05.22.09 Issue #376 Forward This Newsletter To A Colleague
Reward Good Employees
Financial Arrangements
Lonely At The Top

Good Employees: Hard to Find and Harder to Keep
by Sally McKenzie CEO
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So why is it that good employee’s leave? Dentists are often baffled when team members quit. They feel they have been blindsided. They are left wondering what exactly it is that drives the quality staff to go – even during challenging economic times. In reality, there are a number of reasons why staff leave.

Is it the money? Not as often as you might think, although employees will use this as grounds to make their exit because they don’t want to tell you or they are afraid to tell you the real reason. Certainly, the members of your team want and appreciate salary increases, but money is definitely not the only motivator and it’s clearly not the best motivator to keep good employees. As long as the staff are paid competitively there is far more to keeping your team intact than tossing a few more bucks their way.

Some leave because of how they perceive they are treated in the workplace. Human resource surveys routinely show that more than 40% of employees quit because they don’t feel appreciated by their boss. Why is that important? Because 50% of job satisfaction is determined by the quality of the relationship that staff have with you – the dentist – their boss.

How to Reward Your Dental Team

In some cases, the dentist treats the employees disrespectfully. He/she is a screamer, a micromanager, or just a nasty boss. These practices churn through good employees at record pace. The only ones who stay are the mediocre performers. They stick it out with a bad boss because they don’t have the confidence that they can find another job.

Certainly, there are many dentists who are very nice people. They are not screamers or nasty bosses, but their idea of managing people is to tell them what they are doing wrong, what they should be doing better, where they are falling short. Or they say nothing, which is just as bad if not worse. If you cannot think of specific instances in the past few weeks in which you have clearly and directly told the top performers on your team that you appreciate what they are doing and their contributions, I can virtually guarantee that they think you neither recognize nor appreciate what they are doing for you and your practice.

The fact is that it is easy to ignore the good employees. After all, these are the ones the dentist doesn’t have to coddle. Understandably, dentists love these employees because they can count on them to get the job done and they are low-to-no maintenance. The dentist tells him/herself that these employees know what they are doing. They are good. They are independent. They don’t need or want feedback or coaching. Big mistake.

Your top performers resent that they show up on time (or early), work hard every day, consistently meet or exceed their performance goals, and you say virtually nothing. But you’re going “gaga” over the totally unreliable assistant’s ability to actually take an X-ray that you can read!

Which leads me to another key reason why good employees are hard to keep: You refuse to deal with the problem performers. There are few things more demoralizing to a top-flight employee than a boss who looks the other way when others on the team consistently disregard office policies, bring poor attitudes to work, generate conflict, make excuse after excuse for why they were late, why they were sick, why they simply cannot get their jobs done. Believe me, your good employees know exactly who’s doing just enough to get by. Yet they get the same pay raises, same vacation time, and the same perks as top performers. Understandably, your capable staff will only tolerate this for so long. As Vince Lombardi once said, "There is nothing more unequal that the equal treatment of unequals."

Ultimately, the good employees come to the conclusion that the doctor is either a coward or simply prefers the poor performers, so they choose to leave and go to a practice where their contributions are appreciated and the culture encourages rather than discourages excellence.

Of course there are myriad other reasons why employees leave, such as lack of training, no opportunity to grow, not the right job fit, personality conflicts, and the list goes on. If you’re losing good employees, don’t just sit back and watch, find out what’s driving the exodus.

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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Bete Johnson
Director, Business Development
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YOUR FINANCIAL POLICY: Benefits for both practice and patient

A written financial policy can benefit both practices and their patients.  Especially in today’s tough economic environment, having a written document that details when the practice expects payment and what types of payment options are available for patients can minimize confusion, increase patient satisfaction and assist with case acceptance. 

By being able to clearly communicate a patient’s financial options, your team will be able to:

Missed Past Issues?

1. Increase treatment acceptance by eliminating fear of cost. Patients know up-front their payment options, and can easily choose one that fits their financial situation.

2. Ensure patients clearly understand how their insurance benefits work within the financial system of your practice. Plus, patients appreciate having payment options to bridge the gap between their benefits and fees for quality dentistry.

3. Increase patient satisfaction by minimizing confusion and miscommunication.

When dental teams clearly communicate the patient’s financial responsibilities and all payment options upfront, patients can quickly determine which financial arrangement works for their situation and can get the dentistry they want because the uncertainty and “fear of cost” issue has been addressed.

Creating a customized Financial Policy is easy to do, no matter what type of practice you have.  Set aside some time during your next team meeting and:

  1. Discuss your practice’s standard payment procedures.
  2. Discuss exceptions that are made and why. 
  3. Understand how payment policies affect your patients’ perception of the practice and their relationship with you.
  4. Role-play various case presentation scenarios to understand how a Financial Policy could impact success, both positively and negatively.  Once you’ve reached consensus and agreement, write the Financial Policy document.

CareCredit has made this process even easier by offering a complimentary and practical tool for practices who offer the program.  Dentists and their teams can go online to http://www.carecredit.com/FinancialPolicy to answer a short questionnaire that includes how insurance benefits are handled, which payment options are available and when payment is expected.  Almost instantly, the dental team can download and print their customized Financial Policy document to include in their new patient information packets, use as a visual aid during the treatment and fee discussion and to post on their practice’s website. 

Having spent the last 22 years listening to dental teams, gathering the best advice and techniques from leading dental experts and from some of the 75,000 dental offices currently offering the program, CareCredit combined this feedback to develop a customized Financial Policy that fits your practice's payment and insurance preferences.

Additionally, when the patient has determined his or her payment preference, a Patient Payment Agreement Form can be printed that details the financial arrangements agreed upon. A template with options is provided online so that each practice can modify their customized Financial Policy to include only the options the practice wants to offer.  Of course, dentists are advised to consult with their own advisors to ensure their payment policies comply with all state laws.

During these tough economic times, becoming more efficient is also important.   CareCredit has introduced a new computer desktop tool that gives practices instant access to the company’s powerful online practice building resources, including the Financial Policy, right from their desktop.  With just a few clicks, practices can access key management reports, submit applications, and process transactions easier and faster than ever before.  Plus, the desktop tool instantly connects dental teams to the popular online payment calculator, which is useful during the treatment and fee presentations to show patients just how easy it is to fit dentistry into their financial situation. 

Click here for more information on adding CareCredit.  Practices that currently offer CareCredit can log onto CareCredit’s website to create their free customized Financial Policy.

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Dr. Nancy Haller
Dentist Coach
McKenzie Management
coach@ mckenziemgmt.com
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It's Lonely at the Top

You hold an advanced professional degree. You are the owner of a dental office, with six or even seven figure gross revenues. You are responsible for patients and employees. You possess knowledge and talent that most people do not. People’s lives are in your hands. You are at the pinnacle of the career ladder. Most would say you are very accomplished and should be happy.

But maybe things are different on the inside. You may have more self-doubt than you’d care to admit. Perhaps you feel like an imposter, wondering when someone is going to discover that you aren’t as bright or competent as it appears. As a high achiever you might secretly realize that there is so much you don’t know!

You’re not alone. It is lonely at the top. When people reach the peak of their profession it’s natural to think you should know it all. When you get to the top of your field, you also start to guard yourself and often put too much responsibility on your own shoulders. It’s logical to assume that you’re as prepared as anyone could be to take on the role of “Doctor.”

To say it’s lonely at the top doesn’t mean you are a lonely person. However, everyone needs to think out loud sometimes and there just aren’t many folks to whom you can speak candidly. I’ve talked with a lot of corporate and dental leaders, and they often feel compromised. Friends or former friends as the case may be, have tried to use their relationship for their own benefit. They can’t put their feet up on the desk. They can’t say, “I don’t know.” They worry that their employees aren’t telling them the truth.

Maybe you talk with your spouse. Certainly that person wants to give you good advice but let’s face it; your spouse isn’t objective. Although some dental spouses work in the practice, many aren’t around the office all the time. They might not know or be interested in business. And in the long run, talking with your spouse about office issues puts the relationship at risk. Oh sure they’ll listen for a while but then you’re likely to hear, “Can’t we talk about something other than your work!”

Success can be isolating. Some dental leaders think that seeking support via a professional coach or learning about leadership with a coach is akin to therapy or worse, personality deconstruction. Not true! Instead, it’s like personalized continuing education. You didn’t learn how to perform dentistry on your own, did you? How can you expect to learn other essential skills on your own? In my experience of working with dental and corporate leaders, the foremost sensitive topics are personnel issues.

Truth be told, whether you’re a champion athlete, artistic virtuoso, corporate CEO or dental leader, the pressure to keep learning continues…especially if you want to stay at the top. What’s more, the need for support, objective feedback and candid dialogue with trusted advisors is crucial.

As an example, shortly after Barack Obama became President, he called the four living U.S. presidents to a White House meeting. Why? Because only they could really comprehend the pressures and the responsibilities that were now on his shoulders. He understood the value of learning from others’ knowledge and experience.

OK, you’re not the leader of the free world but running a dental business is complex. Competition, diverse employees, and demanding patients are just a few of the worries that can keep you up at night. And when you are the leader just who can you bounce ideas off? There’s no other boss to help you structure your work, supervise your learning, direct you to resources. It’s all up to you!

Coaching can be the answer for the learning and support you need. Research has shown that leaders who remain successful continuously strive to expand their tool kit and their perspectives. They learn skills that enable them to adapt to change and be effective in different situations.

Getting through an arduous academic training program took a lot of resiliency, and you had to do it on your own. However, the very things you learned about being a good dentist may not be the things you need to know about running a business or leading employees. Now you are both a dentist and CEO!  Business leaders, entrepreneurs, and self-employed professionals often find themselves stretched outside of their experience range, frequently with no one to talk to about important issues. A coach, an outsider with no political investment in your practice, is free to address challenging issues in a constructive manner. Could you use someone like that in your life?

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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