The #1 Practice Management Myth
“I think the doctor is happy with my performance. He hasn’t told me he isn’t.” And that is how the conversation began with a key employee in “Dr. Craig’s” practice. The staff member, “Kelly,” had been with the practice for about a year, and was trying to explain how Dr. Craig sets forth his expectations. She was struggling to clarify how the doctor provides feedback and direction to the staff both individually and as a whole.
When I inquired as to how often the doctor meets with employees individually to discuss their performance and his expectations of them, Kelly tried her best to put a good face on the situation. “Oh I’m sure Dr. Craig would if he had time. And really, he’s pretty good about answering questions when we have them.”
So how exactly are the employees to know what’s expected? How do they gauge if their contribution is valuable to the practice? The “no news is good news” approach to management may have been perfectly acceptable to the post WWII generation, but it won’t serve dentists well in today’s modern workplace.
As we dug a little deeper, we discovered that in actuality, Dr. Craig believed that if he hired an employee to do a job, s/he should know what to do, particularly if the employee came with previous experience. After all, he reasoned, no one had to tell him how to do the dentistry. And that is a common practice management myth. The doctor wants “experienced” employees, so s/he doesn’t have to spell out the details.
Regardless of how much experience new hires bring to a practice, it doesn’t guarantee their success, nor does it absolve the doctor from his/her responsibility to provide clear guidance, direction, goals, and feedback. For Dr. Craig, subscribing to the myth was costing him a fortune in staff turnover and lost patients, who were puzzled (if not concerned) by the perpetual stream of new employees. They would ask - so where’s “Mary” or “Abby” or “Michelle” or “JT” and frankly it was becoming embarrassing to have to sheepishly say they were no longer with the practice.
Naturally, there were a few factors that played into staff attrition, but chief among them was the simple fact that employees never knew where they stood. Dr. Craig mistakenly saw performance reviews as uncomfortable exchanges in which he would have to tell an employee what he didn’t like about their performance, and then, he believed, they would get mad and quit. Or, he would have to tell them that he didn’t have any problems with their performance and then, he believed, they would expect a raise. And with staff in a perpetual state of flux, why, he reasoned, should he spend time on this burdensome administrative detail. Ironically, his dodging the matter yielded essentially the same result – employees quit and it cost his practice more money.
Today’s dynamic workplace needs a steady stream of two-way communication. Feedback and performance evaluations are the breakfasts of champions for highly functioning and effective practices. As the coach of your team, performance reviews help you fine tune your star players and spot both problems and/or potential.
Performance reviews enable you to set forth exactly what your expectations are, from how staff set up the tray tables, to how they answer the phone, to how they handle emergency patients, and the list goes on. They enable you to engage employees individually to help them see clearly how their role is essential to the success of the practice. They provide a forum to discuss opportunities and challenges for the individual and the practice.
Additionally, it is in performance reviews that specific and measurable goals are established and progress toward them is evaluated. Without goals, practice teams wander aimlessly. It’s like being dropped in the wilderness without a compass; they are left to guess which direction is the right course to follow.Feedback enables you to correct and praise in the moment. Like goals, feedback is specific - but it is offered regularly, if not daily. Rather than saying, “You did a great job today with Mrs. Smith,” say, “Great job today handling Mrs. Smith’s situation. You kept your cool and were really helpful and considerate of her needs.” Remember to praise progress, not just perfection. Positive feedback is the cheapest and most effective motivation you can give your team. Offer it generously and sincerely. Couple it with periodic performance evaluations, and watch your practice profits soar.
Interested in speaking to Gene about your practice concerns? Email firstname.lastname@example.org
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