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6.2.06 Issue #221

Coach Your Staff... The Way You Coach Your Patients

Dr. Nancy Haller
Executive Coach
McKenzie Management

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I went to see my Dentist last week. It was for a crown replacement. To put this into some context, it was a bit unusual for me. I am fortunate to have had good dental care throughout my life. Except for semi-annual hygiene visits, I haven’t needed any dental work in several years. And, because I’ve been coaching lots of dentists, I was more curious about what the experience would reveal. 

The Clinical Assistant took me into the operatory and gave me an overview of the procedure. My doctor came in and we reviewed the details. He carefully explained any dental terminology to be sure I understood. Both of them asked me, “Are you okay, Nancy?”, intermittently through the entire process. They gave me encouragement – “We’re almost done”. Each of them presented options – “Do you want to sit up while we wait for the anesthetic to take effect?” They praised me when the temporary was put in place – “Good job! You’re a trooper”.

What was most interesting was their manner. Professional and smooth. Each step of the way they were concerned about my comfort and safety. They wanted me to be relaxed and cooperative, to allow them to accomplish what needed to be done.

I suspect that my scenario is similar to what your patients experience in your office. Knowing the importance of good chairside manner, you take care when talking with your patients. You listen. You ask questions. You inform and you confirm understanding. You coach your patients to cooperate with you.

This plethora of communication is a stark contrast with the insufficient communication between the dentists and their employees. What’s amazing to me is how often dentists fail to show their staff the good communication skills they show their patients.

Think about it. When you treat patients, you use communication to influence the outcome and maximize success. Your words, facial expression, and tone of voice have a big impact on patients’ attitudes and reactions. It works the same way with your employees. If you want a productive and efficient dental team, you need to communicate effectively with them.

Coaching employees need not take lots of time, especially if it becomes part of the normal day-to-day functioning in the office. It starts with clear job expectations. Be sure that each employee knows exactly what their job entails.  Then follow that up with clear feedback. Make it a habit to tell employees when they do things right. Not just once a year at the annual performance review but every day. Verbal appreciation and recognition is far more valuable than bonuses and tangible rewards. 

When employees error, remind them in private of what you want them to do, or how you want them to do it. Behavioral feedback is essential. Use specific examples to explain the negative impact of the incorrect action. Guide them to an alternative option. Be brief and objective. Stick to the matter at hand. Ask them what kind of help they might need to perform better. Voice confidence in their ability to succeed. Give them encouragement. And remember to praise them. It’s very important to notice even the smallest efforts they make toward their identified goal.

By communicating this way with employees, you’ll coach them to achieve the results you want!

To assist you in building skills in feedback, read the new Ideas into Action Guidebook published by the Center for Creative Leadership and offered through the McKenzie website.

Dr. Haller provides training for interpersonal communication, conflict management, and team building. If you would like information about any of her practice-building seminars, contact her at

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McKenzie Management's Seminar Schedule
2006 Location Sponsor Information Topic Speaker
June 8-9 Santa Barbara,CA The Art of Endodontics 800-528-1590 Max. Prod.

Sally McKenzie

July 20 Del Mar, CA Ortho Symposium 619-656-4646 Top Issues

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July 26 San Diego, CA San Diego Womens Dental Society 858-755-1590 Leadership

Nancy Haller

Aug. 2-6 Denver, CO Academy of General Dentistry* 877-777-6151 Peak Per./Systems

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Aug 10-11 Santa Barbara, CA The Art of Endodontics 800-528-1590 Max. Prod.

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Sept. 15-17 San Francisco, CA California Dental Association* 877-777-6151 Exhibit Only


Sept 21-22 Santa Barbara, CA The Art of Endodontics 800-528-1590 Max. Prod.

Sally McKenzie

Sept. 29-30 Oviedo, Spain Clinica Sicilia 877-777-6151 Over/Top Issue

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Oct. 7-8 Krakow, Poland UNO Dental 877-777-6151 TBA

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Nov. 8 San Diego, CA San Diego Women's Dental Society 858-755-9990 Top Issues

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Nov. 17 Concord, NH New Hampshire Dental Society 312-440-2908 Breakdown

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Dec. 7-8 Santa Barbara,CA The Art of Endodontics 800-528-1590 Max. Prod.

Sally McKenzie

* McKenzie Management will be exhibiting at this location

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