Hiring? Consider it a Crucial Investment
When hiring a new employee, prepare to invest in your efforts by taking necessary time and consideration with each position. In addition, invest in the success of the new hire by ensuring that s/he understands your expectations clearly and is trained to deliver.
First, don't rush the interviews. Allow at least one hour for each applicant, preferably 90 minutes. Schedule the interviews when you will be able to give applicants your undivided attention. Try to be flexible to accommodate the applicants' schedules as well. Eliminate barriers that will cause the applicant to be more guarded, distracted, or otherwise uncomfortable. For example, will staff be interrupting you? Will the phone be ringing? Will you be distracted by your computer, your smart phone, etc? All of these can negatively influence the interview and create a situation in which the applicant has neither the inclination nor the opportunity to provide the information you seek to gather.
Use a written set of standard questions for each applicant to compare responses to the same questions. Ask additional follow-up questions based on the applicant's responses. Gather facts about previous experience that can be verified. Take thorough notes during the interview to help you keep track of who's who. Jot down personal details such as what the candidate wore and distinguishing features. Remember, the applicant is likely to be on their best behavior in the interview, but things aren't always as they seem. Before making a decision, gather as much information as possible.
Once you’ve narrowed your list to two or three applicants, test them for skill set and determine if they are a good match for your team. Employee Testing available through McKenzie Management provides a statistically valid and scientifically based hiring assessment tool for dentists. The computerized assessment measures job applicants against a profile of the “ideal” dental practice employee for each position. The procedure is simple: Applicants answer a list of questions online. Within minutes, the dentist receives a statistically reliable report enabling him/her to clearly determine if the candidate under consideration would be a good match for the position. It’s straightforward, accurate, and fully compliant with legal requirements associated with employee testing.
The interview is one-step in a multi-step hiring process. Only through thorough preparation and a well-laid plan will you achieve the best results. Next - prepare the employee to succeed. Implement a few common sense human resources strategies to ensure that new employees quickly become key contributors to the success of your practice.
Certainly, there are times when an employee - new or long-term - simply must be dismissed. Whatever the reason, problem employees need to be dealt with directly and clearly using a system of progressive discipline. Unless the employee's behavior is so egregious that you are forced to take immediate action, the team member should be given the opportunity to improve her/his performance over a 60-90 day period.
Explain to the employee verbally and in writing the specific issues that are not satisfactory and document exactly what needs to change in his/her performance. With the employee, develop an agreement that spells out what s/he needs to do to improve performance. It should be in writing, signed by both doctor and employee and placed in the employee's file. Monitor the staff member's progress, give regular feedback, and document every step and every conversation in the process.
Ideally, at the end of this 60-90 day progressive discipline plan the employee has made the necessary improvements, and everyone lives and works happily ever after.
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Willpower vs. Willingness
Many people believe they could improve their lives if only they had more of that mysterious thing called willpower. With more self-control we would all eat right, exercise regularly, stop procrastinating, and achieve all sorts of noble goals. So when we don't follow through with positive changes in our lives, we attribute it to a lack of willpower - which is considered a sign of weakness. This leads to negative feelings, so ultimately you give up and go back to the bad habit. You quit music or language lessons. You tell yourself there's nothing you can do to be a better leader. After all, you're either born that way or you're not.
Trusting in willpower to alter habits or to motivate you to improve is akin to believing in the tooth fairy. Certainly the emotions you experience at the onset are exciting. You feel hopeful. But it takes more than good feelings to modify behaviors and thoughts. It's not easy or quick. It takes discipline and time. The positive enthusiasm fades as the reality of hard work sets in.
Human beings are programmed to maintain homeostasis. Change disrupts that balance and we actually fight the process, even if the end result is desirable to us. Brain chemistry and complex interactions between genes take hold, producing internal roadblocks to success. Fortunately you do not have to be a helpless victim of your physiology.
It isn’t willpower but willingness to learn and grow that is key to developing yourself as a leader and taking your practice to its fullest potential. Dentists are notoriously perfectionists. On the positive side, this bodes well for precision, accuracy, follow-through. However, perfectionists are fearful of uncertainty or ambiguity, of giving up control and “letting go.” They demand immediate results from themselves (and others), and are unwilling to go out on a limb and take the chance of being embarrassed. Unfortunately, this prevents true learning. Recognize and accept that learning or doing something new is uncomfortable.
Research indicates that agile learners thrive in new and difficult situations. They are clear thinkers who know themselves well and are willing to take risks. They have a curiosity about their world and they apply new knowledge. Most importantly, and not surprisingly, agile learners deliver results - even in new situations.
This is the standard to which all leaders need to strive, particularly in these difficult financial times in which we live and work. Effective leaders understand that people need both information and time to accept change. They also realize that they can't wait forever to get everyone onboard. So, they break big changes into small pieces that people are willing to accept more quickly. By moving in stages, effective leaders move their organizations with steady forward progress instead of periodic quantum leaps.
Building a record of quick, early wins helps people accept the upsets that will happen on the way to success. Effective leaders understand the power of momentum - either positive or negative. They break changes into small pieces then pick their first move because it has a high-probability of success. By breaking big changes into bite-sized pieces, effective leaders set themselves up to build positive momentum. They know that an early failure or setback can create more resistance later - even if they overcome the initial setback.
The goal is to improve implementation. Here are some strategies to get you into action and help you maintain momentum. Make a list every morning on a 3x5” index card. These are 3-5 priority actions that can be accomplished easily and quickly. Carry the card with you through the day and look at it frequently (at least once every couple of hours).
Forget about willpower. Make a commitment to learning and stay the course.
Dr. Haller is available to coach you to higher levels of performance in your practice. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dr. Haller provides training for leadership effectiveness, interpersonal communication, conflict management, and team building. If you would like to learn more contact her at email@example.com
Interested in having Dr. Haller speak to your dental society or study club? Click here.
They Wasted an Hour "Poking my Gums"
In the era of Google Search, details pertaining to just about anything can be found at the click of a mouse. It is eye-opening to read some of the information that is out there. Recently I encountered a new patient who had done quite a bit of personal investigating concerning dentistry in general and periodontal disease in particular. He explained that he had been going to the same dentist for many years but that suddenly everything at that practice had changed. He said that he was now getting a “used car salesman vibe” from his dentist, and he did not trust what he was being told. He had been informed that he had periodontal disease and needed expensive “gum treatments” to take care of it. He was skeptical because he wondered how this had developed so suddenly. After all, he had been seeing this dentist and his hygienist twice a year for many years. Why hadn’t they noticed this gum disease before? Why was the treatment so expensive? Plus, if the disease was present, why didn’t he notice anything wrong in his own mouth? He went online to look for answers.
One of the first sites he came across was a question and answer forum. On that site many patients described how they had been “duped” by their dentists into accepting expensive gum treatments that they were sure were unnecessary. Several expressed that the treatment they eventually received was “no different from a simple cleaning.” In addition, one patient wrote that “to justify the fee, the hygienist wasted an hour poking my gums” rather than doing the “cleaning” that he wanted.
We know that there is a lot of misinformation online. We can’t change the internet, but we can focus on our own practices and how we handle our patients. We need to ask ourselves what we can do to better explain the nature of periodontal disease and our treatment recommendations to possibly skeptical patients. We want our patients to understand and agree to the treatment that they need. We certainly don’t want them believing that we are “wasting an hour poking their gums” to justify our fees! Here are some ideas:
Most people understand the concept of infection and how the body can become infected with germs. Many also understand the basics of inflammation as a result of infection, such as if you have an infected splinter under your fingernail you may experience swelling, redness, and pain.
The fingernail example can help us explain that germs can start growing in the spaces around the teeth attracted to sticky plaque and rough calculus, just like germs are attracted to a splinter (I often describe plaque as a superglue type film and calculus as a thick sandpaper coating). Just as a splinter may take awhile to become infected or painful, so can the tissues take awhile before a person notices a problem. We can explain that it is the job of the dentist and hygienist to identify early signs of infection and inflammation before damage gets too extensive, and perhaps even before the patient has noticed any changes.
Prior to performing periodontal probing and recording, a detailed explanation of what we are doing is in order. We can express that the gums fit around the teeth like a turtleneck sweater fits around a person’s neck. We measure the little “tooth turtleneck” to see if it is tight and shallow, which is healthy, or loose and deep, which can indicate disease. We can explain that we use a little ruler divided into millimeters, and that the numbers the patient will be hearing us say should ideally be no deeper than 3mm. Now the patient has an understanding of what is going on and can participate by listening to the recording process.
If problems are discovered, we can explain that just as high blood pressure can develop where no high blood pressure was seen previously, periodontal problems can develop where none was seen previously. Even if a patient has been coming to the dentist for “cleanings” for many years, periodontal disease can arise.
We can discuss ways of dealing with periodontal disease, including scaling and root planing, and explain how “germs” that are implicated in periodontal problems are also related to other illnesses. While information concerning the mouth/body connection is becoming more widespread, you may find that your patient is unaware of how his mouth can impact his general health. Rather than using this information as a “scare tactic,” approach the topic as an avenue to facilitate education and discussion.
Putting articles on your website to which you can refer patients is also a great idea. Patients may need time to process the information you have provided before deciding to go ahead. If they do not agree to treatment today, call them in a few weeks to talk over your recommendations again.
If patients wonder why scaling and root planing is more expensive than a cleaning, explain that local anesthesia may be needed, periodontal irrigation might be used, and possible placement of medicaments around the teeth might be required. When a patient receives scaling and root planing, it goes without saying that the experience MUST be different. If an office is delivering the same service as a “cleaning” but calling it something else, it should come as no surprise that the patient will be upset and mistrustful.
We know that a healthy mouth promotes a healthy body - but we can't force patients to agree. It is our job to present all information and treatment choices available. However, high-pressure tactics have no place in a health care setting, and typically push patients away rather than actually encouraging them to receive treatment.
Carol Tekavec RDH is the director of Hygiene for McKenzie Management. Carol can improve your hygiene department in just one day of training “in your office.” Interested in knowing more about how to improve your hygiene department? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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