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3.10.06 Issue #209  
What does it take to get employees to do their jobs?

Dr. Nancy Haller
Executive Coach
McKenzie Management

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You pay your office staff well. They are experienced in the dental field. But little things still don’t get done unless you tell them what to. It takes up a lot of your time when you should be seeing patients. You wish you didn’t have to deal with employees, but you can't get results by yourself. What do you do?

Understandably, you want your staff to be conscientious, to take initiative, to have ownership for the practice. But, truth be told, you can’t motivate anybody to do anything. Motivation is not what you do to employees. It’s what employees do to themselves. Motivation is the process that moves a person toward a goal. As such, motivated behaviors are the voluntary choices of each employee. You, the leader, need to influence the factors that motivate your employees to higher levels of productivity.

  • Adjust your beliefs.

Your employees are an investment, not a burden. From small businesses to large corporations, people are the most valuable resource of any organization. In Fortune 500 companies, employees are now referred to as ‘human capital’ and they are typically the greatest untapped resource of any business!

Get a clearer perspective of what motivates you. What drives you to get up and go to work? How does your job support those motives? What can you do to align your daily work activities with your values? When you do a good job of taking care of yourself and your own job, you'll have much clearer perspective on how others are doing in theirs.

  • Find out what your employees want…then give it to them or enable them to earn it.

Unfortunately, there's no secret formula for motivating people. It’s just not that easy or exact. The one-size-fits-all approach no longer suits today's  multigenerational workplaces. What motivates mature workers is frequently quite different than what Gen Xers want. Some individuals are primarily motivated by money, although this is only a short-term motivator. Others are motivated by being part of a team or something bigger than themselves. Others are motivated by continual challenge. Others need constant praise. The point is that all people are different and your leadership goal should be to help each individual to meet their own needs as well as the needs of your practice.

  • Investigate work processes.

What looks like "C-minus" results to you may require "A-plus" effort from your staff. Find out if their paths to productivity are strewn with obstacles and disincentives. Observe employees in action. Look for sources of needless frustration. Ask what you could do to help them. Then make a maximum effort to give them what they need - and to remove whatever's getting in their way.

  • Ask for what you want.

Lackluster job performance frequently results when employees don’t know that anything more is expected of them. Blaming your staff for not meeting your unspoken expectations is like complaining about a waiter who failed to bring the ketchup you wanted though you never asked for it.

  • Support employee motivation

Once you’ve identified and clarified everyone’s expectations (including your own), continue to cultivate good relationships with your staff. Employees need to see your consistent investment in them or good intentions will fall by the wayside.

These are just some of the basic steps you can take toward supporting your employees. Every person is motivated - about something. As the dental practice leader, your challenge is to create an environment in which your employees choose to be motivated at work…and to sustain interest and attention to them every day. It’s an investment that pays big dividends in your bottom line.

Creating the right environment that sustains employee motivation takes awareness, dedication, and time. Improve your bottom-line with patience, commitment and coaching. Contact Dr. Haller at

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