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  Sally McKenzie's
 Weekly Management e-Motivator
  7.02.04 Issue #121

Feedback – As Important to Receive as to Give

Sally Mckenzie, CEO
McKenzie Management

       Feedback is only as good as what you do with it. No question, doctors need to provide feedback to employees daily, but this street runs both ways and employees must be willing to accept the feedback and take action on it. In reality, if employees are open to it, feedback is all around them particularly from their colleagues in the dental practice. The key is to take the feedback and turn it into positive action.

Some employees, no matter how carefully they are handled, will take every constructive comment as

criticism. They only want to hear how well they are doing, not how they can improve. Take a good look at 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? The key is to 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.

Too often supervisors and coworkers are so overly concerned about offending a staff member they shun opportunities to give feedback. So when a co-worker steps forward and actually offers feedback they are taking a major risk and should be thanked for their willingness to help you become a better employee. Ideally, the culture of the practice should encourage open feedback among the team members to continuously improve systems and patient services.

The best way to become comfortable in receiving and acting on feedback is to ask for it. We are completely incapable of seeing ourselves as others see us, which is why being open to feedback is essential in achieving our greatest potential and recognizing those professional habits and approaches that are interfering with that 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 sit down and 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. Push yourself to write the comments down and focus on the substance of the message rather than what you might perceive as a negative tone from the messenger. 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, Mary the assistant is very frustrated because she feels that Sue at the front desk is unnecessarily interrupting staff members with insignificant matters when they are with patients. Sue’s initial reaction is very negative because she feels that Mary is trivializing her need for clear communication with the staff. Instead of lashing out, Sue decides to ask for examples and listens to Mary’s perception of the interruptions. She thanks Mary 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 and solicit input from the clinical staff. Sue 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 matters 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.

If you have any questions or comments, please email Sally McKenzie at

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Hold Up the Mirror…See Yourself as Others Do

Dr. Nancy Haller
Executive Coach
McKenzie Management

You look in the mirror every day…to check if your hair is in place, how your clothes look, whether your make-up is right. Most of us wouldn’t dare leave the house for an important event without checking our attire or our appearance. Based on what we see, we might straighten our tie, reapply our lipstick, pass the comb through one more time. We want to be sure that we see ourselves as others will see us.

When was the last time you stepped back and looked in the ‘leadership mirror’? Is your image of yourself as a leader consistent with how your employees see you? Are you sure they see you the same way you think they do? Do you reflect characteristics of vision, composure, integrity, empathy? How much time have you spent aligning your perceptions with your staff’s views?

To look in the mirror and ask for honest feedback takes confidence and courage. You risk seeing something negative about yourself. But the only way you can grow and learn is to challenge yourself to improve. Without a doubt, whatever skills you have now are unlikely to be sufficient in the future. To be successful requires continuous development. It means identifying your strengths – the things you do well and enjoy the most – and facing your limitations, your underdeveloped skills – the things you need to learn and/or do better.

Unfortunately we don’t all seek to learn at the same pace. Some of us are defensive. We refuse to look at our weaknesses. Some of us blame our problems on others. We make excuses. Some of us want a quick fix. We don’t make the time for development. Some of us just aren’t sure what to do.

If you’re interested in self-development and are committed to becoming a better leader, here are some guidelines to get you started.

Do an assessment. Poll 10 people who know you well for detailed feedback. Focus your survey on five (5) questions:

  1. What do I do well?
  2. What do I not do well?
  3. What would you like to see me keep doing?
  4. What would you like to see me start doing?
  5. What would you like to see me stop doing?

When you tally the responses, ask yourself whether you are clear on your strengths. What about your weaknesses? What are the skills you need to learn? What are the obstacles to learning those skills?

Next, list your skills into the following seven categories:

  1. Definite Strengths – I do these easily and effectively. I am at my best.
  2. Strengths Overused – Too much of a good thing is bad. An example is confident to the point that you look arrogant.
  3. Unacknowledged Strengths – Others see me doing these things well. I was not aware of these strengths.
  4. Weaknesses – I don’t do these well.
  5. Blind Spots – You see strengths where others see weaknesses.
  6. New Requirements – I’ve never done this before and need new information.
  7. Uncertain – I need more feedback.

First and foremost, celebrate your strengths. By recognizing your talents you foster the confidence and courage needed to persevere in your own development. Determine how and where you can leverage your strengths to develop your areas of weakness.

Balance your overused strengths. Rein them in. Get the downside of your strength up to neutral. It’s not necessary to be good at it but instead to insure that it doesn’t hurt you.

Address your weaknesses. Decide to work on one or two skills that you need to develop. It is likely that you will be changing habits, or developing new ones. In either case, you will be more effective in your efforts if you prioritize and focus. Be specific. Set observable action steps you will take to move you closer to your intended leadership goal. Share your plan with employees so they can continue to give you timely, honest feedback. Practice to cement your learning.

Ask for help. Research indicates that employees are more likely to give the benefit of doubt to bosses who admit their shortcomings and strive to do something about it. Involve your staff in your plan. It also is important to get a mentor or a coach, someone who will challenge you as well as give you support.

Remember that good leaders are not born, but made. Take a look in the mirror!

If you would like help assessing your leadership effectiveness, contact Dr. Haller at

Nancy Haller, Ph.D.

Interested in having Dr. Haller speak to your dental society or study club?
Email her at



The Un-Written Job Description

Belle M. DuCharme
RDA, CDPMA, Director
The Center for
Dental Career Development

         How To Become an Exceptional Front Office Employee, is one of our most popular workshops at The Center for Dental Career Development. It’s not unusual for doctor’s to send their business staff hoping they will return with a whole new outlook and attitude. Recently at the conclusion of one of my workshops, I was approached by one of the attendees.

“I really got a lot of good information about what it takes to do this job correctly, but I think I am wasting my time with my current employer,” she said. “Would you care to elaborate?” I

responded. “It’s the part about the job description. I don’t have a written job description and I was hired to “help” the woman who has been there five years. We see about forty patients a day and the phone rings a lot. I am supposed to check everyone in and out plus answer the phone by myself. I have a lot of other duties during the day that just don’t get done like calling overdue recall patients. I was sent here so that I could come back and do everything I have been told to do. The “office manager”, I was hired to help, no longer answers the phone or greets patients. She sits in her private office and does insurance and collection calls. I am not sure what else she does but she is not stressed out like I am. I don’t feel like I can change the situation because the doctor and the “office manager” have a close relationship. I will probably leave this job. If I had known about my job duties before I accepted the job, I probably wouldn’t have, or, I would have negotiated to divide the job more fairly.”

I then said, “My suggestion to you would be to take back the information you have learned here today and demonstrate why it is necessary to have two people, a Scheduling Coordinator and a Financial Coordinator with definitive job descriptions checking patients in and out based on your present patient volume and the projected growth of the practice. Explain to the doctor that there are important areas of the practice that increase production/revenues such as calling patients for recall and unscheduled treatment that is incomplete because there are not enough hours left in your workday to accomplish the tasks. Show him the formula I taught you today regarding how to determine how many front office employees are needed to process the patients efficiently. If the “office manager” does not want to accept a revision of her job duties then I suggest the doctor review over his payroll expenditure and consider hiring a Patient Coordinator to field incoming calls, manage the recall department and the unscheduled treatment follow-up and monitoring systems. Try this before you give notice.”

Job turnover can be avoided by making Job Descriptions available for potential employees to evaluate before the hiring process is complete. Years ago I was hired as a clinical assistant for a very large practice in Anaheim, California. At the end of my second day, the office manager said I had to clock out and then clock back in at a lower pay rate to clean the operatories, the lab and take out the trash. I gave notice the next morning. The costs to advertise for new employees, the time to train new employees and the affects of turnover on the morale of the staff and the patients should be seriously considered before the hiring process is started.

How can you match the best temperament type, skills and education to a position, if the position has no description? Formulate the job description first before seeking the best candidate for the position.

For Advanced Front Office Business Training call, THE CENTER FOR DENTAL CAREER DEVELOPMENT

Belle M. DuCharme, RDA, CDPMA

Exceptional Front Office Employees?
The Center for Dental Career Development can provide your team with “customized” expert training to improve the performance of your practice ...Go Here Now...


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Sally's Mail Bag

Dear Sally,
One of my techniques in my office is to often utilize a "walk-the-floor" when I'm not with patients. I'm not hovering over my employees but my goal and intent is to catch them doing things right and give them the feedback you mentioned in last week’s newsletter as it occurs. I've done this for years and the staff really enjoy and like being told they did something well and getting it when it occurs, not hours or days later. This also serves to educate and let the other employees who see this know what it is that I'm “shooting’ for. My weakness is how to handle those occasions when I see or hear something I don't like or wished was handled better. This isn't often but it does occur. I've never been able to come up with a good way to handle this. If I bring it up at the moment it occurs, I risk putting that staff member on the spot in front of the rest of the team and I never try and set up any of my employees for embarrassment. That's one of my Golden Rules. However if I pull that staff member back to my office to discuss it, it often takes a few minutes and causes others to end up waiting on me for an exam, treatment, and so on and I do not like putting a wrench in the schedule, if at all avoidable. If I wait, I risk it being forgotten by me or the staff person may not have the recollection of the event as I do, plus it's lost its impact if discussed too far after the fact.
I'm not talking about major transgressions. Obviously those are handled in a different manner. I'm talking about the more minor situations that I'd merely like handled or performed differently or more consistently in a certain way. Any advice?

Dr. Watchful Eye

Dear Doctor,
My suggestion would be to communicate the infraction in three possible ways.

  1. Each employee has a voice mail box with your telephone system. You go back to your office and leave her/him a voice mail.
  2. Each employee has an email address. You go back to your office and send her/him an email.
  3. You go back to your office and handwrite it and put it in an envelope and mail it to him/her.

In any of these three ways, you don’t forget it, and it’s done then. The employee’s day is not interrupted nor is she/he embarrassed in front of other staff.
You have told the employee ahead of time that you feel this is the fairest way to give feedback so she/he knows this is how to expect occasional feedback from you.
Hope this helps.

Office Managers
Financial Coordinators
Scheduling Coordinators
Treatment Coordinators
Hygiene Coordinators

For a FREE
Educational Video
e-mail us at:
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Advanced Business Education for Dental Professionals
737 Pearl Street, Suite 201
La Jolla, CA 92037


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This issue is sponsored
in part by:
The Center for Dental Career Development
San Diego Workshop Series
Summer Schedule
 Date Seminar Instructor(s)  
 August 6
 9:00 - 4:00
10 Vital Skills to Master Management of Your Dental Practice Belle DuCharme, RDA, CDPMA  
 August 27
 9:00 - 4:00
How to Become an EXCEPTIONAL Front Office Dental Employee Belle DuCharme, RDA, CDPMA  

The Center for Dental Career Development has been approved under the Academy of General Dentistry, Program Approval for Continuing Education (PACE). Starting 10/19/03 through 10/18/07 members of the Academy of General Dentistry can receive AGD credits for all seminars and workshops sponsored by the Center for Dental Career Development.

Please visit to view a list of upcoming seminars and workshops.

To Register 877-900-5775 or
SALLY MCKENZIE, President of McKenzie Management and the Academy of General Dentistry presents:

Anaheim Convention Center - Anaheim, CA
FRIDAY - JULY 9TH, 2004 -- 8:30am - 4:15pm

Straight up and straight forward from a straight shooter. Learn the top "current" practice issues affecting dental practice growth. Learn the most common causes and effective building techniques as a result of practices analyzed by McKenzie Management.


  1. STAFFING - You can't do it alone. Recruitment, retention, performance measurements, personality conflicts, accountability
  2. BUSINESS - Growing Pains. Quit suffering and grow smarter.
    Scheduling, associates, facility
  3. HYGIENE - Where is that 33%? Patient retention, accountability, perio, ancillary services
  4. STAGNATION - Production, efficiency, treatment presentation, marketing

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