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12.24.08 Issue #355 Forward This Newsletter To A Colleague

Managing The Practice Micromanager
by Sally McKenzie CEO
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It is said that the number one fear for most people is public speaking. That may be true unless you happen to be a dentist/practice owner. In that case, I would argue that for many of these types, what they fear the most is loss of control. They are accustomed to doing it all themselves and handing over responsibility for even those seemingly insignificant tasks can be a struggle.

Consequently, these micromanaging doctors are stressed out, working and working, yet never able to actually get ahead. Forget quality of life, forget balance, these docs are living their jobs. Meanwhile, the employees working in these practices are operating in misery mode. They are treated like children; therefore, they act like children. They’ve learned that the doctor won’t be happy unless he/she does it his/her way. Don’t do anything unless you’re told. Don’t make a decision on your own. Don’t take the initiative to address an issue yourself. And, if at all possible, please don’t think unless directed to do so. It’s not an environment that quality employees will tolerate for long, which would be why they seem to change with the seasons.

Dentists by their nature are high achievers and thus more likely to be micromanagers. They didn’t get through dental school by leaving the details to someone else. Most are intense, focused perfectionists. In fairness, oftentimes the micromanaging doctor feels a strong sense of responsibility. He/she may well have built the practice from the ground up and may feel that she/he must control all aspects of it.

However, like most micromanagers, they tend to confuse activity with accomplishment and consequently create bottlenecks of inefficiency. Even more frustrating for these dentists and their staffs is the fact that they are quite capable of thinking strategically, but they simply cannot bring themselves to relinquish control. They will not allow others to problem solve, and they consistently second-guess decisions, yet if the practice is going to grow and truly succeed, the doctor simply must let go. But how do you bring your micromanaging dentist to relinquish a few of those tightly held responsibilities?

Number one: Don’t try to change them, only they can do that. Instead, work with what you have. One of the greatest needs your micromanager has, outside the need to feel needed, is the need to know. Try to understand where the dentist is coming from. How can you help your doctor achieve the goals and objectives that he/she has for the entire practice. Where does he/she want to take the business? What matters most to this person in terms of their goals? What can you do to help?

For example, perhaps your micromanaging dentist really wants more time for treatment planning to encourage greater case acceptance, but at the same time insists on giving all patients their post-op instructions, which only puts everyone behind schedule.  Develop a detailed step-by-step plan that outlines how you could help the doctor with this duty. Explain to the doctor that you would like to handle this for her/him in a way that she/he will be completely comfortable and confident that patients receive the post-op information they need.

Trust is critical to the micromanager. Take steps to build it by keeping him/her informed from the beginning and at every step along the way. Even though you are perfectly capable of completing the task without their direction, be open to their input and suggestions. Most importantly, be completely dependable. If you drop the ball on responsibilities that you’ve committed to, your micromanaging dentist will not feel that he/she can trust you and will swoop in and take over yet again.

Stay one step ahead of your micromanaging boss by updating him/her regularly. You cannot communicate too much with this type of person, but it is very easy to fall into the trap of thinking that you’ve done everything you need to keep them informed. If they have to ask you about the status of something you have agreed to complete for them, you’re not holding up your end of the bargain in their eyes.

Next week, doctors, live and let go.

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