Wouldn’t it be great if you could clone yourself? All of your employees would handle everything just like you because they would essentially be you. Or what if you could perform some type of Vulcan mind meld and your team would know exactly how you would handle every situation, every system, and every patient. They would be extensions of you, and you would have total control. Unfortunately, recent setbacks in the cloning research world aren’t going to make this possible anytime soon. And, to the best of my knowledge, we earthlings have yet to master Mr. Spock’s technique.
Understandably, dentists want to control the way in which many processes are handled in their practices, and they should. But there is a limit. Problems often arise when doctors burden themselves by insisting that they be the “go-to-guy or go-to-gal” on too many day-to-day operations. There aren’t enough hours for you to single-handedly make the decisions, give the necessary direction, answer the questions, double check the details, address the problems, generate the ideas, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. Sure nobody can handle certain things as well as you can, but maybe it’s time to pull the plug on this one-man/one-woman show and give a few other players on your team some stage time. It’s called delegating.
Delegating isn’t about losing control, it’s about directing the players and managing the outcomes so that you have greater control over those processes that are worth the investment of your time – such as direct patient care. It starts with identifying the right people for the right responsibilities, explaining the project and your expectations, giving employees the latitude to get the job done, and being open to recommendations that may be somewhat different from how you would have personally handled the task.
For example, if you want to implement a new system in which the practice collects from patients at the time of service, ask an employee or a small group of employees to develop a strategy for implementing the policy. Give them a deadline by which they present their proposed strategy to you and the rest of the team. If you have strong feelings about how certain aspects of the policy should be handled share those and explain why, but don’t box them in. Force yourself to be open to recommendations you’ve charged the employees to make.
Ask them to provide progress reports on a regular basis, such as at the weekly staff meeting and urge them to ask as many questions as necessary throughout the process to ensure they have all the information and data necessary to make a solid recommendation. Encourage the employees to take ownership of the project and to use their professional creativity. When it is time for the employees to present the recommended policy, sit back and listen.
This is not the opportunity for you to swoop in, wrestle back control, and rewrite the proposed strategy. If delegation is to work in your practice, you must give your employees freedom to share views and opinions and make recommendations that don’t necessarily parrot yours, but may enable the practice to advance to the next desired level. Resist the urge to measure every member of your team by whether they perform a task precisely as you would. If you do, it’s unlikely they will ever measure up and you will stymie their efforts. Force yourself to withhold judgment until you see results.
If you have strong feelings about their approach on a task delegated, redirect respectfully, further educate the employees on your expectations. But be careful you’re not squelching a plan or process recommended just because it’s different from the way you would handle it. Congratulate the employees on a job well done and make sure they know how much you appreciate their efforts.
Remember delegating responsibility should be an opportunity for individual employees to grow and learn and for the team as a whole to build trust in each other and the doctor. You are the coach, you guide, you direct, but if your group of employees is indeed a team, you’re not the one who should be performing every play.
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