Visit our website at

6.2.06 Issue #221

Manage Conflict and Strengthen the Team

Sally McKenzie, CEO
The McKenzie Company

Printer Friendly Version

Conflict. It’s as much a part of the workplace as staff schedules, lunch on the run, computer glitches, and good days and bad days. As long as there have been people working together, there has been conflict. The differing personalities, values, perspectives, and approaches that individuals bring to the office creates a potentially volatile mix that can either complement or cripple the effectiveness of the group. It all depends on how and if it is addressed. Ignore it and conflict will erode your team and your practice. Address it and conflict will strengthen your team and your practice. I recommend clear communication and individual accountability.

First, look at communication among the team.  Employees may be in conflict because there is a lack of clear direction and information from the top or across the staff. Are the doctor and team members engaging in behaviors that are fueling conflict?

For example, doctors often feel that they are clearly communicating their expectations when they make general comments in staff meetings, such as, “We need to get a better handle on collections, or “I want the schedule to be more manageable.” But they don’t empower the team to take steps to address the issue, or they don’t hold employees accountable, or they don’t tell the employees what their expectations are.

Next, clearly defined job responsibilities are a must. Without clearly articulated responsibilities and expectations the incidents of squabbles, power struggles and other difficult circumstances only increase. With job descriptions, team members understand their individual roles on the team as well as their teammates.

Finally, don’t pretend that conflict will simply go away. Address it privately and directly with the employee(s). Be prepared to discuss the key points of the conflict as you see it, as well as possible resolutions. Be careful you are not swayed by rumor or innuendo. If a team member is complaining about the behavior of an employee, it’s important that you make an effort to observe the behavior yourself, rather than relying exclusively on the opinions of one or two staff members.

Give the employee a chance to express their view of the problem or conflict and offer possible solutions. If the employee has a voice in how the situation can be addressed they are likely to be more vested in making the solution actually work, rather than just carrying out your “orders” to fix it. 

Monitor the situation and provide ongoing feedback and guidance. One conversation likely will not eliminate the problem entirely. In fact, you may find that the conflict reveals shortcomings in other areas that need to be addressed.

Additionally, McKenzie Management consultants find that if dental teams regularly follow specific procedures to address those day-to-day triggers for conflict they can significantly reduce disagreements and stress among the team, for example:

  • Hold daily huddles to address routine issues that can cause rifts, such as placement of emergency patients both today and tomorrow.   
  • Schedule regular meetings with staff and follow a specific written agenda.
    • During meetings, require each employee to report on the system(s) they are accountable for.
    • Discuss what is happening with each specific system – scheduling, accounts receivable, recall, etc.
    • Identify constructive strategies for addressing any concerns that arise related to the performance of specific systems.
    • Assign deadlines and delegate responsibility to individual staff to pursue the problem solving strategies that have been identified.
  • Insist that clear information be shared among the team. For example, give front desk staff necessary details on time required for procedures and charges associated with those procedures.
  • Establish clear standards for professional office behavior. Do not tolerate destructive personal attacks among team members. Focus on systems and what is or is not working in the systems. Give employees regular feedback. And celebrate the success of both the team and the individual players.

Finally, if you simply cannot bring yourself to address the issues creating conflict in your practice seek assistance from someone who can. Left unresolved, conflict is a subversive and serious threat to your productivity, your practice, and your professional wellbeing. 

Interested in speaking to Sally about your practice concerns? Email her at

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

Forward this article to a friend.

Coach Your Staff... The Way You Coach Your Patients

Dr. Nancy Haller
Executive Coach
McKenzie Management

Printer Friendly Version

I went to see my Dentist last week. It was for a crown replacement. To put this into some context, it was a bit unusual for me. I am fortunate to have had good dental care throughout my life. Except for semi-annual hygiene visits, I haven’t needed any dental work in several years. And, because I’ve been coaching lots of dentists, I was more curious about what the experience would reveal. 

The Clinical Assistant took me into the operatory and gave me an overview of the procedure. My doctor came in and we reviewed the details. He carefully explained any dental terminology to be sure I understood. Both of them asked me, “Are you okay, Nancy?”, intermittently through the entire process. They gave me encouragement – “We’re almost done”. Each of them presented options – “Do you want to sit up while we wait for the anesthetic to take effect?” They praised me when the temporary was put in place – “Good job! You’re a trooper”.

What was most interesting was their manner. Professional and smooth. Each step of the way they were concerned about my comfort and safety. They wanted me to be relaxed and cooperative, to allow them to accomplish what needed to be done.

I suspect that my scenario is similar to what your patients experience in your office. Knowing the importance of good chairside manner, you take care when talking with your patients. You listen. You ask questions. You inform and you confirm understanding. You coach your patients to cooperate with you.

This plethora of communication is a stark contrast with the insufficient communication between the dentists and their employees. What’s amazing to me is how often dentists fail to show their staff the good communication skills they show their patients.

Think about it. When you treat patients, you use communication to influence the outcome and maximize success. Your words, facial expression, and tone of voice have a big impact on patients’ attitudes and reactions. It works the same way with your employees. If you want a productive and efficient dental team, you need to communicate effectively with them.

Coaching employees need not take lots of time, especially if it becomes part of the normal day-to-day functioning in the office. It starts with clear job expectations. Be sure that each employee knows exactly what their job entails.  Then follow that up with clear feedback. Make it a habit to tell employees when they do things right. Not just once a year at the annual performance review but every day. Verbal appreciation and recognition is far more valuable than bonuses and tangible rewards. 

When employees error, remind them in private of what you want them to do, or how you want them to do it. Behavioral feedback is essential. Use specific examples to explain the negative impact of the incorrect action. Guide them to an alternative option. Be brief and objective. Stick to the matter at hand. Ask them what kind of help they might need to perform better. Voice confidence in their ability to succeed. Give them encouragement. And remember to praise them. It’s very important to notice even the smallest efforts they make toward their identified goal.

By communicating this way with employees, you’ll coach them to achieve the results you want!

To assist you in building skills in feedback, read the new Ideas into Action Guidebook published by the Center for Creative Leadership and offered through the McKenzie website.

Dr. Haller provides training for interpersonal communication, conflict management, and team building. If you would like information about any of her practice-building seminars, contact her at

Forward this article to a friend .


Snap-On Smile™

Dr.Marc Liechtung
Manhattan Dental Arts
Inventor, Snap-On Smile™

Printer Friendly Version

Recently I was introduced to Dr. Marc Liechtung, inventor of the Snap-on Smile™ through Bob Vartanian, VP of Sales & Marketing for Trident Dental Labs.  The more I learned about this amazing appliance…I knew I had to have one.  My motivation was….to keep my clenching teeth apart while working on the computer, still be able to talk on the phone, eat my lunch and…..look good. In fact a better smile than my natural one!  I personally invite you to explore this amazing product for your patients.
Sally McKenzie, CEO, The McKenzie Company, Inc.

Upon developing the break through appliance, termed the Snap On Smile™. I had in mind many uses and applications for this removable and non- invasive restoration. Some of these applications would be cosmetic in nature and some of these applications would be more towards an aspect of restoring the oral cavity to it’s form and function while the appliance is worn by the patient.  Although many different types of patients have been presented to my office, asking for the Snap On Smile™ for one reason or another, in this article I would like to take you through the case that I consider a sure success when it presents itself for a Snap On Smile™.

A few aspects of the Snap On Smile™ appliance must be understood initially, a Snap On Smile™ can never make the existing teeth look smaller.  I explain this point routinely to every patient. Simply put, if you want your teeth looking smaller or less overjet, then a Snap On Smile™ appliance is just not for you.

A bride to be came to my office in order to enhance her smile for her wedding day.  She had numerous chief complaints about her appearance when she smiled, resulting in her permanent frown.  She was afraid of how that would translate on the day of her wedding.  Amongst some of the issues that she was concerned about was the visible edentulous areas of teeth numbers five and thirteen, due to both of these teeth being extracted two years prior.  Another issue regarding her smile was the fact that she had a “Gummy Smile”, that she didn’t want to correct through periodontal surgery.  She had flat anterior teeth and both minimal overjet and overbite.  Another case had presented itself of an attractive woman with a less than attractive smile.  This is something I knew could be changed with a couple of quality impressions and the ability to think out of the box in fabricating the Snap On Smile™ appliance.  These deficiencies, which made her feel uncomfortable and would not allow her to smile proudly, would result in positives when it comes to the fabrication and treatment of the Snap On Smile™.

One of the most common occurrences I am seeing since I introduced the Snap On Smile™ is showing patients what results we can attain with quality cosmetic and restorative dentistry. This bride would never have considered any form of dentistry to enhance her appearance prior to learning about the Snap On Smile™.  She simply would have just endured the most important day of her life without feeling that she could smile and feel special the way she should at such a special time.

The missing teeth did not present itself as a problem in replacing with the Snap On Smile™.  This particular case presented with distal abutments which could create a strong retentive area, so the pontics would be strong without any problem.  The lack of sufficient overjet and overbite would allow the Snap On Smile™ to create beautiful anterior appearance, without the clinician feeling the appliance would be too large, resulting in being too protrusive or too lengthy incisally.  The “Gummy Smile”, which is a hurdle in conventional restorative means yet due to the process and fabrication can be overcome with the utilization of the Snap On Smile™.  Being the Snap On Smile™ is initially fabricated through a wax up technique, we can measure how high we want to extend the gingival margin over the tissue and end the Snap On Smile™ exactly where we would indicate it to the lab.  In this particular case we measured about 2 mm above teeth numbers seven and ten and 1mm above teeth numbers 6,8,9,11.  This created the perfect smile line that would be pleasing to the patient.  The material of the margin of the Snap On Smile™ would not impinge into the gingival tissue and will not create any irritation whatsoever for the patient.  The patient was extremely pleased with the result of the Snap On Smile™ and how it totally enhanced not only her appearance, but overall confidence.  She is already thinking about restoring her dentition more permanently long term, but she is overjoyed that modern day dentistry can now offer her an appliance for an instantaneous desired result for such a significantly special day in her life.

Before: After:

There are many aspects in which Snap On Smile™ can help patients. It can be considered as a Diagnostic Tool, for Cosmetic Partial Dentures, as a Temporary for Crown and Bridge Cases, for Tooth Whiting or Tooth Color Enhancement, as a Provisional Appliance, and as a Brux, Night or Sports Guard.  Your patients can even eat with their Snap-On Smile in place.   It is my experience the more cases in which we apply this new appliance, the more we will realize that there are many ideal situations for it to come into play, and further improve, advance and evolve dentistry.

It is my hope that in a time when only 50% of the population seeks dental treatment, that perhaps a non evasive appliance such as the Snap On Smile™ can help be an example to the other 50% of the population and show them what dentistry has to offer in regards to cosmetic and restorative aspects.

 The Snap-on-Smile™ is offered exclusively by Trident Dental Labortories. For more information go here.

Forward this article to a friend.

Missed Past Issues of Our e-Management Newsletter?

Want to Know More About McKenzie Management?

Visit the Center for Dental Career Development
This issue is sponsored
in part by:
McKenzie Management's Seminar Schedule
2006 Location Sponsor Information Topic Speaker
June 8-9 Santa Barbara,CA The Art of Endodontics 800-528-1590 Max. Prod.

Sally McKenzie

July 20 Del Mar, CA Ortho Symposium 619-656-4646 Top Issues

Sally McKenzie

July 26 San Diego, CA San Diego Womens Dental Society 858-755-1590 Leadership

Nancy Haller

Aug. 2-6 Denver, CO Academy of General Dentistry* 877-777-6151 Peak Per./Systems

Sally McKenzie

Aug 10-11 Santa Barbara, CA The Art of Endodontics 800-528-1590 Max. Prod.

Sally McKenzie

Sept. 15-17 San Francisco, CA California Dental Association* 877-777-6151 Exhibit Only


Sept 21-22 Santa Barbara, CA The Art of Endodontics 800-528-1590 Max. Prod.

Sally McKenzie

Sept. 29-30 Oviedo, Spain Clinica Sicilia 877-777-6151 Over/Top Issue

Sally McKenzie

Oct. 7-8 Krakow, Poland UNO Dental 877-777-6151 TBA

Sally McKenzie

Nov. 8 San Diego, CA San Diego Women's Dental Society 858-755-9990 Top Issues

Sally McKenzie

Nov. 17 Concord, NH New Hampshire Dental Society 312-440-2908 Breakdown

Sally McKenzie

Dec. 7-8 Santa Barbara,CA The Art of Endodontics 800-528-1590 Max. Prod.

Sally McKenzie

* McKenzie Management will be exhibiting at this location

McKenzie Management
A Division of The McKenzie Company, Inc.

3252 Holiday Court, Suite 110

La Jolla, CA 92037

For more information, email
or call 1-877-777-6151

The McKenzie Company Newsletter Information:
To unsubscribe:
To discontinue receiving the Sally McKenzie eManagment newsletter,
click on the link at the very bottom of this page for instant removal,
To report technical problems with this newsletter or to request technical help,
please send a descriptive email to:
To request services, products or general inquires about The McKenzie Company activities
please send a descriptive email to:
If you would like to have any of your dental practice concerns answered personally by Sally McKenzie,
please send a descriptive email to her at:
Copyrights 1980-Present The McKenzie Company - All Rights Reserved.