02.13.09 Issue #362 Forward This Newsletter To A Colleague
Team Building
Dentist Coach
Hygiene Consultant

Team Building McKenzie Style
by Sally McKenzie CEO
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Those of you who are familiar with McKenzie Management realize that we are always looking for new ways to help dentists get the most out of their practices. And if you read this newsletter regularly, you also know that we are strong advocates of solid practice systems as well as having a clear vision and specific goals for every dental office. Over the years, we have become firmly convinced that for dentists to achieve the level of success that the vast majority is truly capable of, they must have strong, unified teams. Unfortunately, this is where otherwise healthy practices often struggle, and the typical continuing education programs available just don’t offer much to help practices in this area.

Certainly the major dental meetings around the country offer very good information on many topics, but none of these meetings focus on building the total team. We decided that needed to change. So last fall, we held the first McKenzie Management total team building retreat, called “California Cruizin’.” The idea: Invite entire teams to La Jolla, CA for two days of team training devoted to motivating and educating every single team member, including the dentist. And, most important, make it FUN. I’m pleased to say it was a huge success, with just the right mix of great speakers and, yes, plenty of good times.

We had Risa Simon, CMC, RDA, CDA on hand educating assistants about their essential role as chairside ambassadors who have considerable influence on patient perceptions. In addition, she offered step-by-step techniques to guiding more patients to say “yes” to treatment.

Stopping System Collapse

Mike Moore, attorney and director of Human Resources for McKenzie Management, spoke to the doctors on the 7 Elements of an Effective Employee Relations Policy. Dr. Nancy Haller, Dentist Coach, directed the front office team, assistants and hygienists on mastering Effective and Essential Communication Skills with patients and with each other. They learned how to identify their own communication styles as well as examine the barriers to effective communication.

Nancy also led the teams in a dynamic workshop focused on developing the skills that turn conflict into cooperation and personal differences into mutual respect. Everyone was laughing, interacting and learning exactly how to use communication skills to achieve their best.

Also during the weekend, we helped teams learn how the hygiene department can excel using a coordinated team effort and how each person contributes to retaining patients and reducing holes in the schedule. I had the pleasure of guiding dentists on Being the CEO of a High-Performance Practice using strategies and techniques to help doctors go beyond being good dentists to being truly excellent leaders as well.

But it didn’t stop there! Like I said, this wasn’t going to be a dry, dull meeting for dry, dull dental teams. Everyone was there to learn and have FUN, which began with the opening night wine and cheese social. On Saturday night, we had a BIG poolside party, with fabulous food, music and prizes for the Best Bonded Team, The Best Team Dancers, The Best Team Spirit and The Best Team Photo! I can honestly say that everyone had a fantastic time and, as you’ll see from the comments below, they also learned a thing or two about becoming highly functioning and effective teams.

With the recent economy, we’ve seen our production fluctuate and that was one area in particular where I really wanted to make sure everyone was on the same page. I can say things over and over to the staff like a nagging parent, but when they hear it from someone else that really helps. And it was fun the way Sally ran it; she was able to get the different offices to engage in some friendly competition, which everyone really got into. The staff really enjoyed it and I think one of the most important aspects was how well the team bonded. Dr. Bennett Jeong, San Dimas, CA (Best Team Spirit).

It was really good, well organized, fun and the team loved it. I really appreciated the psychology part and how important it is to understand personality. It’s not like anything else you’ve been to. It wasn’t so stuffy. I would definitely recommend this to other dentists and their teams. Dr. Kathleen Ellsworth, Saranac, MI (Best Team Dancers).

At the time we felt we needed a team building meeting because we had a couple of new staff. The hygienists loved the hygiene session. I liked the discussion about achieving more efficiency and looking at practice numbers. There was a lot of talk during the course about different personalities and how everyone has different styles; we have learned to be a lot more patient and understanding of each other. It’s really helped us just in dealing with our day-to-day communicating. And the competitions, those were a big motivator. We’ve never been to anything where we could strive to get an award or a prize as a group. We are very proud of it and it’s in our reception area. Debbie Mitchell, Office Manager, Dental Expressions Team, San Diego, CA (Best Bonded Team).

Plans are underway for the next California Cruzin’ event November 6 and 7 in San Diego and you won’t want to miss it. I promise it will be even bigger and better than the last. Click here and see all the fun pictures from last year and to register for this year.  Take advantage of the early special price reduction. And…if you want to watch the DVDs of some of last year’s speakers….they’re now available for purchase.  Each speaker is 1.5 hours which would be great to show for your team meetings.  Go here. I do hope you will set goals and make plans to be with us this year.  I’ve got more awards I want to give out, like the Happiest Team Award, Most Fun Team and the Hula Hoop Award!  Now I’ve got your attention, huh? Hope to see you there.

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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Nancy Haller
Dr. Nancy Haller
Dentist Coach
McKenzie Management
coach@ mckenziemgmt.com
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Eating Crow, Or Showing Good Leadership?

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” apologyI’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 coach@mckenziemgmt.com.

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

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Angie Stone
Angie Stone RDH, BS
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Motivation Or Intimidation For Patient Compliance

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.

New Dentist Enrichment

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

  • possessing an in-depth knowledge of health issues affecting patients
  • the ability to understand patients’ situations
  • being considerate of patients’ emotional states
  • being able to talk with patients so they can understand

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 hygiene@mckenziemgmt.com.

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

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