12.9.11 Issue #509 info@mckenziemgmt.com 1-877-777-6151 Forward This Newsletter

Keep Your Cool When Pressures Heat Up
By Sally McKenzie, CEO

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Certainly, running a dental practice can be a source of considerable stress. But when the season of last minute cancellations, no shows, holes in the schedule, staff irritations and frustrations - also known as the Holidays - is upon us, that stress can hit a fever pitch. Managing the day-to-day pressures that are an unavoidable fact of life in dentistry, especially this time of year, requires more than a little attitude adjustment, starting with acceptance.

Accept the unexpected and be ready to deal with it. When a patient is 20 minutes late for the appointment, accept the reality of the situation and be prepared to adjust accordingly. You cannot change that they are late, but you can change how you respond. If you learn to deal with “what is,” rather than becoming frustrated about what should be, you will have less stress.

Stress starts with how you think things are, how you think they should be, and how they are not the way you want them to be. It manifests itself physically in headaches, stomach problems, anger, anxiety and the like because people, especially those with perfectionist tendencies, have difficulty adapting to situations in which people and circumstances do not go as they believe they should. Consequently, too much of their energy is spent dwelling on those things they cannot control.

They focus on the need for the other person or the situation to change. “If I could just get so-and-so to do such-and-such,” rather than considering how they can adjust their response to the stressful situation. For example, the doctor needs a report on Wednesday. The employee responsible for delivering the report tends to procrastinate this type of work and most likely will not have the report ready, which will cause the doctor stress. Rather than encouraging a stressful situation, ask that the report be done by Tuesday; adapt to minimize stress.

Make your choice. When confronting stress you have essentially four choices:

1. Stay and do nothing
2. Leave either mentally or physically
3.Change your attitude
4. Change your behavior

The first two can be done on a short-term basis. Larger, more challenging situations have to be dealt with using 3 and 4. For example, if a team member is routinely coming in late for the beginning of the day meeting, causing disruption and stress for those who arrive on time, the behavior needs to change. First, the doctor must stop looking the other way and making excuses. Second, the offending employee needs to clearly understand that the expectation is for them to arrive at a specific time. Third, they need to be held accountable. In other words, if they disregard this fundamental requirement, then it should be reflected in their performance review and in some cases disciplinary action must be taken. In addressing the behavior and establishing guidelines for that behavior, the doctor can then adjust his/her own behaviors.

Let go of the irritations and frustrations and focus on the real goal. For example, a patient forgets to bring necessary paperwork to the office. It's very easy to become irritated. Rather than becoming stressed, put your energy into being resourceful and finding another way to address the problem. Focus on the real goal, which is to get the necessary paperwork.

Make the most of what you have. More time, more money and more staff will not translate into less stress - even though most dental teams believe that they would. We have to learn to do what we can with what we have, right here, and right now.

Address your fears. It is widely recognized that most of us stress about problems and situations that will never happen or over things that we have no control. Fear is the number one cause of stress. People are afraid of what will happen, what won't happen, or what might happen. The number one method to address fear is to gather knowledge and adjust your behaviors. Worrying about production, collections, new patients, team productivity, staff turnover, etc. does nothing but cause stress. Rather than worrying, take action to ensure that if adjustments do need to be made, you know exactly what steps to take to achieve the desired results.

Next week, are you the one causing the majority of stress for your team?

Want more of me? Click here to visit my blog, The Lighter Side, for more Dental Practice Management info.

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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