate respect, hard work, gratitude, kindness, professional dress, proper work ethic, timeliness, and avoiding unscheduled absences – and the staff will follow these examples. If your office manager struggles with leading by example, you may need to set up regular coaching conversations to help her/him see the necessity and make the appropriate changes.
Overall, there are not any more “lazy” or “disengaged” office managers than there are “lazy” nurses or “lazy” bankers for that matter. Many times it is the perception of “what does he/she do in there all day?” that causes others to assume that a manager is “lazy” or “inept.” This is why connecting yourself as the dentist to the office manager, and partnering to run the practice more efficiently and effectively, is one of your best business strategies. If you have a good handle on what the office manager does on a day-to-day basis, and you both work collaboratively with open communication and mutual curiosity, you will find your staff and patient retention go up, and everyone’s jobs will feel easier.
Dr. Gale provides coaching and training to enhance leadership skills, interpersonal communications and team building. If you would like to learn more, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.orgForward this article to a friend
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