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12.19.08 Issue #354 Forward This Newsletter To A Colleague
Shape Your Team For '09
Dentist Coach
Hygiene Consultant

Solve The #1 Practice Puzzle In ’09
by Sally McKenzie CEO
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You have staff. You have patients. You have technology. Your schedule is reasonably full. By most standards, it would seem that you have all the components for practice success but it simply hasn’t materialized to the level you believe it could and should. And, naturally, you want to understand why.

Hiring Wrong People?In dental practices, multiple systems impact the office, but the common thread that is woven into the success or failure of your total practice is staff. How you shape your team is the single most critical element that determines whether you thrive or stagnate.
In the coming year, as turnover occurs in your office, promise yourself that you will never simply fill a vacancy. Instead, follow these steps to build a solid, high-performance team.

First, consider how the position you are filling (as well as the others in your office) fit into the overall practice picture. New and existing staff must understand their individual job responsibilities and how those responsibilities affect the team and the practice as a whole.

2 WeeksNext, develop a clear picture of the person you need. Remember, you’re never simply filling a vacancy; you are placing another critical cornerstone in the foundation of your practice. This person will either strengthen or weaken your team. Make sure it’s the former, not the latter. Consider four critical factors about the position you need filled and what you are looking for in the employee who will eventually step into it.

  1. Is dental experience necessary for the job or are other skills more important? Unless a license is required, don’t limit the applicant pool merely to those with dental office experience.
  2. What is the practice’s commitment to training this person? If the applicant is able and willing to be trained and a training plan is in place, you are far more likely to have a successful hire.
  3. What personality style will be effective in the position and complement the team as a whole? Pleasant? Caring? Assertive? Cheerful? Calm? Results-driven?
  4. What professional values do you want to see in the applicants? Are you looking for someone who wants a job or someone who wants to grow as a professional? Will this be merely a place-holder position until something better comes along or the type of position that an applicant would be willing to make a long-term commitment to?

Cast your net wide. Don’t stop with your newspaper’s classified section. Use the Internet. Contact your local dental society and other businesses to ask for referrals. When you’ve identified a couple of strong contenders for a position, test them with computerized testing tools to ensure they would be good fits for your practice.

Next, consider the bigger picture. If you take care of the staff you have today, you’ll be less likely to be filling vacancies tomorrow. First and foremost, don’t ignore problems. Take action and deal with practice problems as they arise. Looking the other way in hopes things will get better on their own is a bit like expecting decay to heal itself. Your team needs to know that you will address concerns. Best of all, they will respect you for doing so.

Speaking of addressing problems, make sure you are up front about compensation. Establish a salary system that makes sense. Team members want to understand when and how increases in compensation are achieved. Too many dentists give raises based on gut feelings or what they think they can afford. In other cases, doctors will arbitrarily increase salaries $1 an hour or offer to pay health care premiums or consent to whatever an employee requests because the dentist doesn’t have a clearly articulated compensation plan in place. Consequently, the doctor pays the price many times over. Employees must understand that salary increases are tied to both profitability and great performance.

Invest in your team and they are far more likely to maintain their investment in your practice. Staffs want to grow professionally through training. Whether it’s online training, local dental meetings, major dental meetings or the occasional lunch and learn in the office, provide ongoing educational opportunities for your team. It will fuel new ideas and creative problem-solving skills.

Think of the intricacy of a complex puzzle: All of the pieces may be available, but the beautiful picture doesn’t take shape without the investment of time and energy to assemble it. The same is true for your practice.

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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Team Building Event of the Year!

Dr. Nancy Haller
Dentist Coach
McKenzie Management
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Stay Hopeful And Shape Your Practice For The Future

The economic downturn is affecting everyone in the dental industry differently, but everyone is feeling it. At the same time, this is the season of hope. And what builds hope—and sustains resiliency—is having the ability to influence the outcome of something. When it comes to your practice, you do have this ability. Give your practice the hope it needs by providing exceptional service and quality treatment during the downturn. Exceeding patients’ expectations will retain your current patients, increase your image and win new clients for the long term.

Why would a dentist need a coach? Learn to be a better leader. Click Here

It takes a high-performing team to deliver five-star service, and nothing puts youfarther ahead of the competition than employees who work well together.As the dental leader, it is particularly critical for you to face dysfunction and focus on strengthening your team. May thisstory of the goose written by Dr. Harry Clarke Noyes lift your spirits and raise your hopes. Your team can soar higher. (Even if you’re already familiar with thestory, it’s worth re-reading.)

fall, when
you see geese
heading south for
the winter, flying along
in V formation, you might
consider what science has dis-
covered as to why they fly that way:
as each bird flaps its wings, it creates an
uplift for the bird immediately following. By
flying in V formation, the whole flock adds at least
71% greater flying range than if each bird flew on its own.
People who share a common direction and sense of community
can get where they are going more quickly and easily
because they are traveling on the thrust of one another.

Nice Smile

a goose falls
out of formation,
it suddenly feels the drag
and resistance of trying to go it alone
and quickly gets back into formation to take
advantage of the lifting power of the bird in front.

If we have as much sense as a goose,
we will stay in formation
with those who are headed the same way we are.

the Head Goose
gets tired, it rotates back
in the wing and another goose flies point.
It is sensible to take turns doing demanding jobs
with people or with geese flying south.

honk from behind to
encourage those up front to keep up their speed.
What do we say when we honk from behind?

and this is important,
when a goose gets sick, or is
wounded by gunshots and falls out
of formation, two other geese fall out with that
goose and follow it down to lend help and protection.
They stay with the fallen goose until it is able to fly, or until
it dies. Only then do they launch out on their own, or with another formation
to catch up with their group.


Wishing my current, past and future McKenzie clients a very Happy and Healthy Holiday Season. Peace on Earth. Good Will to Mankind.

Dr. Haller is available at

Interested in having Dr. Haller speak to your dental society or study club? Click here.

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Perio Pack

Angie Stone RDH, BS
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There Isn’t An “I” In Team

There is a saying that there isn’t an “I” in “team.” This typically is said to members of a sports organization, when players are not working together and the game is not going according to plan. This saying, however, can be applied to almost every work environment, including the dental office.
One of the areas in a dental office where lack of team work is perceived is the hygiene department. Business staff and dental assistants often report a feeling that many hygienists do not buy into the team concept. Complaints of hygienists not helping out in the sterilization of instruments, not emptying the trash, not helping to keep the clinical area clean, not offering to help in the business office, etc., are heard frequently.
This misunderstanding usually stems from the team not realizing that hygienists are different than other team members. The difference is that they are the only employees, other than dentists, who directly generate production.

When the hygienist does not have a patient in the chair she/he is not producing revenue for the practice. When not producing, some hygienists will read magazines, make personal phone calls or chit chat with other team members. Because many hygienists have a guaranteed salary, they are paid for down time. Instead, it would be more productive if the hygienist was directed by the Business Coordinator to review the unscheduled recall list, highlight those patients who would most likely respond to a call and make notes as to what to say to get them into the chair, such as, “Jane, our hygienist Mary has noticed that you have not scheduled your Bridge The Gapprofessional cleaning appointment. She asked me to remind you that she needs to check the pockets on teeth numbers 3 and 4 to see if there has been healing. Mary is available Tuesday at 9:00 a.m. Shall I schedule you?”

Making outbound calls to patients is an administrative task and not to be assigned to the hygienist unless staffing is at a minimum and the hygienist has been taught the protocol for making outbound calls to patients, including how to record responses in the chart or computer system. It is also not recommended to have a hygienist scrubbing instruments, emptying the trash, filing charts, etc., unless there is a shortage of staff assigned to these areas.

If the other team members are otherwise busy and the hygienist is not willing to help, discontentment among the team follows. Team members may feel as if the hygienist is not a vested team member. This in turn leads to the hygienist being seen as a prima donna. Hygienists are part of the team and should be willing to be directed to help where necessary. On the other hand, more than 0.5 openings a day on the hygienist schedule is an indication of broken systems in the practice, such as an ineffective recall system, lack of periodontal assessment or too many hygiene days. An analysis of the hygiene department to assess systems is in order.

When there aren’t standard operating procedures, well-defined job descriptions and areas of accountability, team members begin to develop their own ideas of what each person should or should not be contributing. In any well-run establishment there is a plan. Take a football team, for example—the quarterback has a definite job, as do the wide receivers, the running backs, etc. If they are going to be successful as a team they all need to focus on their individual job descriptions. Though the major job responsibilities in a dental office are basically understood (the Business Coordinator runs the front desk, the Assistant assists the dentist, the Hygienist cleans the teeth) issues tend to stem from smaller, not-so-defined tasks. Who is supposed to scrub the instruments? Who is responsible for emptying the trash? What is supposed to be done when there is down time? If these tasks are just left to whoever has time or whoever gets to it first, there is going to be discontentment, especially when some members take responsibility and others don’t.

The dentist ultimately is the person who is responsible for determining who has the primary responsibility for doing which tasks. With written job descriptions, it is easier for the dentist to address a lack of responsibility being taken for required tasks. While sharing duties, chipping in and all team members doing the same amount of work is a wonderful concept, it won’t begin to happen without the implementation of protocols and job descriptions.

Need help with implementing new systems in your hygiene department to ensure stellar performance? Email

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