Team Building McKenzie Style
Dr. Nancy Haller
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I planned to cover a different topic for this issue of the McKenzie e-newsletter. But when I picked up the Wall Street Journal and saw the headlines, I just had to write this article.
“I Screwed Up...My Job Is to Get This Thing Back on Track,” President Says
Party affiliation and mainstream politics aside, you will agree that the power of an apology is to restore dignity, trust and a sense of justice. Research shows that contrary to the fear that apologies are a sign of weakness, leaders who apologize are seen in a more favorable light than those who don’t take responsibility for their actions. Apologies have profound influences on both the giver and the recipient. That does not mean you need to say mea culpa for everything. In fact, there are indications that too many “I’m sorrys” are bad—selectivity is the key. So why, when and how should a leader apologize?
1. The offense is serious.
Unless you practice ostrich leadership, most people know when they’ve done something wrong. By age 10, children understand the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. This is the beginning of a true understanding of right and wrong, of guilt and values.
2. The wrongdoing was your fault.
From the 1992 McDonald’s hot coffee lawsuit to flagrant denials of responsibility by public and private officials, we live an age of blame-the-other-guy. Life is about making choices and accepting the consequences of our actions and personal accountability for our decisions. If you’ve made a mistake, own up to it. Take responsibility and model how to do the right thing. Be careful to avoid the “double talk” apology—I’m sorry if you felt offended. Acknowledge what you did.
3. Be prompt.
There is a shelf life on apologies. The goal of an apology is to reconcile with your staff and maximize productivity. If you wait too long, you run the risk of relationship damage. The sooner you make amends the faster you’ll get your team—and your practice—back on track.
4. Be explicit, be brief and be sincere.
An apology is not about you. It’s about what you’ve done to offend the other person. Express regret succinctly. Long, drawn-out explanations are ineffective. Avoid talking about how bad you feel. Don’t rationalize your actions. This is not about relieving your guilt; it’s about how you impacted someone else.
Depending on the offense and your skill level, it helps to write out your apology and practice it. Be sure your body language matches your words. Avoid crossed arms or pointing fingers. Make eye contact.
If you offended someone in private, apologize quietly to that person. However, if your transgression was done in front of others, you’ll be more effective by apologizing in public.
5. Be patient.
Just saying, “I’m sorry,” doesn’t guarantee resolution. An apology is only the first step toward restoring trust in a relationship. The healing or forgiveness is likely to take time. When you apologize you really are entering a process of negotiation. Allow the other person to vent. Be prepared to listen. Acknowledge that you understand how the other person felt.
6. Be committed and consistent.
Take corrective action. Words are easy to say but a sincere apology is based on a genuine willingness to make things right. Show that you’ve learned from your mistake and demonstrate actions to back that up. As the saying goes, talk is cheap. If you don’t do what you say, your apology loses its meaning and you lose credibility!
Good leaders are human and humans all make mistakes. Owning up to them is the important thing. When (not if) you need to apologize, step up to the plate and show integrity. You’ll strengthen your leadership by modeling responsibility and accountability. You’ll improve relationships. You’ll build trust with your staff.
There is more anecdotal evidence than hard data about what apologies accomplish, but research suggests that leaders are prone to overestimating the costs of apologies and underestimating the benefits. Apologizing is difficult because it confronts us with our foibles and vulnerabilities, but when you show leadership courage, great things can happen.
Dr. Haller is the Leadership Coach at McKenzie Management. She can be reached at email@example.com.
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As members of a helping profession, dental hygienists deal with compliance issues to help patients achieve optimal oral and systemic health. To obtain compliance, existing behaviors must be altered. Whether hygienists want compliance in the area of oral health, weight loss, tobacco cessation or high blood pressure reduction, they must understand the basic concepts of human motivation before they can help patients achieve their goals. If hygienists have a good understanding of human behavior and motivational theories, they gain a higher level of patient motivation and compliance. Without knowledge of human behavior and motivational approaches and theories, the hygienist may default to intimidation techniques to gain patient compliance and these techniques most often are not effective!
Avoidance and approach are two types of behavior that influence motivation. Avoidance causes people to choose certain behaviors in order to avoid something. In contrast, approach causes people to be driven by want or need. For example, if a person wants to lose weight, he or she may choose avoidance by avoiding desserts. The person realizes that avoiding high calorie foods can result in weight loss. However, in the approach method of motivation, the individual may choose to exercise more, realizing that burning extra calories will result in weight loss. People who are anxious are more likely to engage in avoidant behavior and are typically introverts. On the other hand, people who are less anxious tend to be more extroverted and seem to be driven by approach behaviors. People may use a combination of approach and avoidance to achieve their desired results.
There are also theories of motivation or behavior. Of interest to dental hygienists trying to motivate patients are the reward and goal theories. The reward theory says that people repeat behaviors that make them feel good (positive reinforcement) and discontinue behaviors that make them feel bad (negative reinforcement). The goal theory says that goals give rise to actions. According to this theory, goals create tension and people work toward the goal to reduce that tension.
It is easy to understand how hygienists can motivate through the reward theory. They can offer positive and negative reinforcement based upon patients’ performances. For example, if during a routine professional cleaning visit, the hygienist discovers a patient’s blood pressure is high, it’s appropriate to discuss whether the patient is taking blood pressure medication, if he is watching his diet and if he is exercising. At the next visit, if the hygienist discovers the patient’s blood pressure is lower, it is a great opportunity to provide praise. This positive reinforcement will make the patient feel good and likely continue the behavior that lowered the blood pressure. Of course, if the patient’s blood pressure is still elevated, there should be discussion and questions regarding medication, diet and exercise.
In regard to the goal theory, where do goals come from? This can be answered with the components of motivation: biological processes, learned processes and cognitive processes.
Think about the patient with high blood pressure. The biological component of the high blood pressure may be due to the need to eat. When he is stricken by the need to eat, the foods consumed may play a part in the high blood pressure. Any genetic links to high blood pressure are also biological components—those that are “hard wired” in our brain and body systems. Several learned components may also contribute to high blood pressure, such as consuming fast food and leading a sedentary lifestyle. The cognitive component comes into play when the patient decides, based on new information, that these habits are not beneficial to health and changes are in order. The hygienist’s main role is to educate patients by providing information that can facilitate changes in the cognitive component.
Dental hygienists should possess the tools of motivation, not intimidation. The tools of motivation are
When dental hygienists use these qualities, patients stand a better chance of successfully reaching goals. Hygienists who do not possess these qualities need to rely on the intimidation factor and goals will not be reached.
These approaches to motivation can be valuable to hygienists who take the time to learn and understand them. Once they are understood, dental hygienists need to tune into their patients in order to select the best approach to use to motivate each individual patient.
Need help with implementing new systems in your hygiene department to ensure stellar performance? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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