5.04.07 - Issue # 269 Forward This Newsletter To A Colleague
Employee Potential
Job Descriptions

When it Comes to Staff, Is ‘Potential’ Enough?
by Sally McKenzie CEO
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When good help is hard to come by and you have what you consider to be a rising star on your staff, it’s easy to convince yourself that she/he could handle just about anything you toss her/his way. Consider Dr. Morton’s experience. Carolyn was a rising star on Dr. Morton’s team. She seemed to bring the whole “package.” She was bright, energetic, and enthusiastic. She was good with the patients and great with her teammates. The kind of employee who has tremendous potential, a rising star who could be a superstar given the right opportunity. 

Dr. Morton felt confident promoting Carolyn from business assistant to office manager when the opportunity arose. She had been with the practice for just over a year and had indicated an interest in taking on additional responsibility. But it was a move that both Dr. Morton and Carolyn would eventually regret. 

Here’s where things went wrong. Dr. Morton assumed that because Carolyn was bright and confident she could “figure out” her role as office manager, after all she’d worked for the previous office manager. But Carolyn was never given a job description. Consequently, she was making up her duties as she went along. With little direction as to what the expectations of the job were, she was left to interpret her responsibilities as best she could. Every employee must have a job description that clearly defines the job, spells out specific skills needed for the position, and outlines precisely the duties and responsibilities. A job title is not a job description.

Guidance from Dr. Morton was vague at best. For example, she would tell Carolyn that she wanted her to improve cash flow, but there were no specifics. Carolyn, for her part, would take the ball and run with it. In some cases, that can be a tremendous employee strength, in others it can be disastrous. In this case, Carolyn began unilaterally implementing policy with little input from staff and the doctor.

Direction from the doctor in the form of ongoing feedback is critical, especially for a new employee or an existing employee in a new position. Constructive feedback given regularly helps employees continuously fine tune and improve the manner in which they carry out their responsibilities. It’s also the dentist’s most effective tool in shaping and guiding employees into high-performing team members.

 In addition, Carolyn was never offered any type of office manager training. It doesn’t matter how bright, how energetic, how seemingly good with patients your rising star is, if this person does not receive training, they will very likely fail. In fact, the number one reason why practices don’t reach their potential is the number one reason why teams don’t reach their potential – lack of training.

Although it was completely unintentional, Carolyn was set up to fail. In addition to zero training in her new position, she had also never been given any real management duties before being tapped for the role of office manager. She was promoted based on her potential not proven experience. Yes, she’d been a business assistant who seemed competent in that role, but she’d not been given enough management duties to prepare her for the demands of the new position. She’d been given the title, the salary, and the authority but was tossed into the role with no training and very little guidance

This bright, energetic person with great potential couldn’t single-handedly overcome the odds. And the negative impact of her failure reverberated across the practice. Patients left, staff turnover spiked, Carolyn quit in frustration, and Dr. Morton posted what was financially her worst year in practice.

Great “potential” is no guarantee. Give your employees the tools and training they need to succeed and you’ll virtually ensure that your rising stars will, indeed, become superstars.

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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Jean Gallienne RDH BS
Hygiene Consultant
McKenzie Management
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A Staff Without Job Descriptions

Does your practice have job descriptions?  Do your employees know what is expected of them?  It is not uncommon for an employee to accept a job without knowing what is really expected of them as a team member. Why are people willing to do this? Most people are not going to buy a car without test-driving it. So, why would we want to take a job position without knowing what is expected of us as team members? After all this is our career we are talking about.

It is very common in many offices, where there are no job descriptions for employees to follow.  The doctor says to us, “Well I want everybody to be cross trained and be capable of helping each other out. I don’t want staff telling me that was not in my job description.” This is something that NO employer wants to hear.

Employees without a written job description may run into many problems. There should be accountability for every job in the dental office. Otherwise, when something is done wrong or not at all, there is nobody to hold accountable because there was not a job description. Usually when something is done correctly, people are quick to want recognition. However, when something is done incorrectly, not all people will admit a mistake.

Who is accountable for:

  • Answering the phone?
  • Filling the doctor’s schedule?
  • Filling the hygiene schedule?
  • Treatment planning root planing?
  • Selling dentistry?
  • Preparing for morning huddle/business meetings?
  • Monitoring hygiene production?
  • Sterilizing instruments?
  • Cleaning operatories?
  • Probing?
  • Checking for questionable areas?
  • Going over treatment?
  • Reinforcing treatment already diagnosed but not completed?
  • Going over financials?
  • Confirming patients?

These are all questions that should be answered within the job description for each staff member. There are so many other questions that need to be answered in order for accountability within the dental practice. These are just a few of the most obvious ones. There are many other jobs in every position that a team member needs to do other than cleaning teeth, assisting the doctor or working up front.

We have created job descriptions for many of the positions in the dental office. These may be downloaded at www.mckenziemgmt.com. The doctor should read through the job descriptions and add or delete any particular duty that he or she may feel is not appropriate for their practice. Then, have existing staff help in creating these job descriptions in order to make them custom to your office by adding or subtracting particular jobs from each one. It is recommended not to put an employee name on the job description but a name of a position. Now, the employee name may be written on a copy of the original job description in order to have specific accountability. However, if you were to hire a new staff member and give him or her a job description for Susie, that really is not informing them of the job title they are holding. When hiring a new employee, wouldn’t it be nice to just hand them this information so they have a place to look for the correct answer?

Yes, we do believe in the team approach and recommend that at the bottom of every job description you will want to add duties that everybody may help with. However, there will be specific job descriptions that will actually be accountable for that particular job.

Job descriptions also help when the doctor is looking at doing performance reviews or evaluating who should or should not get raises. They also help when hiring a new employee. They allow the new employee to look at the job description they are interviewing for and see for themselves if they are willing to accept the responsibilities before taking the position. This will hopefully prevent your practice from hiring people that are not willing to do the job needed, in order to be a part of your team, thus helping to cut down on the amount of turnover.

Creating job descriptions is an important part of managing the dental practice and should be looked at being done by all practices. Help your team to have the best in guidance.

Interested in knowing more about how to improve your hygiene department? Email hygiene@mckenziemgmt.com.

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

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Belle DuCharme CDPMA
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Follow What Leader? A Lesson in Leadership

The push for higher levels of productivity in dental offices is fueled by the financial and emotional goals of the doctor CEO.  New technology is a must for all practices seeking recognition and growth.  New products and advances in dentistry are exciting and we all want to buy them and try them on our patients.  Sticker shock brings us back to the reality that there is not enough money in the budget to get the latest dental gizmo and the old gizmo will have to last a while longer.  Leadership is sometimes born of the desire to have better things and that includes a more successful practice.

The Business Administrator of the practice must support this position of leadership.  Understanding the dentist CEO’s vision and mission is important in establishing the type of leadership necessary to accomplish goals.  Tyrannical or authoritarian type of leadership dampens creativity and supports rote behavior.  Fostering motivated, thinking, and supporting behaviors in our staff promotes leadership styles that lead to prosperous practices.  Often the Business Administrator is the bridge between the dentist and the rest of the staff.  She or he is put into the position of “tug of war” between the wants and needs of the staff and the direction and focus of the dentist CEO.

Without written office policy manuals, job descriptions, and defined areas of accountability there are power struggles over leadership.  The dentist must be the leader or there will be anarchy, lack of consistency, confusion, and breakdown of systems. 

Dr. Allgood (not his real name) sent his two business staff, Steve and Janey, in for McKenzie’s Advanced Business Training Course.  Dr. Allgood’s goal is to increase production so that he can make necessary improvements to his building and buy new digital equipment.  Neither of his business staff had formal training in dentistry or in accounting.  They both had worked in retail and in customer service prior to coming to work for Dr. Allgood. Steve had worked for Dr. Allgood as his assistant and office floater for almost four years. He did most of the talking and had an attitude that he had all of the answers. Janey worked insurance and scheduling and was trained by Steve. Steve had become very familiar with the front and back office to the point where he considered himself the “office manager” even though the title had not been given to him.  Neither Steve nor Janey had written job descriptions yet both had carved out their own “niche” in the practice and developed areas of expertise separate yet cross-trained.  “We are a clique,” announced Steve.  “The practice can not run without me.” Steve stated. Steve was very critical of the dental assistant and the hygienist and excluded them from his relationship with Janey.  Dr. Allgood had not shared a vision of success or a mission statement with any of the staff.  There was a loosely written office policy manual that had not been updated in years.  Steve said “he didn’t see the point to the training, when Dr. Allgood was not going to change anything.”  What Steve was really saying is that he (Steve) was not going to change anything.  Dr. Allgood’s lack of leadership had created an opening for Steve to step in as leader.  Steve was ill equipped and viewed leadership as power over the other members of the staff.

Morning huddles and monthly staff business meetings were abandoned long ago.  Communication between staff members was limited to the events taking place that day on the schedule. There had never been performance reviews and raises had been given when staff threatened to quit. It was evident that Dr. Allgood needed to assert his leadership role and take back his practice.  Steve’s duties included treatment coordinator, assisting, financial arrangements, collection, scheduling and wherever else he is needed in the practice.  He is a hard worker and a value to the practice but now is very resistant to any change that will affect his power as leader.  In order for Dr. Allgood to reinstate himself as the leader of his practice he must have the support of a Business Administrator who recognizes him as the leader and works with him to set up systems and protocols for success.  If Dr. Allgood is to keep Steve as a valued member of the team, he will need to establish a new understanding of Steve’s role and his leadership position.

For more information on McKenzie's Advanced Training Programs for Dentists, Office Managers and Front Office, email training@mckenziemgmt.com, call
1-877-777-6151 or visit our web-site at www.mckenziemgmt.com.

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