When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Get Going
When times are tough, business leaders need to tighten their economic belts. Unfortunately, what you ‘slash’ is critical to your on-going success. And leveraging your ‘human capital’ is more important now if you want to position your practice for future profitability.
Although training and development budgets are among the first to get ‘axed’, there is a trend in many companies these days. Wise leaders are looking beyond today's economic strains and are continuing to invest in their employees. More than ever before, team effectiveness means business efficiency, especially now. To survive through the recession means making good leadership decisions. Good decisions don't just happen. They come from leaders who take the time to align their actions with their practice vision. Here are some important factors to keep in mind.
Avoid knee-jerk reactions. Of course you’re worried about when the economy will improve but don’t give way to decisions based on fear. The best way you are going to weather these turbulent times is to keep your team focused and fired up. Be objective and deliberate.
The worst decisions are usually the ones that are made quickly. Good decision-making takes time and so be sure the decision you make is the right one. Evaluate the need for lay-offs carefully not emotionally. The same is true for pay cuts. It’s far better that you make sacrifices in your own pay than to risk actions that diminish your employees’ morale. Every minute your employee spends wondering or worrying is a minute your patients are being ignored.
Help your employees deal with their fear. Be an open communicator about your decisions to reduce expenses. If you announce that you’ll no longer be providing beverages in the staff refrigerator some of your staff may wonder if they’re next in line to get the ax. You may see soda pop, coffee and donuts as unnecessary or a place to save a few dollars. However, to your staff these could symbolize an unwillingness to “feed” them emotionally. The intangible costs could easily outweigh the monies you expected to save. If it’s crucial for you to take this kind of action, explain the decision with objective facts. More importantly, tell them that by reducing smaller expenses you are maximizing your plan to keep everyone on board and at the same pay level.
Continue to invest in training your team. “Dumbing down” the practice is a short-term solution. Be judicious about where to spend training dollars but don’t defer essential skill-building. Remember that your practice has a great opportunity to position itself for the future. If the schedule is lighter now, use the time to advance your employees’ knowledge. Engage in team building activities that lighten spirits and keep morale high.
Focus on ways to improve customer service. And pay extra attention to the patients you’ve got. This is an excellent time to show you care by spending a bit more quality time with everyone in your office. Crank up your ‘personal touch’. Just like you, your patients are concerned about their pocketbook. And research shows that people will continue to spend money when the perceived value is high. Find small but powerful ways to give T.L.C. treatment. In doing so you’ll build stronger loyalty with better patients, and maybe even more business.
Continue to recruit. Although it sounds strange and seems scary, this is a perfect time to hire. Capable dental employees are out there looking for work. The recession means the talent pool is large and strong.
Work on yourself. Effective leadership overrides a tough economy. You need to be disciplined. Develop a plan and stay the course. Your employees will model your behavior so be calm and optimistic. If you’re having trouble staying positive, get a coach who can assist you in keeping a hopeful perspective. Fear leads to sloppy decision making which almost always backfires.
Times are tough right now. However you have a choice about how you will respond. You can impact your practice in a powerful way. Plant your feet. Talk more with your employees and your patients. Include others in your decisions. Reach out for support and help. Be hopeful in your thinking and your actions. And remember to be appreciative.
Dr. Haller is the Leadership Coach at McKenzie Management. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Interested in having Dr. Haller speak to your dental society or study club? Click here.
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