5.6.11 Issue #478 info@mckenziemgmt.com 1-877-777-6151 Forward This Newsletter

Nancy Haller, P.h. D.
Leadership Coach
McKenzie Management
coach@ mckenziemgmt.com
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Coaching Employees
Nancy Haller, Ph.D., Leadership Coach McKenzie Management

“Labor” takes a big chunk of your revenue. Turnover is expensive. In addition to disrupting business, staff-replacement costs are generally 120-130% of the salary of the person who leaves. It just makes good sense to coach employees, for performance and retention. 

Unfortunately, all too often dental leaders postpone or avoid coaching their employees - it takes a back seat to achieving immediate business results. Well-intentioned, they never seem to “get around to it.” But coaching employees is not an event that you schedule after you finish all of your “real” work. Start thinking of the role of “coach” as a daily practice, with a focus on creating a supportive, encouraging and trusting work environment so your team can perform at its best. The practice of coaching can happen in the moment. It might be in an operatory, or walking down the hall. My guess is that you have multiple opportunities to coach in-the-moment without the need for an appointment.

For example - your hygienist comes to you with a complaint about her co-worker who isn’t doing her share. You agree to talk with the other hygienist and solve the problem. There are a couple of ways this could play out. It might be helpful to have your intervention. However, this approach is risky. All too often the co-worker feels resentful and betrayed by the one who “snitched.” If you rush in like Superman you might have situational compliance. But when you intervene, you prevent your employees from improving their working relationship. The likelihood is great that you’ll have more conflict in your hygiene department very soon. After all, no one can solve a conflict between two other people.

Let’s say you take the tough-love approach. Instead of trying to fix the problem - you know you’re too busy to deal with this high-school drama - you issue a directive to “go work it out between yourselves.” The good news is you got it off your plate. The bad news is that the hygienist who’s come to you probably doesn’t have the skills to work it out effectively. That’s why she’s coming to you! The potential is that she feels devalued by you and more irritated with her co-worker.

In this example, a coaching approach may be the most promising from the desirable results point of view. And it doesn’t need to take a lot of time. One of the key components of a coaching mindset is a determination to let the person being coached keep responsibility for the solution. So a coaching leader will respond without taking over the problem. Questions are the preferred medium. "What have you done so far to solve this?" could be a good opening. "What else could you do?"  "What do you know about why Mary isn’t carrying her share?”

Questions like these help your employee to consider other options. It takes about the same amount of time as giving advice or issuing an order. It also supports the employee to find a way to solve the relationship problems she’s having with her co-worker. This coaching approach conveys that you have confidence in your employee’s intelligence, good intentions, and capability.

When you add coaching to your repertoire of skills, you will help your employees to shift their perspectives and broaden their abilities. When that happens, they feel pride in themselves and in their work. Certainly coaching isn’t appropriate for all situations. You still need to teach, organize and advise. But coaching is a valuable tool to have in your management and leadership kit.


  • Coaching employees does not need to take a lot 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 can be far more valuable than bonuses and tangible rewards. 
  • Notice even the smallest efforts they make toward their identified goal.
  • When employees err, 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.

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

Dr. Haller provides training for leadership effectiveness, interpersonal communication, conflict management, and team building. If you would like to learn more contact her at coach@mckenziemgmt.com

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

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