07.24.09 Issue #385 Forward This Newsletter To A Colleague

Staff Meetings - Worthwhile or Waste of Time?
by Sally McKenzie CEO
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The dreaded staff meeting. That tired business ritual established long, long ago by individuals who undoubtedly had the best of intentions. They likely wanted to educate, inform, communicate, direct, problem solve. Grand and glorious goals those early meeting masters had, how unfortunate that today the staff meeting is generally deemed by many as downright boring. Worst of all, the phrase typically used to describe staff meetings is total waste of time. According to a survey conducted by GroupSystems, which specializes in virtual meetings, the typical staff meeting is 50 minutes long, yet 16 minutes are wasted on inefficiencies. As for chronicling these oh so important gatherings - 59% do not even take meeting minutes, and 68% responded that input from meetings is used rarely if at all. Ouch.

The number one problem: lack of focus. The worst meetings have no plan and no agenda. With a set up like that, is it any wonder the staff meeting too often becomes an exercise in futility. For dental practices, the ritual can quickly turn into a gripe session or group therapy. The doctor may open up by asking general questions about how things are going. “So Mary, how are things in hygiene these days.” Mary responds with, “They’re fine, except I have more cancellations and no-shows than I’ve had in weeks.” At that point it becomes a free-for-all. The entire team starts complaining about the patients who don’t keep their appointments. The scheduling coordinator unleashes her fury.

From there, it’s no longer a meeting but a round-table rant in which team members share their personal anecdotes and imaginary scenarios about what they would like to do to those patients who routinely miss or cancel appointments. How quickly it spirals out of control. The meeting has no focus, no plan, and no hope of being productive. Is it any wonder that the doctor despises staff meetings?

In other cases, the staff meeting is just one more major headache for the doctor. The group gathers and the doctor starts reporting to the staff.  He/she feels pressured to have all the answers and all the details when the staff asks questions. Once again, is it any wonder that many doctors will go to great lengths to avoid staff meetings?

So the obvious question becomes, why bother with staff meetings? Because, contrary to popular perception, it is in staff meetings that the dental team identifies and solves problems, examines areas of responsibility/systems, establishes policies, presents information, motivates and educates one another, exchanges ideas, and finds untapped revenue streams -  at least that is what’s supposed to happen.

The next obvious question is how do you make that happen in your meetings? First, shift your attitude. Look at meetings not as production losers but as revenue generators. Next, treat meetings as you would any other system. Establish expectations and standards.

In addition to the daily huddle meeting, dental teams need a one to two hour meeting each month for in-depth discussion focused on addressing key practice issues. If possible, the meetings should be held off-site in a conference room with a conference table, and eliminate outside interruptions. Seek consensus from the staff as to the best time to hold staff meetings, and remember that meetings scheduled outside normal work hours should be paid.

In addition, make sure that staff meetings always have an agenda that includes standard items the practice is continuously monitoring. These are all areas affecting the profitability/success of the practice. For example: numbers of new patients, recall patients, collections, treatment acceptance, production, accounts receivables, unscheduled time units for doctor and hygiene, uncollected insurance revenues over 60 days, overhead, etc.

One person – not the doctor – is responsible for compiling and distributing the agenda to everyone in advance of the meeting. However, developing the agenda is the responsibility of the full team. Post the agenda in the break-room or other area where staff will see it regularly and can add items as they come up during the month. Issues that present themselves regularly in the daily huddle but require more involved discussion and analysis should be put on the monthly meeting agenda.

List the most critical issues highest on the agenda to ensure there is adequate time to talk about them. Determine how much time you will spend discussing each matter, avoid getting bogged down on unrelated topics, and insist that team members come prepared to discuss the items listed.

Next week, hold your most efficient staff meeting yet.

Interested in speaking to Sally about your practice concerns? Email her at sallymck@mckenziemgmt.com.

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