Inheriting a New Team?
Avoid the Pitfalls
by Sally McKenzie CEO
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Congratulations! You just took over a practice from a retiring dentist. It’s exciting. You are the leader of your new team, the owner of your new practice, the go-to gal or guy. Now what?
First, steer clear of the most common pitfall when inheriting employees: Assuming that your staff knows what you want. Don’t assume. Spell out your expectations and the employees’ responsibilities in black and white and for every member of your team from the beginning. Do NOT convince yourself that because they’ve worked in this dental practice for X number of years that they know how you want things done. They don’t and they will simply keep performing their responsibilities according to the previous doctor’s protocols unless they are directed otherwise.
For example, your newly inherited scheduling coordinator may have held her position for a long time. She’s very experienced in scheduling to the previous doctor’s likes, which may be very different from yours. She doesn’t have any idea how you want your day scheduled, or if you want to meet specific production goals, etc. unless you tell her.
Recognize the strengths and weaknesses among your team members. Every employee will bring both to their positions. However, some employees are much better suited for some responsibilities and not others. Just because Rebecca has been handling insurance and collections for the practice doesn’t mean she’s effective in those areas. Look at results. Rebecca may be much more successful at scheduling and recall and would be a much more valuable employee if she were assigned those duties. Don’t be afraid to restructure responsibilities to make the most of team strengths. In addition, be open to maximizing those strengths through professional training.
Give ongoing direction, guidance, and feedback to your team so that they know where they stand. Don’t be stingy. Give praise often and appraise performance regularly. Verbal feedback can be given at any time but it is most effective at the moment the employee is engaging in the behavior that you either want to praise or correct.
If the Scheduling Coordinator emphasizes to Mrs. Patient just how much she is going to absolutely LOVE her new veneers and steers the patient clear of buyer’s remorse that is threatening to sink the doctor’s treatment plan, tell her! Explain to the employee what she/he did to deserve your praise. Express your sincere appreciation and emphasize the value of her contribution to the practice. Similarly, if employees need constructive feedback, don’t be shy with that either. If the front desk helper is talking about how gross she/he thinks that whole implant thing is, she/he needs education and constructive direction.
Nip problems in the bud and you’ll avoid numerous thorns in your side. If an employee is not fulfilling her/his responsibilities, address the issue privately and directly with them. Be prepared to discuss the key points of the problem as you see it as well as possible resolutions.
Give the employee a chance to express her/his view of the problem and offer possible solutions. If the employee has a voice in how the situation can be addressed she/he is likely to be more vested in making the solution actually work, rather than just carrying out your “orders” to fix it.
Monitor the situation and provide ongoing feedback and guidance. One conversation likely will not eliminate the problem entirely. In fact, you may find that the issue reveals shortcomings in other areas that need to be addressed. Don’t ignore problems and hope that they will just work their way out. They don’t.
Use performance reviews to motivate and encourage your team to thrive in their positions. Base your performance measurements on individual jobs. Focus on specific job-related goals and how those relate to improving the total practice. Used effectively, employee performance measurements and reviews offer critical information that is essential in your efforts to make major decisions regarding patients, financial concerns, management systems, productivity, and staff in your new practice.
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