How would your leadership have to change if everyone who worked for you was a wealthy volunteer?
What do you want from your employees? People who are merely satisfied or a staff that’s truly charged up by their work?
Many dental leaders still believe that a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work should cover the basics, with a pleasant office environment filling in the rest of their employees’ needs. While this approach makes for an adequate practice, it is unlikely to inspire your employees to give more than minimal service.
Keep in mind that fair wages are necessary to prevent dissatisfaction. In other words, you can’t ignore money. But neither should you mistake pay to be a true motivator. If your compensation and benefits are within industry and geographical standards, you need to look beyond money if you want more from your team. Becoming a more effective leader is the single most important action you can take to increase your productivity and profitability.
In employee survey polls, the most highly rated and common responses fell into these categories:
- Positive, caring relationships: "We appreciate that our boss cares about us and our families. They recognize us on special days like work anniversaries and birthdays, and are supportive when we have family issues."
- Recognition of achievement: "Our boss expresses appreciation when we do a good job or come up with a good idea."
- Pride in the organization: "Our boss is very professional and well-respected in the community. We are proud to be a part of this company."
- Opportunities for growth and advancement: "We are given the opportunity to increase our level of responsibility or change positions within the organization."
Be aware of your impact
Employees look for indications that their leaders are competent, visionary and trustworthy. The more positive they feel about your leadership, the harder they work, the more they contribute and the more likely they are to stay with your practice. Because they're always scrutinizing what you say and do and analyzing your words and actions, even trivial comments and behaviors have an impact. For a leader, there's no such thing as a casual conversation. Be sensitive to the effect you might have.
Communicate regularly and clearly with your staff
Developing a positive professional community begins with you. As the dental leader, you shape the identity of the practice and set the pace for how relationships develop. It is up to you to communicate the importance of unity in the office and to help employees feel valued. This is especially true during tough times. You'll gain employees’ trust and confidence, which will lead your practice to success. By keeping staff informed, you communicate that you think they are a valuable part of the team and important to patients. In return, most employees will go the extra mile for you over and over again.
Recognize good work
Show appreciation for jobs done well and acts of kindness, and stress the importance of listening to and considering each person's ideas. When a day runs smoothly, tell your clinical assistant what a good job she’s done, and be genuine. When collections are going well, let the billing staff know that you appreciate it. In a bigger office, consider awarding an Employee of the Month, nominated by peers and announced to all employees. Any award will be greatly enhanced if you take the time to celebrate it.
Be interested in employees’ interests
Know when your employees have special events in their lives - good or bad - and discuss it with them. For larger practices, circulate a newsletter to keep everyone aware of important personal issues such as birthdays and anniversaries of employment. For smaller practices, put up a bulletin board where important issues can be posted. Show interest in your staff and express concern for them, even if it's just a brief minute of conversation. It lets people know they are valued and appreciated.
Model the right behavior
Demonstrate through your own behavior how you want employees to act. Be trustworthy, dependable and supportive. Encourage respectful communication, especially when there are differences of opinion. Strong practices engage in open, ongoing communication. They share information with the right people at the right time, and they also make time for meaningful conversation. One way to do this is to have an informal employee discussion over lunch every week or two. This is a great opportunity to update employees on new initiatives and to brainstorm strategies for improving the practice.
Remember – your employees really are ‘volunteers’ who have chosen to work with you. Pay them back – focus on building positive work relationships that will make your practice a more rewarding and productive place for everyone.
To become a better leader, sign up for Dr. Haller’s Advanced Leadership Training Course. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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