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  04.21.05 Issue #163

Are You Disappointed in Your Staff, Too?

Nancy Haller, Ph.D.

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A true story from one of my coaching clients...

Last week I went on vacation. My receptionist and hygienist chose to work and I agreed. When I returned the trash cans weren't emptied, the counters were still dirty, and the hygienist didn't come close to her daily production goals. At first I was furious. Now I'm discouraged. Am I asking too much?

My client is probably like many of you. He is ambitious, disciplined, and highly conscientious with needs for achievement. These strengths have been instrumental in helping him to get through dental school, set up a practice, and succeed in business.

On the other hand, these same positive qualities also get in his way. He doesn't trust staff will do things the way he wants them done. He ends up taking on way too much himself. He hasn't established adequate feedback loops and training to insure things are done properly. He wants to grow as a clinician but he's so burdened with minutiae that he doesn't have time for new pursuits.

As you might suspect, the coaching goal for this client has been to increase his ability to delegate and hold others responsible for their part of the business. He needs to ‘stretch' outside his ‘comfort zone' if he is going to reduce his frustration and lessen his burdens. Here is his five step development plan.

  1. Build perspective.

Schedule a special staff meeting to talk about the ‘big picture'...what you want for your practice. Set purpose by describing the context of what you expect. For example, “By improving in each of our roles, we will be more productive and provide better patient care. In turn this will lead to higher revenue and that means more income for everyone”.

  1. Announce leadership development.

Model courage and encourage growth by briefly sharing your own strengths as well as your needs for self-improvement. It is likely that your staff already know what you're good at and what you need to do better. By verbalizing it you show good awareness and you set the standard for continual learning. Let your staff know you are working with an executive coach. It tells them you're committed.

  1. Initiate meetings with each employee.

Schedule individual reviews with all staff. Have a discussion about each employee's career goals. During the dialogue remind employees of your overall goal for the practice and the benefits for them. Give them behaviorally specific feedback about what to continue doing (their strengths), what to stop doing (actions that are not productive or helpful), and what to start doing (their developmental need). Avoid defensiveness by keeping your focus on the ‘solution' not the ‘problem'.

  1. Pay attention to the strategic not the tactical.

If you want your employees to take more responsibility for areas of the practice, you need to empower them. That means letting go of the very details that are driving you crazy. Recognize that mistakes will happen. That's how people learn. Be prepared to give consistent and timely feedback, both positive and developmental. Keep your eye on the big picture – a more productive practice.

  1. Monitor employee performance.

Annual appraisals are insufficient for employee training and development. Schedule monthly reviews initially with each staff member. As their performance improves, reduce the frequency to quarterly. Build a climate of feedback in your office. Encourage everyone to voice appreciation for jobs well done, and respectful feedback when problems occur.

My coaching client sent me the following email last week....

I wanted to share my success. I am praising my employees for the things they do right and I am firmer about what doesn't get done well. I feel a lot better about myself and things are actually running smoother.

Dr. Haller is available to coach you to higher levels of performance in your practice. Contact her at

Interested in having Dr. Haller speak to your dental group? Email us at or call 1-877-777-6151

The McKenzie Company Upcoming Events
Date Location Sponsor Speaker
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May 18 Westlake, CA
Conejo Academy of Dentistry Sally McKenzie

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