Turn Feedback into Profits
It is the interesting irony of many dental practices. Employees do not give each other feedback because they fear that they will cause conflict. They don’t communicate frustrations or irritations because they want to go along to get along. This is, as Dr. Nancy Haller describes it, the double-edged sword of politeness. In the McKenzie Management educational DVD You Said What? Mastering Communication, Dr. Haller discusses the importance of giving feedback to each other through open and honest communication. She notes that employees who are overly polite to the point where they will not address issues that need to be dealt with are, in actuality, being dishonest. They are engaging in destructive passive aggressive behaviors, which creates conflict.
A system of effective feedback is much like a system of proper oral health care. Specific steps must be taken daily to ensure the health and vitality of the group. For example, verbal feedback can be given at any time, but it is most effective at the moment the employee is engaging in the behavior that you either want to praise or correct. If “Abby” at the front desk managed to expertly convince the ever-difficult “Mr. Denney” to keep the crown appointment that he wanted to cancel at the last minute, tell her! And do so publicly. Similarly, if her handling of a situation is not consistent with practice goals and objectives, explain to her constructively how you would like for her to address similar situations in the future. And do so privately. Positive feedback and pats on the back should be given publicly. Constructive criticism should be given privately.
Choosing to avoid opportunities to give employees feedback is like choosing to help them to fail. That being said, this street runs both ways and employees must be willing to accept feedback and take action on it. In reality, if employees are open to it, feedback is all around them from colleagues and patients. The key is to take the feedback and turn it into positive action.
Consider how you respond to suggestions and comments from those around you. Are you defensive? Do you take it as a personal affront? Are your feelings hurt or do you become angry when someone recommends doing something a different way? Do you dismiss feedback because you don’t like the person giving it? Instead, separate yourself from the action and look at feedback as an objective view of a particular task or procedure, and most importantly, as one of the most essential tools you can use to excel.
The best way to become comfortable in receiving and acting on feedback is to ask for it. We are incapable of seeing ourselves as others see us, which is why being open to feedback is essential in achieving our greatest potential. When receiving feedback, make a conscious decision to listen carefully to what the person is saying and control your desire to respond. In other words, resist the urge to kill the messenger. Ask questions to better understand the specifics of the person’s feedback. If the person giving the feedback is angry, ask them if you can discuss the problem when you are both calmer and can respond wisely rather than emotionally.
Thank them for trying to help you improve, even if you didn’t particularly care for what they told you. Resist the urge to blow off those comments you considered to be negative. Over the next 48 hours, think about the information you have been given and devise three to five steps you can take to change your approach.
For example, Laura the assistant is very frustrated because she feels that business employee Betsy is unnecessarily interrupting the clinical team when they are with patients. Betsy feels that Laura is trivializing her need for clear information. Instead of lashing out, Betsy decides to ask for examples and listens to Laura’s perception of the interruptions. She thanks Laura for calling her attention to the issue and decides to focus on addressing the matter constructively rather than reacting negatively to what she could choose to interpret as unjust criticism. She develops a plan to raise the issue at the next staff meeting. Betsy is prepared to share with the team situations in which she has felt the matter necessitated an interruption and would like guidance on how to handle similar situations in the future.
Don’t sit back and wait for feedback, actively solicit it and use it! Recognize that feedback is one of the most critical tools you have in achieving your full professional potential.
Want more of me? Click here to visit my blog, The Lighter Side, for more Dental Practice Management info.
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