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3.10.06 Issue #209  
Feedback - Seize the Moment

Sally McKenzie, CEO
The McKenzie Company

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Catch your employees doing something right and tell them every day. Ongoing feedback is absolutely essential in any business environment, but in a small business, particularly a dental practice,  in which the success or failure of each system hinges on the performance of a small collection of employees, it is critical. Feedback from the doctor and other members of the team is the only means individuals have to better understand what they can do to improve their own performance. And it’s one of the most essential resources for continuously assessing what is working and what isn’t in your practice.

Most employees genuinely want to perform well. They not only want to meet your expectations, they want to exceed them. But you’re the coach on this team and the members are looking to you for guidance and direction. A practice environment that welcomes and encourages feedback not only helps the doctor shape his/her team, it also enables the doctor to better understand what might be interfering in the employee’s ability to meet specific objectives. It creates a climate in which the team can examine and solve problems, address challenges, and openly discuss what could be done to improve the performance of specific systems. 

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 Jennifer the hygienist reinforced your recommended treatment plan with the ever-reluctant Mr. Sullivan, gently convincing him that the time was right to move forward on those veneers now that the kids are all through school, tell her!

When congratulating Jennifer on her expert handling of Mr. Sullivan, explain to her what she did to deserve your praise. Express your sincere appreciation and emphasize the value of her contribution to the practice.

Conversely, if Mrs. Rakers is asking about veneers and Carla your new assistant makes an off-handed comment about the expense, she needs constructive guidance on how similar inquiries are to be handled in the future. Being new, she may not comprehend the impact of what she perceives to be innocuous comments and how those can have a profound influence on patient decisions. While you, obviously, wouldn’t correct her in front of the patient, she does need to know how you want her to handle similar inquiries in the future.

Make time to speak privately with Carla to provide constructive feedback. Focus on the issue and avoid personalizing the feedback. The goal of constructive feedback is correction and motivation not demoralization. You wouldn’t say, “Carla, your patient communication is poor.” You would constructively direct her how you want patient inquiries regarding treatment handled. But beyond that, consider whether Carla’s comment reflects a perception of the rest of the team. Do you need to consider scheduling a mini-clinic during the next monthly staff meeting to educate the team on the benefits of specific treatment such as veneers? Does Carla need a clearer understanding of the practice’s treatment financing options? In other words, how can this opportunity to give feedback be used to best educate and help Carla grow into a stronger, more committed team player. And can it be used to grow and shape other members of the team as well. 

Keep in mind that feedback is not the doctor’s job alone. The dentist may be the head coach, but the entire dental team can constructively guide one another, provided guidelines are established and each member of the team commits to be open to feedback. Too often supervisors and coworkers are so overly concerned about offending a staff member they shun opportunities to give feedback. Ideally, the culture of the practice should encourage open feedback among the team members to continuously improve systems and patient services. 

Verbal, on-the-spot feedback should be the goal, and the practice environment should encourage positive feedback and openly provide constructive feedback when necessary. Failing to give feedback fails both the individual team members and the practice as a whole.

Interested in having Sally speak to your dental society or study club? Click Here.

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What does it take to get employees to do their jobs?

Dr. Nancy Haller
Executive Coach
McKenzie Management

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You pay your office staff well. They are experienced in the dental field. But little things still don’t get done unless you tell them what to. It takes up a lot of your time when you should be seeing patients. You wish you didn’t have to deal with employees, but you can't get results by yourself. What do you do?

Understandably, you want your staff to be conscientious, to take initiative, to have ownership for the practice. But, truth be told, you can’t motivate anybody to do anything. Motivation is not what you do to employees. It’s what employees do to themselves. Motivation is the process that moves a person toward a goal. As such, motivated behaviors are the voluntary choices of each employee. You, the leader, need to influence the factors that motivate your employees to higher levels of productivity.

  • Adjust your beliefs.

Your employees are an investment, not a burden. From small businesses to large corporations, people are the most valuable resource of any organization. In Fortune 500 companies, employees are now referred to as ‘human capital’ and they are typically the greatest untapped resource of any business!

Get a clearer perspective of what motivates you. What drives you to get up and go to work? How does your job support those motives? What can you do to align your daily work activities with your values? When you do a good job of taking care of yourself and your own job, you'll have much clearer perspective on how others are doing in theirs.

  • Find out what your employees want…then give it to them or enable them to earn it.

Unfortunately, there's no secret formula for motivating people. It’s just not that easy or exact. The one-size-fits-all approach no longer suits today's  multigenerational workplaces. What motivates mature workers is frequently quite different than what Gen Xers want. Some individuals are primarily motivated by money, although this is only a short-term motivator. Others are motivated by being part of a team or something bigger than themselves. Others are motivated by continual challenge. Others need constant praise. The point is that all people are different and your leadership goal should be to help each individual to meet their own needs as well as the needs of your practice.

  • Investigate work processes.

What looks like "C-minus" results to you may require "A-plus" effort from your staff. Find out if their paths to productivity are strewn with obstacles and disincentives. Observe employees in action. Look for sources of needless frustration. Ask what you could do to help them. Then make a maximum effort to give them what they need - and to remove whatever's getting in their way.

  • Ask for what you want.

Lackluster job performance frequently results when employees don’t know that anything more is expected of them. Blaming your staff for not meeting your unspoken expectations is like complaining about a waiter who failed to bring the ketchup you wanted though you never asked for it.

  • Support employee motivation

Once you’ve identified and clarified everyone’s expectations (including your own), continue to cultivate good relationships with your staff. Employees need to see your consistent investment in them or good intentions will fall by the wayside.

These are just some of the basic steps you can take toward supporting your employees. Every person is motivated - about something. As the dental practice leader, your challenge is to create an environment in which your employees choose to be motivated at work…and to sustain interest and attention to them every day. It’s an investment that pays big dividends in your bottom line.

Creating the right environment that sustains employee motivation takes awareness, dedication, and time. Improve your bottom-line with patience, commitment and coaching. Contact Dr. Haller at

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Promoting And Selling Dentistry

Jean Gallienne RDH BS
Hygiene Consultant McKenzie Management

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You have a patient in your chair or you are at the morning meeting before your day even begins, and you notice that Mr. Jones has treatment pending. Do you just note it and move on? Do you actually look at what the treatment is and evaluate what should be done next? Do you know the financial policy in your office or is that the job of the front desk? Do you know how to maximize the patient’s benefits that are supplied by their employer?

In order to talk logically to your patient about having their treatment completed and not about your weekend, you should be aware of and understand all of the above. It is not only the job of the front desk to be able to answer simple routine questions but yours as well. However when treatment does get more involved, a financial person may come into your operatory and answer the questions for both of you. This way you are learning too, not just the patient.

Well, for Mr. Jone’s sake, I hope you are looking at the treatment that needs to be done and why he needs it done and also asking the doctor to prioritize the treatment. Being aware of the patient’s benefits and how they can be maximized will help in convincing the patient to move forward with treatment. With Mr. Jones in your chair, educate him on why he should want to have the treatment done, how it will feel while he is having it done, and how the front office can work out financial arrangements with the use of the many options that Care Credit has to offer your office and the patient.  Remember the three main reasons people do not have treatment done in dentistry is fear, money, and perception of need.  If you can eliminate these three reasons you are more likely to have the treatment plan accepted and completed by the patient.

Even when it comes to talking to the patient about future treatment, or the possibility that they may need more root planing if the over all health of their mouth does not improve, you need to be comfortable, believe in the service you are providing, and confident in the words you use to explain to the patient why they need the treatment. One way to get this confidence and belief is to talk to your fellow team members about how they are discussing treatment pending. No, everybody in the office does not need to say it the same way, but everybody on the team does need to convey the same message and have the same belief system when it comes to the quality of care being provided.

Many times promoting the treatment plan starts before the doctor has even diagnosed it. The seed needs to be planted in the patient’s mind. This same seed may be the motivator to get them doing the home care they need. For instance, “Mr. Jones, I am seeing a lot more infection than we feel is healthy at this time. In order to have your mouth become more healthy we may need to do root planing. I am going to go ahead and do a cleaning today and we will have you back in to be evaluated in a couple of weeks. If the infection is still present, the doctor will diagnose you to have root planing done in the areas that are infected. We believe that aggressive non-surgical intervention can produce a healthy mouth. As you may know, periodontal disease cannot be cured, but we can slow down the progression of the disease. However, you also need to do your part at home and by getting the care needed.”

The same goes when you see large fillings that will need crowns in the near future. Plant the seed so when it comes to diagnosing that they need a crown on #14 they will remember, Oh yes, you told me that would need to be done. Well, it lasted a couple of years. You can even refer back to your notes and tell the patient, “Mr. Jones, remember back in 2003 when we told you that large filling may not last much longer. Well, the time has come to replace it and we will need to put a crown on that tooth. I see you have insurance. That is a nice benefit your employer has provided. Just so you know we also offer Care Credit if you would like some financial assistance. If you want to bring some of your favorite music to listen to while we do it that would be great. It is a very easy procedure. We look forward to seeing you.”

The more knowledge you have about a person, their benefits, your own beliefs, and the need for treatment, the easier it will be for you to discuss and promote the treatment plans the doctor has diagnosed. Educating your patient on the need for treatment is synonymous with selling dentistry.

If you are interested in enhancing the skills of your hygienist or having Jean speak to your study club or dental group email

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