10.21.11 Issue #502 info@mckenziemgmt.com 1-877-777-6151 Forward This Newsletter

Nancy Haller, P.h. D.
Leadership Coach
McKenzie Management
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Keeping Up in a Down Economy
Nancy Haller, Ph.D., Leadership Coach McKenzie Management

Like many business leaders, you're probably feeling the pinch of these turbulent economic times. The unemployment rate in the United States was last reported at 9.1% in September of 2011. There is great discontent as seen in the Occupy Wall Street protests that have emerged throughout the country. It's likely that patients are postponing treatment or downgrading to low cost alternatives.

It's during these times that leadership skills are put to the test. How do you show up for work? Complaining about the economy or the holes in the schedule will do nothing to make employees feel better or buoy their spirits. And whatever they feel will ultimately trickle down to patient care.

You need to strike a balance between ‘the sky is falling’ and ‘Pollyanna’. Direct employees to focus on how their actions directly impact the bottom line. Help them to see how they can work to achieve production goals and improve patients’ experiences. In conversations, show that you are concerned about them. Seek their ideas. Encourage risk-taking.

As for patients, during economic downturns they will be more careful about spending. Factors such as price and value take on greater significance. However, people's underlying needs do not change and dental leaders who continue to meet those needs will prevail. Here are some basics.

There is a positive emotional connection with the dental team.
Imagine what it’s like being a patient, walking in the front door of your office. Would you be greeted with a warm ‘hello’ and a friendly smile? Would you feel special, valued, appreciated? What about if you were asked about how your work was going or if your son/daughter were off to college? Those are the actions that ensure patient loyalty, even if they postpone that crown replacement for now.

They feel that their needs are understood.
How do you react when patients object to treatment recommendations? It’s tempting to assume they need convincing, then ‘talk up’ the hi-tech ‘proof’ or try to motivate them with warnings about how bad things will get if they don’t follow through with their dental plan. But until you really listen, you won’t understand their objections, or how to gain compliance. Listening enables you to find out about your patients’ reality…what’s important to them, what motivates them, what issues prevent them from moving forward. Once you understand that, you are in a better position to educate, clarify, and gain trust with your patients.

The Doctor is authentic and has integrity.
Your financials may not be where you want them to be, but nothing will send your P&L statement into the ground faster than pushing services that patients don't need. Similarly, patients watch and hear how you treat your staff. Be sure that you're showing examples of respect and kindness as well as sound ethics.

They feel treated like an individual, not just another patient who’s like all the rest.  Be careful to see each patient as unique. Avoid clichés and generalizations. Statements such as, “I see this all the time” may be intended to connote experience, but the impact of those words can convey, “You’re no different from 100’s of other people I see.”

Their time is respected.
Make sure that it's easy for them to make their appointments. Have you considered expanding your office hours, or adjusting them to meet high-demand time slots? Even if you're not a morning person, offering 7am before-work appointments shows patients that you want to make life easier for them. Ditto on late or evening appointments. Use the shifts in your availability to market your practice. Be aggressive in keeping your name in the public's eye.

Stop blaming the insurance companies, the economy, the weather. Focus on the things you DO have control to modify…yourself. Stop bringing your emotional baggage to work. Visualize the future with more financial freedom, whether its recreational activities, travel or simply more work satisfaction and joy. Pay attention to the emotions that accompany these inspiring images. Repeat this exercise several times per day.

This long term view will lead to big payoffs, not only as your practice navigates these difficult times but even more when the economy picks up. Set yourself up for significant competitive advantage. Engage your staff. Engage your patients. Become a more resilient leader. Today.

The potential to become a better leader is well within your capability! Contact Dr. Haller at: coach@mckenziemgmt.com.

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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