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3.03.06 Issue #208  
If You Talk the Talk They'll Walk the Walk

Sally McKenzie, CEO
The McKenzie Company

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 “Feedback? Well, of course, I give feedback, each year during the salary review.” Sound familiar? Many dentists believe that the annual performance/salary review constitutes feedback. What they don’t realize is that the two are and should be, completely different exercises. The salary review is a once-a-year discussion about the employee’s pay. Feedback is an ongoing discussion about the employee’s success.

It’s not uncommon for doctors to save up 12 months of what should be day-to-day feedback for that brief annual session, yet they can’t comprehend why the employee doesn’t seem able to maintain any lasting improvements in their performance. They might get better for a short time but before long they’ve fallen back into the same poor habits. What the doctor doesn’t realize is the annual feedback approach is a bit like committing to an exercise program one day a year and wondering why your pants are still too tight for the remaining 364.

In other cases, the doctor sees no need to engage in much of any discussion regarding performance with the employees. The practice is moving along just fine. The staff gets their yearly pay hikes and everyone should be happy, reasons the doctor. He’s provided all the feedback necessary to employees. What could be clearer than cold, hard cash?! Many things, but for starters, money is not feedback, and it’s not the motivator you may think it is.

In fact, a recent article in Fortune magazine reported that the top three workplace motivators for the GenX workforce, those employees born between 1964 and 1977, are not cash, money, and greenbacks. They are “positive relationships with colleagues, challenging work, and continuous opportunities for learning.” Money was ranked third from the bottom on the list of 15 job characteristics. Certainly, for many dentists it’s much easier to tack a few extra percentage points on that annual salary review and call it “feedback.” Now employees want relationships! What’s next, group hugs!

Actually, employee feedback is an excellent tool for building solid employee relationships and can provide multiple learning opportunities. What’s more, it can enable dentists to make huge strides in shaping a quality team. But it requires that you look at employee feedback not as an annual task but rather an ongoing process. “But Sally, if someone is doing something wrong I tell them.” Unfortunately, that would be the second worst type of feedback to give employees.

The only feedback to rank lower on the scale than negative feedback is no feedback at all. If employees only hear from you when things are not right they become resentful and defensive. And when there is no feedback teams are left to wonder about how they are doing in the eyes of the doctor, they begin to fill in the gaps themselves. You may be perfectly happy with an employee’s daily performance, so you never mention anything. All is well from your standpoint. However, the employee may perceive your silence as quiet discontent. They feel their contribution is not valued and are more likely to explore other employment options where they believe they can contribute to the success of the business and grow as a professional.

Employees want to know where they stand. They want to know how they are doing on an ongoing basis. Constructive feedback given regularly helps employees continuously fine tune and improve the manner in which they carry out their responsibilities. It’s also the dentist’s most vital tool in shaping and guiding average employees into effective, high-performing team members. But expecting anything constructive or positive to come out of annual or biannual doses of feedback is like expecting a well-toned physique after a couple hours in the gym.  Doesn’t happen.

Next week make the most of every opportunity for feedback.

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McKenzie Management's Seminar Schedule
2006 Location Sponsor Information Topic Speaker
Mar. 9 Vancouver, BC Pacific Dental Conference 604-736-3781 Overhead Sally McKenzie
Mar. 24 West Branch, MI Northland Dental Study Club 989-345-7750 Breakdown Sally McKenzie
Mar. 29 Long Island, NY Suffolk County Dental Society 312-440-2908 Breakdown Sally McKenzie
Mar. 31 Las Vegas, NV Dental Town Meeting* 877-777-6151 Pred. Empl. Success Sally McKenzie
April 14 Santa Rosa, CA Redwood Dental Society 877-777-6151 Breakdown Sally McKenzie
April 27-30 Anaheim, CA California Dental Association* 877-777-6151 Peak Perf. Sally McKenzie
* The McKenzie Company will be exhibiting at this location

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