08.14.09 Issue #388 Forward This Newsletter To A Colleague
Preventing Office Gossip
Curbing Your Perfectionism
Filling In Schedule Gaps

Rumor Mill Shredding Your Team’s Morale?
by Sally McKenzie CEO
Printer Friendly Version

If the drama in your office rivals that of a Shakespearean tragedy, perhaps it’s time to look more closely at the inspiration for these Oscar winning performances. Too often it’s office gossip that is the purveyor of the poison that sickens the best of workplaces and leads to a multitude of issues, problems, and seemingly perpetual ups and downs. Left unchecked, gossip can become a huge waste of time as it takes the focus away from work that needs to be done, systems that must be managed, and patients that require your undivided attention. Moreover, it can be profoundly devastating to the effectiveness of individuals and the team as a whole, and can erode morale faster than a tsunami can flatten an entire village. And perhaps more frightening than all of the above, gossip can put your practice in the crosshairs of legal action.

The reality is that even seemingly harmless comments about a coworker can unravel the most harmonious of offices. Thus, it is essential to establish a practice culture in which gossip, rumor, and innuendo simply are not tolerated. 

Keep a lid on rumors in your practice by following these strategies:

Put your expectations in writing. In dental practices, which tend to be smaller businesses, a clear code of conduct should be an established part of every dental office policy manual. The code may include many facets, not the least of which is an ethics and professionalism policy that outlines appropriate office behavior and makes it clear that all employees are expected to treat patients, as well as each other, with dignity and respect. Inform your employees that attacking each other, no matter what the circumstance, simply will not be tolerated.

Institute a performance evaluation system to measure the effectiveness of employee communication skills. Employees that engage in spreading gossip should be confronted and warned that their behavior is damaging to the practice and will not be tolerated.

Ask a few key questions. If employees claim they are unsure as to what constitutes gossip, the following questions will help make things a little clearer: Is what I am saying true? Could it harm another person? Is it necessary? How would I feel if someone made these comments about me? Would I be comfortable if every person in the office heard me say these things? Is this conversation consistent with my personal values and professional standards?

Pay attention to your practice culture. Have you pitted one group against another in competition to see which area can achieve or exceed its established goals? Friendly challenges can be a very good and an effective motivator, unless some get so caught up in the idea of winning that they resort to damaging tactics – in this case disparaging their coworkers for personal gain.

Keep employees informed. The leader of the practice, typically, the dentist, must set aside time regularly to talk with staff, both in a group and individually, about major office decisions. The fact is that when there is a communication vacuum the rumor mill fills in the gaps. Ongoing communication is critical, especially when major issues and decisions are made such as relocation plans, layoffs, employee firings, wage freezes, doctor’s pending retirement, etc. Give employees the opportunity to ask questions and discuss rumors either in a group or individually.

Encourage employees to take a stand against gossip. Team members can let the gossiper know that they do not care to engage in this kind of conversation. They don’t have to be combative or negative, just honest about the fact that it makes them uncomfortable to talk about another person in this way. Although for the pioneers taking such action can feel rather intimidating, each time they stand up to the gossiper they not only become more comfortable doing so but they give power to others in the group to take the same steps. Eventually, the gossiper, if he or she is allowed to stick around, doesn’t have an audience.

Instituting a policy to eliminate gossip is virtually impossible. However, creating a practice culture that doesn’t tolerate it is not only possible, but highly effective.

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.

Forward this article to a friend.

Dr. Nancy Haller
Dentist Coach
McKenzie Management
coach@ mckenziemgmt.com
Printer Friendly Version

Hijacked By Perfectionist Thinking? Itís Time To Tame The Beast.

You have high standards. That’s good; you need to be precise and avoid mistakes, you’re in a profession that demands precision and safety. You want a successful practice and if you don’t stay on top of your staff, important things might slip through the cracks.

On the outside, perfectionism certainly can appear as striving for excellence. But on the inside it’s quite a different story. The desire to achieve is hijacked by harsh judgment of self and others. Perhaps you achieve a lot but you’re miserable, and so are the people who work for you. Here’s an example of what one dental office employee said about her perfectionist boss:

“I don’t think she sees herself this way, but her style of leadership devalues the entire team. We never really feel like she trusts us. The whole office tries so hard to give her what she asks for but it is never good enough. She has her hand in everything. We are all so afraid of making mistakes and being criticized. Nobody feels like they own anything. There’s no creativity. No one really likes working here.

Many perfectionists rationalize their behaviors with explanations such as, “I just expect a lot of myself” or “It’s not worth doing if you can’t do it right” or “Mistakes are inexcusable and unacceptable.” While it’s true that some mistakes must be avoided at all cost – sterilization errors for example – blunders and slips can also lead to improvements and learning. Did you know that the ice cream cone was invented when an ice cream vendor ran out of bowls? A fellow vendor, a waffle maker, gave him a waffle to roll up to hold the dripping ice cream. Did you know that post-it notes were invented because a 3M employee made an adhesive that was too weak? Some of the best learning happens when we make mistakes.

If you disagree, it’s likely that your thinking has been hijacked by the perfectionist monster. It’s time to stop thinking and acting as if outcomes are life and death affairs. Here are some steps to help you tame that beast.

  1. Train yourself to interpret the anxiety of not knowing every detail as a sign of progress towards becoming an empowering leader. When you feel worried, write it down in a logbook. This will help you to be more self-aware of automatic, irrational thoughts that move you into unnecessary action.
  1. Stop fear and failure statements from your internal self-talk. Put a rubber band around your wrist. When you are caught in the vicious cycle of obsessive worrying, snap the band and silently say, STOP. Repeat until you are able to redirect your mind to more rational thinking.
  1. Talk back to your inner critic by challenging false conclusions. People with unruly internal critics are preprogrammed to think negatively. It is an automatic process. They assume that their inner critic is the definitive expert on everything. Worst of all, the critic in you only knows one thing – what’s not working. Well, what about what you are doing well? List the positive qualities and actions of your employees too. By redirecting your inner dialogue you’ll shift your mind and your mood.
  1. Recognize that you just can’t do it all. In dental school your success depended on trusting one person – you. Now you are in a position of leadership and you must trust others if you are going to succeed. In fact, the most difficult challenges you face in your office have little, if anything, to do with your technical skills as a dentist. The problems are more likely due to your behaviors. And nothing erodes practice success like the need to control everything that goes on in your office.
  1. Accept that there’s no perfect. When you strive for such an unrealistic standard you aren’t aiming for success as much as you are trying to avoid failing. Perfect is unattainable. It also has undesirable side effects that inhibit leadership behaviors, and it will hold you back. Stop operating under the myth that ultimate control is possible. Life is filled with uncertainty and risk. Channel your energy to do well by paying attention to your strengths. Play to win, rather than to not lose.
  1. One of the most difficult challenges you face is shifting from an individual contributor to an influential leader. You went to school to be a dentist, and it is unusual if you had even one leadership class. Human behavior is complex. Fortunately the skills to be a more effective leader can be learned. By integrating your existing strengths with new behaviors, you will have a positive impact on your team.  Leadership training also will help you to develop strategies that lead to heightened levels of trust and openness among team members, and improved practice results.

Many successful dental leaders are described as intense, driven, or achievement oriented people. The inner critic certainly can have value by motivating you to change for the better. But if your inner critic is sabotaging your success and happiness, please give me a call.

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.

Forward this article to a friend.

Jean Gallienne RDH BS
Hygiene Consultant
McKenzie Management
Printer Friendly Version

Achieving a Full Schedule

The Patient Coordinator is confirming appointments and as the phone calls are being made, the patients are canceling, leaving open time in hygiene. It’s lunchtime and there are five appointments to be filled. Getting the schedule filled for tomorrow has now become the number one concern of the entire staff. The Patient Coordinator should have a plan of attack.


The earlier that patients are confirmed, the more time the office will have to fill the open time. Even when appointments are confirmed first thing in the morning, it does not mean that the appointments will actually be confirmed with the patient. One suggestion is make a note of the time of day that you get in touch with the most patients. This is as easy as marking the schedule with a different color if the patient is firm, left message on machine, left message at home, or no answer. Then on a piece of paper write the time of day most of the confirming was done and how many people were actually confirmed. Try to allow enough time so that if the schedule falls apart, there will be enough time to try and fill it. Again, knowing what time of day most patients can be reached helps when trying to fill time also.

In addition to the above suggestions, a more detailed plan of action should be thought out and written down. Attempt to fill the empty time with patients who are due that month and are unscheduled. Ask the hygienist if she has anybody in mind that you may be able to call. If this is unsuccessful, call those patients who are 30, 60, 90 days past due. As a last resort, begin calling patients who are due for the next month. Avoid those patients who have insurance and require exactly six-month time intervals.

Even if a last minute cancellation occurs, try to move the next patient ahead in the day. Check to see if there is anybody currently in your office due for a hygiene appointment who is willing to stay. These people would have been noted at the morning meeting. This will allow more time to fill the schedule and is the easiest measure to take in getting the schedule filled.

Whenever possible, avoid filling cancellations with people who are already scheduled but want an earlier appointment time. Make sure to ask every patient as they leave if it is all right to telephone them if an earlier appointment should come available. This should be noted in the computer when it comes to the patient’s response.

One of the most important things that the hygienist and every person on the dental team can do is put value on each appointment. Create a need more important than what the patient considers “just a cleaning.” It is rare that a patient comes in the office for a professional hygiene appointment and they don’t demonstrate some type of inflammation that will need to be monitored or cared for not only at the current appointment, but also at the next appointment.

When the patient is leaving, remind them they have an area that needs to be evaluated. The problem or concern that is being monitored should also be put in the computer and the entire staff should know where to find this information. That way when the Patient Coordinator is making phone calls to fill open time, he/she can mention to the patient, “Mr. Jones, the last time you were in there was an area in the upper left that Jane the hygienist and Dr. Hill want to monitor. It would be best for you if we get you into the office for your appointment as close to the time you are due as possible. We actually had a change in our schedule for tomorrow and we thought it might be the perfect time for you. We would like to see you at 2:00.”

This may also be used if a patient is trying to cancel an appointment. “Mr. Jones, we really are sorry that you have to cancel your professional hygiene appointment. Both the doctor and hygienist will be concerned. I noticed that the hygienist and doctor are monitoring an area in the upper left. This really should be evaluated sooner than later in order to help maintain the health of your mouth. Are you sure you want to give up this time?”

Remember that an open appointment time is lost productivity. It should be the goal of the office to prevent any no shows or cancellations from occurring in the first place. Managing no shows is one of dentistry’s biggest practice frustrations. Some practices have more broken appointments than others, but overall the situation does not discriminate.

Interested in knowing more about how to improve your hygiene department? Email hygiene@mckenziemgmt.com.

Forward this article to a friend.

McKenzie Newsletter Information:
To unsubscribe:
To discontinue receiving the Sally McKenzie management newsletter,
click on the link at the very bottom of this page for instant removal,
To report technical problems with this newsletter or to request technical help,
please send a descriptive email to: webmaster@mckenziemgmt.com
To request services, products or general inquires about The McKenzie Company activities
please send a descriptive email to: info@mckenziemgmt.com
If you would like to have any of your dental practice concerns answered personally by Sally McKenzie,
please send a descriptive email to her at: sallymck@mckenziemgmt.com
Copyrights 1980-Present The McKenzie Company - All Rights Reserved.