07.31.09 Issue #386 Forward This Newsletter To A Colleague
Productive Staff Meetings
Controlling Your Inner Critic
Impressions on the Patient

Dear Readers,

It is my pleasure to introduce David Clow as a new contributor to my e-Newsletter. David is the author of the book, A Few Words from the Chair; A Patient Speaks to Dentists. His book is a must read for every dental team. In fact, I was so impressed that when I had the opportunity to meet David earlier this year at one of the major dental meetings, I asked him to join the McKenzie Team as a regular contributor.

David is a journalist and a writer. His work has appeared in national, local, business, and academic publications. But, perhaps most importantly, David is a patient who felt so strongly about his experiences in the dental chair and the opportunity that dentists have to make profound and positive changes in people’s lives through dentistry, that he felt compelled to pen his experiences and perspectives.

I trust that you will enjoy reading David’s book and his articles. His first one appears below. In addition, David is consulting with dental practices specifically on treatment acceptance, managing patient expectations, and creating a practice culture that encourages case acceptance. He can be reached at davidclow@mckenziemgmt.com.

Sally McKenzie
CEO, The McKenzie Company

P.S. Be one of the first 10 people to order and receive a signed copy!

Is Your Staff Meeting a Free-for-All?
by Sally McKenzie CEO
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One of the most common complaints about staff meetings is that they quickly lose their focus and degenerate into gripe sessions or unproductive social time. It’s essential to the productivity of the meeting to keep the discussion on track. Make sure everyone receives a copy of the agenda well in advance of the meeting, so they know exactly what is to be discussed. Assign a facilitator/leader, other than the doctor, to guide the group. Cover the key systems first, allowing individual team members to report on the status of their specific areas.

Understandably, when a group of people who know each other well get together, it’s easy for things to quickly get off track. Implement strategies to keep the team focused on the topics on the agenda. Let’s say your scheduling coordinator uses the time to not only update everyone on the numbers, but also on the intimate details of her personal life.  Try this, use a miniature hour glass and when the sand runs through, the person’s time speaking is up.

Or perhaps yours is a team of people who all have something to say on every topic. Keep the free-for-all to a minimum by giving the speaker an object that they hold while they are speaking, such as a $5 Starbucks gift card. Staff can only offer comments if they are holding the card. This can be helpful in offices in which some staff members are constantly talking over others, interjecting their comments and opinions to the detriment of the discussion as a whole. At the end of the meeting, the staff member who was the most respectful of her/his teammates and did not talk over or interrupt others gets the gift card. Another strategy is to place a bell in the middle of the table and if the discussion veers off track, someone can ring the bell to refocus everyone on the topic.

Once everyone has shared focused updates on their individual areas and the group knows where the practice stands on reaching specific goals, the team can use their collective problem solving skills to develop strategies to identify solutions to shortfalls that may be occurring in specific systems. This is the time to raise concerns or problems that are occurring within systems – not in the middle of the system update portion of the meeting. 

When working to develop solutions to problems in systems, seek input from everyone and don’t be afraid of conflicting opinions. In fact, encourage discussion. Give each person one minute to express what they view as the pros and cons on a particular issue or how they would recommend the matter be addressed. They have to keep their comments succinct and avoid philosophizing, explaining, justifying, criticizing, or engaging in other unproductive discussion during this one minute.

Now that the issue has been discussed and possible solutions have been offered, outline a plan to address the issue and designate who will be responsible for the next steps. In other words, delegate responsibility and establish deadlines for completing tasks identified. For example, if hygiene cancellations are high and the group has developed a plan to address it, then the person responsible, probably the hygiene coordinator, needs to know she/he is accountable for implementing the changes and should be prepared to report on the effects of those changes at the next monthly meeting. Keep in mind that in addressing concerns or problems, consensus is good to strive for but it’s not always possible. While individuals may have disagreements during the discussion, everyone should support the final decision.

Next, carve out a portion of staff meeting time to teach each other something new or invite a guest. For example, if your office is going to be referring patients to a new specialist invite the doctor or someone from the office to come to the meeting and share information about the doctor and the office.

Provide clinical staff with a lesson on how to gather necessary new patient information when scheduling a new patient appointment. Provide business staff with a brief tutorial on a common clinical procedure that they may be getting patient questions about. In addition, articles on numerous practice issues can be shared and discussed during meetings.

Ran correctly, staff meetings are the most effective means to identify and solve problems, establish policies, share information, motivate each other, define areas of responsibility, and exchange ideas. Use them to your practice’s full advantage and keep your team and your practice on track.

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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In 30 days, you could be depositing more money. What are you waiting for?

David Clow
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A Patient Departs

I just got a phone call from my dentist’s office, telling me that it’s time to come in for a routine cleaning. It was the second reminder. They haven’t figured it out yet that I’m looking for another dentist.

I’d rather not be making this change. If this dentist was nothing else, he was familiar. At least I knew how to get to the office, and where to park. But it’s not as though I’m leaving a close friend or a trusted healthcare advisor. My dentist barely spoke to me when I was there. His staff didn’t know my name. I went in, I sat down, I opened my mouth; he came in, he sat down, he went to work. He never asked me anything at all about my dental regimen, diet or eating habits. I never felt like more than just the procedure at hand. The relationship, if you can call it that, was between his instruments and my MasterCard.

I’ve moved around the country over the years, and I’ve been to other dental practices like this. Their way of doing business might be more the standard than the exception in the dental profession. Most of the practices I’ve visited don’t see impersonal care as a problem, or if they do they try to compensate for it with luxurious waiting rooms and spectacular equipment beside every chair. I’d suggest that these practices are missing the point that your most effective instrument is you.

The best dentist I ever had was a student at a major dental school. The chair I sat in was one of a hundred in a colossal, high-ceilinged operatory full of whining drills, earnest students, white-coated instructors and people like me who could sit for three-hour appointments. The place was as impersonal as a factory floor. The equipment was out of date. But my dentist lit up that big gloomy room and warmed the scariness right out of it. She was excited, fastidious, and so in love with what she was doing that she couldn’t wait to tell me about it. She didn’t speak in terms of technique or materials. She loved dentistry for what it meant to me and all her patients. She wouldn’t let me just sit there. She wanted me to understand my mouth. She engaged me as a person, as the owner of these teeth, and even when I was there for some repair she didn’t just fix me. She wanted to make me better.

My former dentist is 30 miles away, and that’s too far to drive to be treated like a number. If my friend the dental student were within 300 miles, I’d be in her office regularly.

It might sound unrealistic or unprofessional for a dentist to think in these terms. Passion and enthusiasm are great, but cash flow and time management are what keep a practice going day to day. I’m not asking you to weigh one against the other. I’m asking you to see them all as indispensable both to the pleasure you take from your work and to the bottom line of doing it every day.

It’s never difficult for you to spot indifference in the businesses you patronize. If all they care about is getting through the day and tallying up the receipts, you aren’t likely to stay with them, no matter how they compensate. Bring that same attitude into your dental office and no matter how you disguise it - even from yourself - your patients see it. The new equipment and the comfortable waiting room can’t conceal it.

There is no gap between joy and practicality in life or in business, any more than there is one between oral health and systemic health in the body. Your cash flow and throughput might rest, far more than you realize, on the little impressions you and your staff make. If you exclude your enthusiasm from your practice, you might also exclude mine.

There’s another side to this story, I know. In my next column, I’ll talk about my obligations to you as your patient.

On behalf of McKenzie Management, David Clow consults with dental professionals on practice culture, case acceptance, and patient expectations.

David Clow is a writer/consultant for Fortune 100 companies. His book, A Few Words from the Chair, is the first book written by a patient for dental professionals and students and is available here.

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Dr. Nancy Haller
Dentist Coach
McKenzie Management
coach@ mckenziemgmt.com
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How Harsh is Your Inner Critic?

If you’re a high achiever, it’s likely that you have an inner critic. You know what I mean. That uninvited guest with the running commentary about the things you do and say. You’ve heard it, those rumblings in your head that have a lot of influence over you. The words are rarely flattering. More often they are harsh judgments or disparaging remarks.

Sure, the inner critic can be motivating, rousting you out of bed in the morning to get to the gym, demanding that you attend your daughter’s ballet recital at the end of an extremely busy day when you’d rather be home. This version of the inner critic is generally healthy. Unfortunately there is tendency in high achievers to merge the always work hard mantra with the it’s never really good enough attitude. While both will interfere with your ability to relax, the latter really makes life a battle.

Unrelenting self-criticism that accompanies unrealistic expectations are the breeding ground for a host of negative emotions - especially chronic anger, anxiety and depression. These disrupt work and take attention away from the important tasks at hand.

Even if you try to convince yourself that the negativity and doubt in your head don’t exist, it can be distracting and can drain you of a lot of energy and focus. If the inner critic is always telling you it’s not good enough, it is impossible to enjoy what you’re doing. On the opposite side, feeling good greases the mind for mental efficiency, helps you to understand information better and enables you to make complex judgments more easily.

How harsh is your inner critic? Here is an abbreviated version of the Dysfunctional Attitude Scale by Weissman and Beck. For each of the following statements, select the number that best represents how you feel most of the time.

1 - Totally Disagree; 2 - Moderately Disagree; 3 - Slightly Disagree; 4 - Neutral;
5 - Slightly Agree; 6 - Moderately Agree; 7 - Totally Agree

  1. It is difficult to be happy unless one is good-looking, intelligent, rich and creative.
  2. People will probably think less of me if I make a mistake.
  3. If I do not do well all of the time, people will not respect me.
  4. If a person asks for help it is a sign of weakness.
  5. If I do not do as well as other people it means I am a weak person.
  6. If I fail at my work then I am a failure as a person.
  7. If you cannot do something well, there is little point in doing it at all.
  8. If someone disagrees with me, it probably indicates that he does not like me.
  9. If I fail partly it is as bad as being a complete failure.
  10. If other people know what you are really like, they will think less of you.
  11. If I don’t set the highest standards for myself, I am likely to end up a second-rate person.
  12. If I am to be a worthwhile person, I must be the best in at least one way.
  13. People who have good ideas are better than those who do not.
  14. I should be upset if I make a mistake.
  15. If I ask a question it makes me look stupid.

A total score of 24 or less represents a low level of self-criticism. You probably don’t berate yourself. A score of 39 is average. The good news is you may have trained your inner critic to work with you. If your score totals 54 and above, it’s likely that you have a high level of self-criticism and perfectionism. Over the next 1 to 2 weeks, take note of all the negative things you say to yourself. It is especially useful to write them down each day and determine if there is a pattern or a theme to what your inner critic is telling you.  When the drive to achieve gets hijacked by perfectionist thinking, it’s time to tame the beast.

In my next article, I’ll give you some strategies for controlling the inner critic.

Dr. Haller provides training for leadership effectiveness, interpersonal communication, conflict management, and team building. If you would like information about any of her practice-building seminars, contact her at coach@mckenziemgmt.com

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

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