Doctor, We Need Help!
It’s picking up out there again as we see more dental practices experiencing an uptick in patient activity. Along with the very real and welcome increase in business comes the perceived increase in “busyness,” thus pleas for the office “helper” are growing a little louder in many offices.
The office helper - that seemingly magical solution for everything that needs to be shored up, picked up and powered up in the practice. What the “helper” is capable of seems to border on superhuman abilities and what staff would have you believe they can bring to your practice are, well, virtually limitless. “If we had a helper we would never work into lunch again. The days of running late would be over. We could keep up with everything. Why, the helper could answer the phone, clean the instruments, seat the patients, tidy the reception area, and, and, and …” And take care of all those things that no one else wants to do.
Certainly, when the practice is busy and the team is stressed, it’s easy to convince yourself that if you just had a couple extra hands on deck maybe in the front, or the back, or after school, or on the weekend – here, there, anywhere, you could all just be that much more efficient. And, let’s face it, when things aren’t getting done it’s easy to convince yourself that throwing another body into the mix will take care of the problem and silence the troops – at least temporarily.
But before you tell your business manager that she can hire her niece to work a few hours a week, I suggest you consider a point or two. First, conduct an “it’s not my problem” inventory. By this, I’d like you to consider how many people in your practice have a tendency to utter those words on a pretty regular basis. “It’s not my problem that there are holes in the schedule, so and so is supposed to take care of that. It’s not my problem that instruments are stacking up, I have to worry about x y z. It’s not my problem that the phone is ringing off the hook, that’s what the answering machine is for.” And so on.
What you may discover is that the lines of demarcation are too clearly drawn. Rather than a team of professionals working for the common good of the practice, you have a collection of individuals staking their claim on what they will and what they won’t do. On the one hand, you may argue that these employees do their jobs and don’t step on each other’s toes. On the other hand, I would argue that this attitude represents a lack of team engagement. They are not invested in the success of the team or the practice as a whole. They are focused on their “to-do” list, get the job done and get out the door. They are not encouraged to look at the big picture as there is no ownership attitude that is fostered. They merely take their orders and expect the doctor and/or office manager to handle the problems and tell them where to fall in line.
Or perhaps in your practice you have just one or two employees that are driving the push for additional help. They are inflexible, they refuse to step up to the plate, yet they constantly make demands. You know the ones; they wouldn’t answer the phone if their next paycheck depended on it. “Make confirmation calls to patients? You must be kidding!” Their favorite phrases are, “I don’t have time to do her job” or “Doctor doesn’t pay me to do that” or “That’s not in my job description.”
Could your existing team actually handle the current demands if you addressed the “not-my-problem” employees who are pulling your productivity down? Perhaps so, if there were greater emphasis on employee engagement and in nurturing a true team environment and attitude.
Before you throw another person into the mix, consider making the most of your current staff. Many practices have sincerely committed professionals who want to feel like they are contributing to the success of the whole, but the environment doesn’t foster that. Look at team building opportunities such as the McKenzie Management’s California Cruzin’ coming up in June. I guarantee it will make a huge difference in the success of your team and it just might save you a fortune in staffing.
Next week, look at the systems before you look to hire more staff.
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