Build Teams, Not Walls
Effective teams are driven by a common purpose, common goals and objectives, and are fueled by mutual respect and trust. They must be nurtured over time, rewarded for a job well done, and redirected when they veer off course. But where do you start? As they say, every journey begins with a single step, which in this case is careful examination. A group of people doesn’t become a team until together they identify opportunities for improvement and commit to action. Over time, employees work through various building blocks that are essential in constructing a high-performance team, including:
• Improving communication skills and establishing dialogue.
But it’s not just up to the employees. Becoming a highly functioning team takes time and above all commitment from everyone, especially the doctor. Dentists often lament the poor quality of their teams. They wring their hands over employees who don’t work well together or don’t fulfill their responsibilities according to the doctor’s standards. And far too many doctors convince themselves that if they hire staff with previous “experience,” they will simply know how the hiring doctor wants his or her practice run.
Effectively running your practice requires far more involvement and instruction than you’ve likely ever considered. And your success is contingent upon more than great dentistry. That’s the easy part. Achieving true excellence demands good management as well as a healthy dose of inspiration, motivation, and leadership.
First, let’s consider management and leadership. Effective management means that you have clearly defined systems and procedures in your practice, from how the phones are answered to how new patients are handled to how compensation is established and so on. In other words, each individual knows what s/he is accountable for and how his/her success is measured.
While management is the roadmap directing everyone left, right, or straight ahead; leadership influences whether the ride will be smooth or rocky. The manner in which you lead is directly related to whether and how quickly you will reach your destination, i.e. achieve your goals. It’s no surprise that micromanagers and command and control dictators continuously struggle to retain staff and achieve desired results. They like to give orders. Team members would prefer engagement and instructive feedback. The most effective leaders are those who are capable of giving clear direction and guidance, are willing to explain changes as well as the why behind the request, and encourage cooperation and open discussion, not fear and dissension.
When it comes to motivation, many doctors mistakenly believe that the regular paycheck and an occasional bonus should be plenty of motivation and inspiration. In actuality, if you’re giving bonuses, studies show that their impact is short-lived. Inspiration and motivation come from a work environment in which employees feel that their contributions are valued. They are empowered to make decisions that are in the best interest of the business, and they are trained to ensure that those decisions are wise and well-reasoned. Where practices get into trouble is in empowering employees without properly training them. Empowerment without training is a recipe for failure.
For example, if business employee “Emily” is empowered to “do whatever needs to be done to take care of the patient,” and the patient wants to pay $50 a month on their $3,000 bill, without appropriate training, Emily may give the patient what they ask for. But if she is trained to have informative conversations with patients about convenient payment options that also make financial sense for the practice, she can feel good about helping patients to receive the care they need and also appreciate the importance of her role in enabling the team to achieve key treatment acceptance goals.
In most cases, it requires an entire team to achieve success, and office-wide rewards can reap significant benefits as they reinforce the value of total team effort. They also help to shake things up and break up the monotony. Schedule “reward days” throughout the year and use these for spa days, a trip to the ballpark for the season opener, or a limo-driven shopping trip to the boutique strip.
Invest time and attention to build your high-performance team and reap the rewards in productivity and profitability.
For more information on this topic, visit my blog: The Lighter Side
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