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8.29.08 Issue #338 Forward This Newsletter To A Colleague
Consulting Myth Debunked
Dentist Coach-Influence Part 2
Periodontal Treatment

You’re All Fired!
Consulting Myth #1
by Sally McKenzie CEO
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On the Discovery Chanel, the popular show MythBusters routinely debunks various myths and urban legends – everything from whether jawbreakers explode when heated to if it’s safe to answer your cell phone while filling up the gas tank. The hosts use modern science to separate reality from fiction. A myth is a belief that has little or no basis in fact.

California Cruzin'

In the dental practice dentists and their teams must deal with what I like to call “myth-information” from patients on a daily basis, such as concerns over fluoride, use of amalgam, the belief that if it doesn’t hurt there’s no need for dental care, etc. Overcoming misinformation and poor dental education among patients is no easy undertaking. But what is ironic is that when the tables are turned, dentists – champions of scientific data and fact – can be just as likely to fall prey to “myth-information,” particularly when it comes to seeking help from an outside consultant. So we at McKenzie Management decided that it was time for a little myth busting of our own. This week, we begin a series on the Top 5 Myths of Practice Management Consultants.

Many dentists hire consultants for a multitude of reasons, for start-up, mid-career practice tune-up, retirement preparedness, etc. They want us to get systems in order, increase profits, reduce stress, improve treatment acceptance, and the list goes on. However, some dentists would like to bring a consultant in but are stymied by practice management folklore. One of my favorites on the “Myth List” is, “You will fire all my staff.”

Now, mind you, dental employees are critical to the success or failure of a practice, but our objective is not team turnover, most dentist have more of that than they can handle. We’re more interested in firing up rather than firing the team and helping the dentists to make the most of the staff they have. Frequently, we find that many dental teams are brimming with hard-working individuals who genuinely want to perform well, but for a variety of reasons – most of which are system-related – they’re falling short.

For example, many staff members are working without clearly defined job descriptions. This is like walking into a retail store and expecting the sales clerk to just know what you want to purchase simply by virtue of the fact that you are a customer and they are a sales clerk. Absurd, I know, but similar situations happen regularly in dental practices. Employees are often left to simply guess what is expected of them. The scenario commonly goes something like this. “This is our computer scheduling system. As scheduling coordinator, you’re job is to keep it full.” The utter lack of direction and guidance leaves many employees poised for failure and tethers the practice to poor performance. If employees are not given the tools and training to succeed, neither will you, doctor, and neither will your practice.

However, nearly 30 years of working with dental practices has taught us that when employees understand specifically what their job duties are, what systems they are accountable for, and how their performance will be measured they are far more likely to step up to the plate and perform. They are genuinely enthusiastic and excited about the possibilities of their clearly defined job and newly established goals. It’s not legend. It’s not folklore, it’s real results backed up time and again with real data from real practices just like yours.

In some cases, dentists have bought into the myth that they have to do what the team wants or it will never succeed. We often hear dentists say, “The team won’t support bringing in a consultant.” I have two responses to this. First, the team feels threatened. They’ve bought into that juicy urban legend about every consultant’s first order of business being to clean house. Experience will likely prove otherwise. Second, there may, indeed, be a staff problem that must be addressed.

Oftentimes, in these cases, the doctor is literally afraid to take action. And he/ she is actually working for the staff. The doctor has forgotten that he/she is the one who has invested a fortune in dental education and is ultimately responsible for the success or failure of the practice. And it is the doctor who must be there to the bitter end, not Mary the business manager or Joe the hygienist.

It’s your practice and perhaps today’s the day you put the myths aside and start enjoying the realities of practice success.

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.

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Managin Your Practice and Your Future Growth is NOT just a roll of the dice.

Dr. Nancy Haller
Dentist Coach
McKenzie Management
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Influence: Gaining Commitment and Getting Results
(Part Two)

Leadership is about influencing others, to think differently or to behave differently. As a dental leader, you will be significantly more successful when you understand change and how to influence it in others.

In my last article I talked about three primary influence tactics – Head, Heart and Hand. We start with the Head tactics because when you are trying to get people to be committed to a change it has to make logical sense to them first. Then you can move forward with the other tactics that best align with their needs.

Keep in mind that most people have a resistance to changes in the workplace as they are used to certain habits, comfort zones and paradigms. In most cases, however, people don't resist change, they resist being changed. As such, you cannot ‘motivate’ your employees to change. But, you can establish the conditions under which your employees motivate themselves. That’s called influence. Here is a six step model to maximize your success in influencing your team.

Step 1: You
To influence others successfully means you have to know yourself first. This includes your needs, goals and your personality. Identify your strengths and how these characteristics will help you to communicate effectively. It also is important to know what hinders you as you dialogue with each employee. If you don’t have a reputation of trust, credibility and flexibility with your staff consider leadership training.

Step 2: Your Employees
People are not always linear logical machines. Human nature is amazingly complex when it comes to how we frame the choices we ultimately make. Many of those choices are determined by our life values, beliefs.

How do you know an employee’s individual goals or values? Ask them! After all, leadership is about building relationships with your constituents. It’s also helpful to look at their desk or office area to find pictures, mementos or anything that would give you a view into their personal world. Once you have an understanding of their personality and other factors to their situation you will know what’s important to them according to their Head, Heart and Hand needs. Do your homework!

Step 3: Build Your Influence Message
Based on the information you have from Steps 1 and 2, construct your influence conversation. Plan how you will use H-H-H Tactics and effective communication skills to deliver your message. Write out a script. Practice!

Step 4: Conduct Influence Session
The way in which you interact with others has a major bearing on your success as an influencer. Demonstrate friendliness, warmth and approachability. Use effective communication skills, especially listening and empathy. Ask relevant questions and look for common ground. Emphasize the areas and points of agreement. Respect the other person’s right to an opinion, even if it differs from your own. Be aware of natural temperaments. Some people are more open and move more quickly to a new approach or system. Others are more cautious. Not everyone will move at the same rate.

Step 5: Create Win-Win Outcomes
The goal of influencing others is to gain true commitment, not just compliance which is simply ‘lip service’. When people are internally fully committed to your suggestions it takes less external monitoring. They are more likely to follow through and will bring much more energy, good will and effort moving forward. Develop an action plan with your employees about how they will implement the steps to which you both agree. Be flexible wherever it is possible.

Step 6: Collect Ongoing Feedback
In each step, listen carefully and use information to debrief, adjust, and adapt your message and approach. This is the beginning of influence. The real process is the on-going feedback. Meet with your employees. Continue to discuss the changes you have proposed. Monitor their commitment level to be sure they are still truly motivated for their reasons, not yours. Your ability to understand what drives the people on your team is a key factor in productivity and profitability. If you want an employee to change, you have to help her/him decide the change is in their best interest.

Successfully influencing others is an invaluable skill you can learn to do more effectively. I assure you that the more adept you are at appealing to the needs of others, the sooner you’ll negotiate your way from confrontation to cooperation.

To strengthen your ability to influence your team, contact Dr. Haller at
Interested in having Dr. Haller speak to your dental society or study club? Click here.

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Angie Stone RDH, BS
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New Treatment Acceptance Tool For The Hygiene Department

 Mrs. Smith has been a long time patient of the practice.  Today she is scheduled in the hygiene department for her six month professional cleaning and examination.  The appointment goes as planned and includes necessary x-rays, periodontal charting, scaling and polishing and is finished up with a periodic examination by the dentist.

 Mrs. Smith has some bleeding upon probing and an occasional 5 mm pocket.  A quick review of the previous periodontal charting reveals that there were a couple of 5mm pockets at that time, but today it is noted that there is another one and the bleeding upon probing is more generalized today as well.

The practice’s hygienist knows from a conversation that Mrs. Smith has had some personal and financial difficulties as of late. The hygienist feels that now would not be a good time to discuss non-surgical periodontal therapy. The hygienist doesn’t want to be the “bearer of bad news” and doesn’t feel confident in knowing exactly what to say to the patient. She decides to make a note in the chart to reassess and discuss Mrs. Smith’s periodontal condition at the next recall visit. During the examination the doctor glances at the periodontal charting and reads x-rays. He doesn’t notice anything too different and is trusting that the hygienist is doing her job.  Mrs. Smith is asked to floss a little more often and is sent on her way to the front desk. 

In this scenario everyone involved, (the patient and the entire dental team) loses and this happens far too often in dental practices. The patient loses because their periodontal situation is not being addressed and this can lead to progression of the disease, the loss of teeth and development or worsening of systemic disease. The office looses production and opens themselves up to possible legal implications for not diagnosing and treating the periodontal disease.

The largest disconnect here is that the hygienist made a determination not to discuss the patients periodontal situation and  treatment options based on the perception of the patient’s financial concerns.  As Hygiene Consultant for McKenzie Management, recommendation of new technology and products plus direction, scripting of patient dialogues and guidance to implement these innovative changes in dental practices is an important part of the Hygiene Practice Enrichment Program.

A new product to consider Florida Probe, helps remove the “I don’t want to give this patient bad news” angst from proper diagnosis. 

 Florida Probe is a computerized periodontal probing system complete with patient education videos, periodontal chart print outs and treatment recommendations.  A typical periodontal probing when utilizing Florida Probe begins with having the patient view a 60 second video that educates the patient on the process of periodontal charting and what they can expect during the exam. The exam engages the patient because the patient hears the pocket depth called out by the computer. If the pocket is above 3mm the computer can be set up to say, “Warning, 4”, or “Danger, 5”.  When the patient has viewed the video prior to the exam, they know what they are listening for.  If the pocket bleeds, they also hear, “bleeding”.  Again, they are briefed that bleeding is not good. At the conclusion of the charting process, the patient typically will be asking the clinician what they can do to improve the health of their, “gums”.  

 At this point the hygienist has the opportunity to provide more education regarding periodontal disease by having the patient view three other 60 second videos which discuss the causes of periodontal disease, the stages of the disease and statistics about the prevalence and sequel of the disease. The patient can also be given a print out of the periodontal chart and a diagnosis handout to take home. The treatment handouts assist the clinician in describing the necessary treatment. 

Revisiting the scenario above we see that Mrs. Smith is scheduled today in the hygiene department for her typical six month professional cleaning and examination. The appointment goes as planned and includes necessary x-rays, periodontal charting using the Florida Probe, scaling and polishing and is finished up with a periodic examination by the dentist.  She is educated prior to the probing process with the educational video. She heard from the computer (a third party authority) about her periodontal diagnosis.  She views a couple more 60 second videos that reinforce what she heard from the computer and she is given her periodontal print out and detailed description of the treatment recommendations. The recommended treatment is explained by the hygienist. The doctor comes in to do the exam and is debriefed on what has transpired during the hygiene visit.

 Mrs. Smith has been informed of her current periodontal condition. She now understands what she needs to do in order to restore her oral health.  She is escorted to the front desk to schedule the necessary appointments for periodontal therapy

Need help with implementing new systems in your Hygiene Department to insure patient acceptance and compliance? Email

Interested in having Angie speak to your study group or at your next seminar?
Contact her at:

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