08.28.09 Issue #390 Forward This Newsletter To A Colleague
Choosing a Consultant
Hiring the Best Candidate
Comm. With Your Patients

Dreading Monday Morning? Take Action
by Sally McKenzie CEO
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It’s true, you can become cynical as the years pass. You deal with disappointments and frustrations. People you count on let you down, principles you once believed in become hollow, and the professional dreams and goals you once had lose their luster. I see this happen to too many dentists. I hear it in your voices when you call me, and I see it on your faces at the dental meetings. And even after all the years of working with dentists, I still cannot understand why you are so willing to settle for a practice that you don’t want.  That being said, I do understand how this happens.

The reality is that most dentists are committed to being truly excellent clinicians. You are dedicated to your patients and to providing what is best for them. But you don’t come out of dental school with management degrees or human resources experience. Most of you have never even considered writing a business plan for your practices. You are not experts at guiding your scheduling coordinator in developing the best systems to create the most effective and profitable schedule for your practice. You see conflict on the team and want to run in the opposite direction. You want to pay your staff a fair salary but overhead is a nightmare. And as committed as you are to providing the best for your patients, you cannot do so effectively if your own systems are struggling, if your teams are dysfunctional little fiefdoms, or if you are stressed out from the worry of paying bills and dealing with staff problems.

Consider your practice. Aside from simply feeling things should be better, there are a number of tangible indicators that your office could benefit from by bringing in a consultant such as: you have holes in the schedule that go unfilled, yet patients must wait more than three weeks to get an appointment. You either don’t know what your patient retention is or it’s below 95%. Gross salaries are more than 20% of income. Overhead is more than 55% of practice income. There are no performance measurements in place to evaluate employees. Job descriptions are either non-existent or unclear. Staff conflict is a common distraction. Practice production has leveled off or declined. The list goes on, and the bottom line is you really don’t like going to work. I dare say, doctor, it’s time to hire a management consultant.

There are many of us out there, and obviously, I firmly believe that McKenzie Management is the best. But no matter whom you hire, be prepared to be completely honest with them. Just like when you work with patients, if they are not honest with you, you can’t meet their expectations. The same is true with your management consultant.

Explore what the different companies have to offer. You want an experienced consultant who can address the specific challenges that your office is facing. You need a consultant who can help your team implement systems that will benefit the total practice. You want a consultant who can effectively explain the recommendations, the “why” behind them, and provide access to training and tools that will enable the team to effectively implement your vision.

Talk to the CEO’s of these firms and ask questions, seek references, and talk to those references. Do the consultants you’re considering have a reputable company behind them? Do they have the expertise necessary to address the challenges specific to your practice? Will they customize their recommendations to address your needs? Will they be there for you in the long run to help you overcome hurdles that will arise along the way? Do they offer training and educational materials that can help specific members of the team? Can they explain to you exactly how they have helped other practices? Will they seek not only your input but that of your team as well?

Finally, will they tell you what you want to hear, or will they tell you the truth? It is this last point that is the most difficult for anyone. Just like the patient who doesn’t want to hear that they need three crowns, you’re likely not going to want to hear everything the consultant needs to tell you. But it is in listening that you learn, and it is in learning that you can take the steps necessary to build the practice that you thoroughly enjoy walking into every day of your career.

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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Dr. Nancy Haller
Dentist Coach
McKenzie Management
coach@ mckenziemgmt.com
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Would You Make the Right Hire?

Dr. Smith is a dentist in the Midwest. He has a successful practice with a team of six employees – two chairside assistants, two hygienists and two front desk staff. One of his clinical assistants is leaving and he is in search of someone to fill the position. He has four finalists:

  1. Mary works in a nearby office that is being downsized. During the interview she seemed sharp and organized. Although she claimed that she is a team player, she appeared rather independent. Additionally, Dr. Smith and all the employees who met Mary feel she is almost “too serious in a slightly uncomfortable way.” She has 10 years experience.
  1. Elizabeth seems to be in her late 20’s or early 30’s. She went through assistant training a few years ago but hasn’t found a dental assistant job yet. She came off as a little disconnected, but then explained that she had just finished her nursing home night shift with only two hours of sleep. She has a smile that puts one at ease and a very attractive personality. More easy-going than Mary, Elizabeth seems highly motivated to work in dentistry. Her presentation is that of a confident, disciplined individual.
  1. Jennifer also has a very outgoing personality. She seems to be in her early to mid-20’s. She completed an assistant course a couple of years ago but, like Elizabeth, she has not found a job in dentistry to date. Energetic and driven to do what is necessary to learn, her presentation is one of a person willing to adapt.
  1. Susan currently works in a warehouse. She seems to be in her late 30’s to early 40’s. Despite a friendly demeanor she states that she “doesn’t remember a thing” about her assistant training courses a few years ago. She is rather timid but likable.

First off, Susan can be eliminated from the running. During the interview people tend to put their best foot forward but she is already showing a lack of confidence. Plus, she has no experience. So we’re down to three candidates. Who would you hire?

The most prominent factor that differentiates these applicants is job experience. Initially your hiring decision might seem like a “no-brainer.” After all, 10 years of experience suggests that Mary can waltz right into the office and need no training. Be careful. While technical skills and experience are important, soft skills can be just as crucial. How do we know if Mary will be a good fit with the rest of Dr. Smith’s team? Everyone liked Elizabeth and Jennifer much more.

Studies have shown that the interview is one of the most flawed parts of the hiring process. Applicants with good social skills frequently fare better than reserved or shy people. Furthermore, there is tremendous personal bias in the interview – we gravitate to the people we like rather than evaluating based on an individual’s fit for the position.

To strengthen your hiring accuracy, reduce subjectivity as much as possible. Interviews measure social skills, not  job suitability. Individuals who create a positive impression are viewed as more capable than quiet or nervous applicants. Was this the case with Mary?

Dr. Smith used the Employee Assessment Test, McKenzie Management’s Internet personality questionnaire developed exclusively for dentistry. The Employee Assessment Test strictly adheres to legal guidelines for employment testing. It measure 12 essential personality traits so you know how closely your candidate or existing employee matches the profiles of peak performers in the dental industry. You have objective data to help you determine suitability for one of four dental positions.

Elizabeth’s report explained why everyone liked her so much. She is socially bold, dominant and extraverted. When I discussed the test results with Dr. Smith he remembered a comment Elizabeth made about her nursing home job: “No one appreciates how good I am.” Despite her million dollar smile and can-do attitude, the Employee Assessment Test confirms that she is overly confident and believes her way is best. She will be difficult to train and unlikely to be deferential. Not only would Dr. Smith be burdened with teaching her, there are strong indications that she will be high maintenance. 

Jennifer’s personality is a good fit, but she has absolutely no dental office experience.

Contrary to Elizabeth, the test results indicate that Mary is an accommodating person with high self control. She needs to familiarize herself with people before she opens up. That explains why she was so reserved with Dr. Smith and his team. She scored high on conscientiousness, dependability and agreeableness. Combined with 10 years of dental assistant experience, Mary is clearly the #1 choice.

Through the years, I’ve learned that many personnel problems are the result of a job misfit, due to poor hiring practices. When it comes to predicting human behavior, there is no silver bullet. But testing offers insights that interviews, references or work samples simply cannot give. Testing helps you to coach and motivate your employees in the way they each need, ensuring a loyal staff and maximum performance.

Confronting your own hiring processes is time-consuming upfront, but the investment will yield large dividends. Good hires will insure a more successful and productive office, better patient service, and new referrals. With the increasing importance on interpersonal effectiveness for job success, dentists who add pre-employment testing to their hiring process will have a strategic advantage. The pay-off is higher caliber employees who work harder and stay longer, and this ultimately helps your bottom-line!

If you’d like a sample report of McKenzie’s Employee Assessment Test, email Dr. Haller at coach@mckenziemgmt.com.

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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David Clow
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Getting to A: What You Need From Me

My first column for this newsletter was a little hard on dentists. (Well, on some of them, anyway.) I told you how I’d left a practice recently because the people there seemed indifferent to me as a person, and for that matter, seemed barely interested in me as a patient. I was asking for more, and because I couldn’t get a better level of care there, I left.


Like a lot of patients, I have a customer’s sense of entitlement and if it’s not fulfilled, I shop elsewhere. You are in the business of customer service, and that’s a reality every practice has to face. I’d like to offer you something better than the prospect of my leaving, though. If I leave your practice, it’s not just your problem or your failure. It’s mine too. It’s my missed opportunity. It’s time I can’t get back. I want to be more than just another revolving-door customer for you; I want to be a collaborator and to join you in a mutual effort that improves us both.

A Patients, B Patients, C Patients
I’m told that dentists think of their patients in tiers, with the A’s at the top, B’s in the middle, etc. I think I could be one of your A patients. To achieve that, you need to bring your best efforts to the chair, and so do I. You have every right to ask a few things from me.

  • Personal discipline and good habits: if I’m serious about having a better mouth, then 95% of that effort has to be mine, away from your operatory. If I don’t do basic maintenance, flossing, brushing and rinsing, then I’m not pulling my weight. If I neglect my diet, indulge in bad eating or smoking, your efforts can’t correct my mistakes.
  • Basic courtesy: this is obvious, you’d hope, but for many patients the obvious is remarkably difficult. I owe you punctuality, good manners and dependability. I owe you timely payment for care and thanks when you do good work.
  • Cooperation and forbearance: I’m not in your chair for the view. When you’re working, I owe you every effort to make your job easier. If you need me to move, to open wider, to bear with the lights and the noises, then it’s my job to help you, not to get in the way and expect you to heal me with a rabbit’s foot. Dental work hurts sometimes. It’s my job to know that and to deal with it.
  • Listening: I owe you a fair, sober hearing for your advice. I’d ask to be counseled, not scolded, and I’d ask in that you spend an initial moment talking to me so that I can in fact know you are good counsel. When you offer it, I owe you my attention and feedback.
  • Willingness to invest: To get the benefits that you offer, I need to invest time and money. I need to think of you as a worthwhile expense, not as a part of the onerous problem I’d rather just avoid. I owe you a measure of faith that what you’re doing will pay dividends to me starting the moment I leave your chair. I owe you sober assessments of the costs and benefits of my investment in you, versus those for some other investment I might make. I owe you a belief in myself, and in the certainty that I deserve your good work and its good effects.
  • The aspiration to excel: I owe you this, but I can’t deliver for you unless I owe this to myself first. You might help me become healthier and happier, if I have the basic self-esteem to permit it. If I don’t think I deserve getting a little better, then getting a lot better with your help is beyond me completely.  Everything can fall into place when I make the commitment to myself. After that, I make the appointment with you.

I say I owe all these traits to you, but it’s more accurate to say I owe them to our collaboration. If I’m indifferent to my own well-being, then I can’t fault a dentist who meets me with the same lack of concern. I want to be your A patient. I need to give you what you need so we can achieve that together.

The next question is: how do we communicate all this with each other?

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. He can be reached at davidclow@mckenziemgmt.com

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