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1.30.09 Issue #360 Forward This Newsletter To A Colleague
Creating Vision For The Team
Hygiene Consultant
Dentist Coach

Does Your Team Make You Want to SCREAM?
by Sally McKenzie CEO
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When was the last time you looked at the members of your staff and thought to yourself, “This is an excellent, highly productive team”? If instead you’re more likely to gaze upon them and quietly lament, “Why can’t these people get their act together?” your employee systems aren’t as fine-tuned as they should be. You may, in fact, have a truly sparkling staff that just needs a little polishing to shine as a team. Follow these steps and bring all new lusters to that so-so staff.

First step, share your vision for your practice and explain how each position plays an essential role in achieving that vision. Now, before your eyes glaze over at the mere mention of creating a vision, let me explain why this is important. The vision serves as your compass that points all of you in the same direction. It’s the driving principle that makes being a member of your team more than just another job.

Establish reasonable goals for the practice. These are essential for encouraging employees to achieve their best. However, take care to establish goals that stretch the team’s ability but are not so far beyond reach that the staff feels they are unattainable. Everyone needs finish lines to run toward and stars to reach for. There is far more satisfaction in any job when specific goals are identified and ultimately met than merely going through the motions of just another day in just another practice.

Stopping System Collapse

From the big picture to the finer details, each employee also needs to know exactly what you expect her/him to accomplish in her/his job. If the group can’t seem to get it together, maybe they’re not entirely sure what each person is supposed to get done. Provide every employee with a clear job description. Define the job that each employee is responsible for performing. Specify the skills that the person in the position should have, and outline the specific duties and responsibilities of the job. This enables individual employees to better understand their roles as well as how they fit into the overall success of the team.

Establish individual performance goals for each employee. With input from the team member, establish individual goals that complement practice goals, such as increasing collection ratio, improving accounts receivables, expanding production, reducing time to prepare treatment rooms and increasing clinical skills.

Give feedback early and often. Remember, the vast majority of employees want to know how they are doing and if they are meeting your expectations. Ongoing feedback is essential in helping to guide employees constructively, to help them problem solve, to direct them over obstacles and, most important, to encourage them. Feedback is what you give to employees publicly to recognize something they do well and privately to redirect them if they are moving off course. Feedback is ongoing; it doesn’t happen once a year or once every six months—that would be performance reviews.

Performance reviews are given on a schedule, typically at least twice a year, and more frequently with new staff. These provide opportunities to sit down one on one with individual team members and discuss their overall performance and their progress toward achieving their goals.

Performance reviews are one of the most effective tools in measuring employee success. Take steps to ensure your office has a formalized performance review process. At a minimum, appraise performance in these areas:

  1. Following instructions, cooperation, quality of work, initiative, innovation, time management, communication, flexibility
  2. Work ethics
  3. Attitude
  4. General characteristics, e.g. professional appearance, verbal skills, ability to work under pressure, organization skills, ability to prioritize
  5. Attendance

And finally, applaud your rising stars. Acknowledge excellent performance often and celebrate success regularly. Thank employees sincerely and inspire that once so-so staff to be super.

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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New Year...Same Problem

Angie Stone
Angie Stone RDH, BS
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Does Your Office Stand Out Or Blend In?

Is your practice pulling in the amount of new patients you want per month? Are you retaining a satisfactory percentage of the patients that come to your office? Take a moment to think about what it is that the team is doing to get patients to come to your practice and why they are staying. Asking patients what is it that they like best about your practice will help you identify your brand. Many patients keep coming back because of the gentle dental hygienist, the dentist or both. Some patients will say it is the Business Coordinator who is so kind and good with insurance or the dental assistant who always holds your hand during treatment. Or perhaps it is the large windows that look out into the garden where the birds are flocking to the bird feeders, or the calming nature of aromatherapy and soothing music. Whether you know it or not, these are examples of branding.

Recently I had an opportunity to listen to an award-winning professional speaker give a presentation on the topic of branding. Branding is the use of logos, symbols or product design to promote consumer awareness of particular goods and services. A logo coupled with outstanding service is of utmost importance if a business is going to build a brand in the minds of consumers. For example, you would be able to pick out the logos for Apple computers, Nike, McDonalds and many others out of a group of pictures. These companies have branded themselves with these logos and the quality of product and service. Simply seeing these images brings up an image of what to expect from these businesses.

Do you have a logo for your practice? Is it a picture of a barn, your office building, a tooth? What is it that you are trying to say about your practice? Does the logo reflect the special values of your practice? Does the sight of the logo promote the practice?

How to Hire the Best

Tag lines are another way to improve marketing strategies. Tag lines should be catchy and easily repeatable. If you hear, “I wish I was an…” I bet you would say, “Oscar Meyer wiener.” How about, “You are in good hands…”? You would say, “with Allstate.” Promotion of your business brand and tag line helps to ensure that when people hear or see it they think of your dental practice. As an example, you might decide to say, “Your total health is our concern,” if your focus is to not only promote the latest in dentistry but also address nutrition and smoking cessation. Putting the brand and tag line in front of people regularly helps to keep you in the minds of existing and potential patients. If your business does not have something special to say, you will blend in with the competitors and the possibility of you being chosen above the others is left to chance.

Once consumers have awareness of your brand and tag line, you will need to provide a service or atmosphere that people cannot experience at other offices. What will that defining characteristic be? Questions that can assist you in deciding this are:

  • What kind of experience do I want for my patients?
  • Do I treat all patients the same or am I targeting a certain group?
  • Why is coming to my office worthwhile?
  • What are some objections someone may have to choosing my office?
  • Who is the competition and what do they offer their patients?
  • What are we offering that is special?
  • What can we do to make the dental experience stand out in our patients’ minds?

After you have developed answers to these questions it will be clearer to you what your office excels at or what could be improved.

In today’s economic turmoil it is more important than ever that your services stand out over the other practices in the area. Start today by building the kind of dental practice that patients brag about. We can help get you there.

For business solutions for a new year, call McKenzie Management today.

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

Interested in having Angie speak to your study group or at your next seminar? Click here.

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Nancy Haller
Dr. Nancy Haller
Dentist Coach
McKenzie Management
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It Wasn’t A Miracle But A Lesson In Possibility

On January 15th, an Airbus A320 crashed into a Manhattan river. No lives were lost. Aviation experts say the accident may be the first time in history that a large commercial airliner made a water crash landing without the loss of life. New York Governor, David Paterson, named it the “Miracle on the Hudson.”

But more than a “miracle,” this stunningly well-executed emergency was a demonstration of what people at their best can do. Here is a wonderful case to study what went right, and the four factors that pertain to the survivability rate. These are lessons for your practice.

Factor 1: The Pilot

The pilot of Flight #1549, Chesley B. "Sully" Sullenberger III, has spent his life becoming an expert in safety. I’ve read that the ex-Air Force fighter pilot had been studying the psychology of keeping airline crews functioning even in the face of crisis. His awareness of his environment and quest for lifelong learning enabled him to act instantly and to make quick critical decisions. It’s hard to imagine anyone better at the controls. As a leader, he exhibited courage by sticking with the plane. He even walked the aisles twice to make sure everyone was evacuated. Would you have done the same for your staff and patients?

Lesson: In the actions of the pilot we see what is possible when a person is trained and disciplined in advance of facing the unexpected hour. How prepared are you? Strive to be a better dental leader. Hone your leadership skills.

Telephone Skill Training

Factor 2: The Crew

Collaboration is a word that describes how people work together in a cohesive team and accomplish what no one person could do by him- or herself. The level of collaboration demonstrated by Flight Crew 1549 doesn’t just happen. It takes planning and practice. Cool in crisis, they prepared the passengers for the hard landing on the river and then directed the exiting from the plane.

And what about the ferryboat captains, the police and the Coast Guard who, within minutes, converged upon the plane and coordinated their efforts to rescue every passenger? Collectively they had hundreds of hours of training. Because they had honed their skills, they were able to improvise in the large-scale rescue operation. They maneuvered around the debris and in shallow water against a three-knot current, and they performed admirably.

Lesson: Most people will perform the way they train. Hire the right people and train them well.

Factor 3: The Plane

Experts speculate that the plane hit the water at a speed of 140 knots. Typically the wings and engine break off on impact but the Airbus 320 remained intact and ended up in one piece.

Engine and aircraft technology played a huge part in averting disaster. The Boeing engineers should get some credit for designing an airplane that could be controlled and landed safely on the water without engine power.

Lesson: Take an inventory of the technology in your practice and update equipment and systems as needed.

Factor 4: The Location

The pilot told investigators he made a point of landing near Manhattan’s ferry terminals to increase the chance of rescue. As soon as the plane hit the water, the doors opened and the passengers breathed a sigh of relief. If this was to happen anywhere, anywhere on earth, this was indeed the perfect place. After 9-11, response teams went through rigorous training.

But really… What are the odds of 155 passengers surviving a plane crash into the Hudson River? Certainly luck played a role in the positive outcome. It was daylight, visibility was good and the pilots had room to maneuver the plane and find a suitable place to land. If this had taken place at night and/or in bad weather, it would have been catastrophic.

Lesson: “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” What type of preparation can and should you do in the days ahead?

When you see (or read about) people who reflect this great capacity to collaborate, it brings hope. Whether it’s an athletic team, an orchestra or a dental team, this is how people are meant to work together. This is not everyday stuff but it is what is possible.

Dr. Nancy Haller is ready to help you to increase your opportunity for a more profitable and rewarding practice. Contact her at

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

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