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10.10.08 Issue #344 Forward This Newsletter To A Colleague

Dr. Nancy Haller
Dentist Coach
McKenzie Management
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Are You a Helicopter Boss?

Like the colloquial term that originated with parenting a few years ago, helicopter bosses hover closely overhead… rarely out of reach… whether their employees need them or not… doing things for them that they should be doing for themselves… anxious about every decision employees make… constantly correcting… incessantly interjecting advice—even when not asked.

If you’re a helicopter boss, the consequences are negative for everyone, including you! Although your intentions are good, that rotor of yours is making a racket in your practice.

Now I know that if you’re an over-involved boss you’re not going to come down to terra firma quickly. The traits that I’m calling “helicopter” actually helped you to make it through dental school, establish your practice and build the business. It’s likely that you are driven and passionate about the work you do,

Unfortunately, when it comes to managing employees, micromanaging bosses are the least effective. Although it's tough to give up control, showing employees that you trust and respect their abilities can lead to top performance. Sometimes you just need to let employees make mistakes so they can learn and grow. Most of the time they’ll do just fine if you get out of the way.

Employees who feel that they are contributing to the practice work harder. They allocate their time wisely. Above all, they have greater job satisfaction and are more loyal to you. Here are some tips about how to back off and let your worker bees do their business.

1. Invest in smart hiring. Employee Assessment Testing Online offered by McKenzie Management is a hiring tool to identify the right person for the job. Not every employee can be left to her/his own devices. But if you look for people who bring significant skills and experience to the table they are more likely to be conscientious and productive. Consider pre-employment testing as a component of your hiring procedures.

2. Establish clear expectations and job descriptions, then hold employees accountable. If you don’t have accurate job descriptions, get some. Sit down with employees individually on a regular basis to review their work performance. Set goals together along with time frames for accomplishing those goals.

3. Provide the resources for achieving goals.
Once you figure out what employees need to accomplish, determine what they need to get the job done. Whether it is time, education/training or coaching from you, give them the tools to succeed.

4. Focus on the outcome, not the process. If you want the job done right, it doesn’t necessarily mean it has to be done your way. One of the most important steps that a helicopter boss can take is to stop correcting and/or improving everything an employee does.

Call me naïve, but my experience in business is that most employees really want to do a good job. In most cases, if a team member isn't doing a good job it’s often because they don't know how.

Think about what kind of instruction is necessary. Is there a way to give less information about how you want it done and more clarity about the outcome you expect? In this way, you empower employees to find solutions to issues themselves. Then give positive feedback. Successful leaders notice what employees do right, and give them immediate recognition for doing a good job.

5. Be an advisor to your staff. Leadership coaching is provided through McKenzie Management.

Allowing your employees to go their own way doesn’t mean you abandon your role as the dental leader. Employees need your support and certainly your feedback about whether they’re meeting your expectations. Find ways to reward and compliment them for positive actions.

Smart dental leaders want the best for their employees because it’s best for their practice. They help employees grow into resilient, loyal team members. They teach them to believe in themselves and to assume higher levels of decision making and responsibility. It does take time in the short term to train the employees, but it is so worth the commitment in the long run. You’ll end up with more time in your day to devote to dentistry, and your employees will be more productive when freed from your hovering.

If you’re a “Black Hawk” boss, contact Dr. Haller. She’ll help you land and discover new ways of invigorating your team. She can be reached at

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

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