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4.25.08 Issue #320 Forward This Newsletter To A Colleague

Dr. Nancy Haller
Dentist Coach
McKenzie Management
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How One Team Is Conquering Team Dysfunction: Part Two

Last October, I had the privilege to work with a savvy dental leader and his team. Although the practice was productive, he wanted to take the business to the “next level.” A two-day team retreat was a sizable investment, but he knew that employee performance is directly correlated to practice profitability. In other words, the purpose of training was business-focused, not just a feel-good reward. The team with whom I worked showed tremendous courage and discipline. My prediction was that they were on their way to “extraordinary levels of success.” Here’s the six-month update. It starts with an email I received from the Office Manager, “Mary” (the names of the dentist and employees are not real names).

Hi Nancy, We have transitioned through our office remodel and the digital equipment! (We made it!) We have added a second hygienist 2 days a week and hope to add a third day this summer. Our current second hygienist can only work 2 days a week and we are interviewing for a third one in June.

It's just in the past few weeks that everyone is really starting to relax and have fun again. (You know how rocky transitional periods can be). The office turned out beautiful, the team is comfortable with all the new digital chairside technology. The practice is growing—we are averaging about 50 new established patients a month. Dr. Smith is booked out farther than he has ever been, as is the hygiene department. Julie is diligently applying the calculations she learned at the hygiene training. Attending your classes really helped us to communicate much more freely. We refer back to the information frequently. Especially the "triangle.”

[For my readers, the following is an example of a “triangle”: Marla the hygienist is angry at Ann the chairside because Ann didn’t clean up her trays before she left the office. Instead of talking directly with Ann, Marla vents to Jane (who dislikes Ann) because Marla’s intent is to have someone join her in feeling angry at Ann and she knows that Jane will agree with her. No positive outcome will occur as a result and lot of emotional energy is wasted. Relationship back-biting worsens and practice productivity is sabotaged.]

My question for you is: Even though we refer to the workshops often, have the Mission Statements posted, and things are going well, where do we go from here?

Here’s my reply, and hopefully some ideas to strengthen your team.

Hi Mary, Time flies! During the two days we spent together, you came to know one another in a deeper, more meaningful way. You created strategies for making your working processes more productive.

First and foremost, CONGRATULATIONS on all the accomplishments…

  • surviving an office remodel
  • adding new members to your team
  • learning new technology

I’d say that was cause for celebration. Therein is my first recommendation—the team needs to honor the successes you have achieved.

It could be something simple like ordering in a six-foot subway sandwich and having a two-hour lunch to relax. Or it could be a more elaborate fun-day when you all go bowling and have pizza. It should be a group activity. Although I love spa-days, those are individual rather than team-oriented.

Regardless of how you decide to mark your achievements, set aside time within the activity to talk with one another. Everyone should answer these two questions, beginning with Dr. Smith:

  • What did I do to help the team succeed?
  • What did I observe teammates doing that enabled the group to succeed? (Everyone needs to verbalize at least one compliment about themselves and one compliment about every other member of the team.)

As you consider the next steps, discuss the following:

  • What are the team’s strengths?
  • What does the team need to learn (or do differently) to achieve (or maintain) the practice missions?

Be as specific as possible about the behaviors you did or the actions you observed in teammates. I encourage each of you to continue to invest in building a stronger, more cohesive, more productive team. With a little extra attention, everyone will yield even greater results.

I hope you will keep me updated about your team progress. Until then, I send warm regards. Nancy

Dr. Haller is available for team building and dental leadership coaching. She can be reached at

Interested in having Dr. Haller speak to your dental society or study club? Click here.

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