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12.31.08 Issue #356 Forward This Newsletter To A Colleague

Doctor, Live And Let Go Of The Minutia
by Sally McKenzie CEO
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How do you spend your days in the office? I know it sounds like an obvious question, but I suspect that many of you dentists would be surprised if you took a close look at what actually consumes a fair amount of your time. Certainly, you’re diagnosing and treating patients, but just how many of your working hours are spent on other less important tasks.

Carry a notepad with you for three to five days and write down everything you do relating to your practice, including reviewing patient records, restocking paper products in the bathrooms, talking to patients, directing staff, calling in prescriptions, completing forms, evaluating prices on supplies, straightening the magazines in the reception area, cleaning out the refrigerator, etc. 

After you’ve gathered your data, take a good look at the list. Is it full of items that only the doctor can do? Or do you have a multitude of duties that the staff, whether it’s the assistant, hygienist, associate doctor, scheduling coordinator, business manager, etc. could and should be doing? Lastly, are there items on that list that no one should be doing because they should be outsourced or are on it because of a lack of technology or broken systems?

You know all too well that there are only so many hours in a day. You want to ensure that yours are spent wisely, not squandered away on activities with little or no return to your practice. And that requires that you invest some of that time learning the art of delegation.

From the list that you created, choose the top items that directly affect the growth of your practice, specifically diagnosing and treating patients. Most everything else on that list, such as giving post-op instructions, developing the agenda for the next staff meeting, mediating the latest staff tiff, changing the light bulbs, etc., is to be delegated. Now before you panic at the thought of relinquishing those duties that you feel only you can do, develop a plan to ensure that this transition of tasks goes smoothly and methodically.

Start by sharing your vision with your staff. Are you the only one who knows where you want to take your practice? Being part of a team means understanding the ultimate goals and being vested in achieving those goals.

Next assess the strengths of those you’ve surrounded yourself with. No they are not you. No they didn’t go to dental school. But if you’ve done your job and hired effectively, chances are that your employees will not only welcome the opportunity to grow as professionals they will excel.

Consider the fact that professional training for some may be necessary to ensure that they have the opportunity to successfully meet your expectations. Your objective in delegating is to provide the resources to ensure that those charged with these new responsibilities will succeed.

That also requires you to clearly communicate your expectations. 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. Effective delegation requires that the employee knows exactly what outcome you want them to achieve. 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/him to cover with patients. Anticipate questions that the patient might ask and formulate answers. Identify which 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 what is to be covered during the post-op discussion, which will help the assistant understand exactly what’s expected and put you at ease in relinquishing this responsibility.  Or, better yet, give general guidelines as to how you want the job carried out and be willing to allow the staff member to complete the task according to the plan they develop. Understandably, they may take a somewhat different approach than you do to achieve the same outcome.

Encourage your team to ask questions. Remember, they are not going to complete every task exactly the way that you would and they may make a mistake or two along the way, but with ongoing positive and constructive feedback they will develop the skills and confidence that will enable you and your team to achieve a whole new level of success.

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