Delegation is not Abdication
by Sally McKenzie CEO
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While the fear of losing control is typically the most frightening aspect of delegation for many dentists, ironically, when it is handled correctly, delegation actually can strengthen control because it is about directing the players on your team, identifying the desired outcomes, and creating systems of accountability to realize those outcomes. Delegating duties doesn’t mean abdicating authority. Rather, it’s a means of effectively maximizing all that you and your team have to offer. But how do you get there? Follow a series of carefully planned steps.
First, as we discussed last week, identify which duties you can hand off to someone else. Next consider your personal objectives and that of your practice. Think in terms of accomplishing your practice goals through those on your team, rather than trying to do everything yourself.
Next bring your employees into the tent. In other words, share information. Part of being on a true team in which everyone effectively carries out their delegated responsibilities is having some concept of the big picture. Your team needs to know and feel a part of your vision and goals. The more your employees feel they are a part of the practice’s total success, the more vested they become in creating it.
Third, delegate the right duties to the right people on your team. For the process of delegation to be effective and for you to feel comfortable handing over the reins for certain tasks, you have to trust that the person(s) assigned will manage the responsibility well.
Remember, not everyone is suited to every task. Some people are going to handle certain delegated responsibilities better than others because of their personality. For example, delegating the development of a more stringent collections system to a high feeling staff member who is fabulous in her patient relations may not work out as you expect because this person is tremendously comfortable in helping patients and tremendously uncomfortable asking them for money.
Fourth, communicate your expectations. Another key aspect of handing over responsibility of certain duties is ensuring that the employee knows exactly what it is you want them to do and how you expect them to do it. Perhaps, no one has been able to meet your standards because no one really knows what or how it is that you want something done.
What do you want the outcome to be when you hand over a specific responsibility? For example, if you are going to delegate delivering post-op instructions to your assistant, presumably you want patients to leave fully understanding what homecare steps they will need to follow. Tell your assistant exactly what you want her to cover with patients. Anticipate questions that the patient might ask and formulate answers. Identify what written materials will be given to patients. Determine who will place follow-up phone calls to patients, etc. Together, you can create a checklist of items that will be covered during the post-op discussion, which will help the assistant understand exactly what you want covered and help put you at ease in relinquishing control.
An alternative approach would be to give general guidelines as to how you want the responsibility carried out and be willing to let the staff member develop their own plan for carrying out the task.
Fifth, inspect what you expect. Don’t hover but do check in regularly with the person you’ve delegated a new responsibility to. Remember, they won’t ever do it as well as you do if they don’t have the opportunity to ask questions and even, heaven forbid, make a mistake or two. Checking in with the staff member allows you to stay in the loop as long as you’re not swooping in and taking over again. Provide both constructive and positive feedback regularly. Monitor performance and make sure that this person has the training, time, and resources to accomplish it according to your expectations. Otherwise the employee is going to fail and so is your effort to delegate.
Sixth, determine how you will measure your employees’ ability to carry out their delegated duties. Everyone who is expected to perform a task must know exactly what goals or targets they are aiming to hit and how their performance will be measured.
Seventh, celebrate your success as a highly functioning team.
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