07.31.09 Issue #386 Forward This Newsletter To A Colleague

Is Your Staff Meeting a Free-for-All?
by Sally McKenzie CEO
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One of the most common complaints about staff meetings is that they quickly lose their focus and degenerate into gripe sessions or unproductive social time. It’s essential to the productivity of the meeting to keep the discussion on track. Make sure everyone receives a copy of the agenda well in advance of the meeting, so they know exactly what is to be discussed. Assign a facilitator/leader, other than the doctor, to guide the group. Cover the key systems first, allowing individual team members to report on the status of their specific areas.

Understandably, when a group of people who know each other well get together, it’s easy for things to quickly get off track. Implement strategies to keep the team focused on the topics on the agenda. Let’s say your scheduling coordinator uses the time to not only update everyone on the numbers, but also on the intimate details of her personal life.  Try this, use a miniature hour glass and when the sand runs through, the person’s time speaking is up.

Or perhaps yours is a team of people who all have something to say on every topic. Keep the free-for-all to a minimum by giving the speaker an object that they hold while they are speaking, such as a $5 Starbucks gift card. Staff can only offer comments if they are holding the card. This can be helpful in offices in which some staff members are constantly talking over others, interjecting their comments and opinions to the detriment of the discussion as a whole. At the end of the meeting, the staff member who was the most respectful of her/his teammates and did not talk over or interrupt others gets the gift card. Another strategy is to place a bell in the middle of the table and if the discussion veers off track, someone can ring the bell to refocus everyone on the topic.

Once everyone has shared focused updates on their individual areas and the group knows where the practice stands on reaching specific goals, the team can use their collective problem solving skills to develop strategies to identify solutions to shortfalls that may be occurring in specific systems. This is the time to raise concerns or problems that are occurring within systems – not in the middle of the system update portion of the meeting. 

When working to develop solutions to problems in systems, seek input from everyone and don’t be afraid of conflicting opinions. In fact, encourage discussion. Give each person one minute to express what they view as the pros and cons on a particular issue or how they would recommend the matter be addressed. They have to keep their comments succinct and avoid philosophizing, explaining, justifying, criticizing, or engaging in other unproductive discussion during this one minute.

Now that the issue has been discussed and possible solutions have been offered, outline a plan to address the issue and designate who will be responsible for the next steps. In other words, delegate responsibility and establish deadlines for completing tasks identified. For example, if hygiene cancellations are high and the group has developed a plan to address it, then the person responsible, probably the hygiene coordinator, needs to know she/he is accountable for implementing the changes and should be prepared to report on the effects of those changes at the next monthly meeting. Keep in mind that in addressing concerns or problems, consensus is good to strive for but it’s not always possible. While individuals may have disagreements during the discussion, everyone should support the final decision.

Next, carve out a portion of staff meeting time to teach each other something new or invite a guest. For example, if your office is going to be referring patients to a new specialist invite the doctor or someone from the office to come to the meeting and share information about the doctor and the office.

Provide clinical staff with a lesson on how to gather necessary new patient information when scheduling a new patient appointment. Provide business staff with a brief tutorial on a common clinical procedure that they may be getting patient questions about. In addition, articles on numerous practice issues can be shared and discussed during meetings.

Ran correctly, staff meetings are the most effective means to identify and solve problems, establish policies, share information, motivate each other, define areas of responsibility, and exchange ideas. Use them to your practice’s full advantage and keep your team and your practice on track.

Interested in speaking to Sally about your practice concerns? Email her at sallymck@mckenziemgmt.com. Interested in having Sally speak to your dental society or study club? Click here.

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