Are You "Leading" Your Team Off the Cliff or to the Peak?
You aren't as good as you think you are. The truth is, neither am I. As leaders, we all struggle to continuously achieve excellence. Sometimes what we accomplish occurs because of our own skill set, other times it's because of what we can cultivate in our teams, and still other times it is luck. Often it's a combination of all three. For dental practices, few even begin to scratch the surface of what they are capable of. Why? The reasons can be many, but #1 on the list is lack of leadership.
Those most in need of help will have a smorgasbord of excuses for why the practice struggles, why they “can’t” lead, why they don’t want to lead, including: “I’m an excellent dentist and that should be enough” or “I can’t lead staff members that refuse to follow” or “How can anyone be an effective leader in this economy? Patients don’t care about their oral health, so no amount of ‘leadership’ is going to make a difference. My bigger concern is paying my bills, not engaging in warm fuzzies.” And the list goes on. While you are busy justifying your behavior, here’s what the staff are saying about your “leadership” skills:
“It’s his way or the highway. If we suggest something should be done differently, he gets angry. He has all the answers all the time.”
She is always ready to rip your head off. There are no conversations, just accusations. The employees are constantly on the defensive.”
“Maybe if he would make the effort to build a relationship with the patients and explain to them why they need the procedure, they would follow-through on treatment recommendations.”
Here’s what the patients are observing: “I guess he is a good dentist, but it would sure be nice if there weren’t different employees in here every time I come in. I didn’t make the appointment to have the procedure because the doctor didn’t act like it was that important. Why should I spend money on treatment that I don’t understand the need for? It’s clear that the right hand and the left hand have no idea what the other is doing. The tension in that office makes me very uncomfortable.”
You can make all the excuses you want. The bottom line is that weak, poor, or lack of leadership directly affects your staff, your patients, and most importantly, your profitability - and that directly affects your quality of life and work. Not sure if your leadership is lacking? Ask yourself if any of the following ring true in your office:
Employees don’t stay. Yours is such a revolving door practice that you’re “stuck” with staff whose collective intelligence represents the lowest common denominator. Have you considered the possibility that your skills as a leader don’t rank much higher? When a vacancy occurs, you scramble because there are no hiring procedures in place. You’ve never implemented a regular performance review process because employees don’t stick around long enough to warrant one, or you are too busy, or you don’t know what to review because there are no job descriptions.
There are no workplace policies or procedures. There's no consistency in the rules or the expectations. What's okay today will be taboo tomorrow. For staff, it feels like they are on the deck of a boat running from one side to the other, trying to keep it from capsizing and you from losing your cool.
You are quick to criticize over the most trivial of mistakes. You berate your team with such zeal, it's almost as if you enjoy their slip-ups because on some level it gives you an excuse to blame them for why things are the way they are in your practice.
Your team lies to you. They are terrified to tell you when things don't go as planned. Why? Because they know that you will blame them even if you are responsible.
You never share credit. A patient compliments the practice and you bask in the glory, never acknowledging those around you who play a major role in your success.
Did any of the items on the list above make you uncomfortable? All of them should, because you are the most important “management system” in your practice. If you cannot or will not look at improving yourself as a leader, your practice will never improve either.
Next week, effective leaders make effective teams.
For more information on this topic, visit my blog: The Lighter Side.
Interested in speaking to me about your practice concerns? Email firstname.lastname@example.org
How to Interview a Prospective Employee
The hiring process need not be painful if you are prepared and have the right tools. Hiring by gut instinct or by making a “connection” during the interview can be misleading. A friendly, outgoing person who is compassionate and warm may not be able to deal with calling insurance companies, making collection calls and being firm with patients who habitually break appointments or show up late. Unless you have established this person’s temperament type or determined by assessment testing that they have the aptitude for the work, you may be setting the person up for failure in your practice. Learning how to hire is an area that most dentists do not feel comfortable with, especially when it comes to the face-to-face interview. Remember that the job-seeker is nervous and probably has rehearsed answers to the most commonly asked questions.
Some questions are overused by interviewers to the point that they are predictable and the person being interviewed is suddenly on “easy street” when it comes to looking good. Many job seekers are expecting the interview questions to reflect the job description from the help wanted ad. Take the excerpt from the following ad:
Dental Business Office assistant wanted: must be a self-starter, hardworking, team player, loyal and seeking a long-term employment relationship.
Who seeking a job is not hard working? “How are you hard working” would be a better question to ask. No one is going to say they are lazy and do the minimum. The best question to ask would be: “When were you most satisfied in your last job?” This question will reveal what motivates the job seeker. If the answer is, “Helping patients understand the value of dental care” the next question would be: “What did you say or do to help the patient value dental care?”
What is a self-starter? Before you ask about this, it is wise to ask yourself what defines a “self-starter” in your dental office. The same goes for team-player. Ask an open-ended question such as: “When you come to work in the morning, what do you do to prioritize your day?” Many practices say they are a team, but in reality they are a group of people doing their own thing to get through the day. You will often hear: “I don’t do that, Betty is the only one who enters treatment plans.” If Betty is not there it doesn’t get entered into the computer but goes on Betty’s task list to do when she gets back. In the sense of true team spirit, someone is cross-trained to put in treatment plans and does so to keep the practice on goal.
Loyalty in a dental practice often means: “What happens here stays here.” In businesses that have important proprietary information that can be sold to competitors, this would be a valued trait. Eliminate the drama and stick to the business of dentistry, and you won’t have to worry about employees gossiping or being disloyal.
Many dental offices have long-term employees who are valued, appreciated and rewarded for good work. These are the reasons that they are long-term, loyal employees. But advertising for a long-term employee is not a good idea. How would you know that you want this employee long-term until after they have proved to be an asset to your practice? “Long-term” could be interpreted as a promise of a job forever or as long as they want it to be. The question to ask is: “Why do you want to work here?” Finding the right office is often a gamble to the job seeker. You want to hear that the job seeker is interested in working for you because they know who you are and of your reputation as a very good dentist, or they visited your website and can tell you why they like what they see. The reason needs to be more than: “You called me after receiving my resume.”
Staffing the dental practice with the right people is a challenge, but it can be made easier and more satisfying by taking the time to follow a system that ensures success. McKenzie Management has the systems and the tools. Need help? Call us today at 877-777-6151 for business training classes, products and services to build strong staffing systems in your practice.
Dialing for Dollars - Outstanding Treatment
Summer is here and in some dental offices, business slows down. In others, such as oral surgery practices and pediatric dental practices, business picks up. This article is written for all practices because there are always going to be times of the year when business slows down, unfortunately.
First, let's assume that you have assigned job descriptions for your business team. When you are working with one business team member, s/he wears all the hats and carries the job description of all 3: Hygiene Coordinator, Financial Coordinator and Schedule Coordinator.
Who is Responsible?
Examples of the Items on the Checklist - Reason(s) for Fillings:
1. Large cavity underneath an old silver filling (recurrent decay). If left untreated could cause:
2. Large crack left untreated could cause:
3. Part of the tooth has broken and if left untreated could cause:
4. The edges around the old silver filling are leaking due to age and if left untreated could cause:
A list would also be created for crowns, root canals, SRPS, partials, implants or bridges to replace missing teeth, etc. Create boxes to make it easy to “check off” the applicable reasons, as this could easily be accomplished by the clinical team.
Time to Call
“Mrs. Jones, this is Nancy with Dr. McKenzie’s office. Do you have a moment to spend with me? Dr. McKenzie was reviewing your record and noted that we have failed to make your appointment for the fillings on the upper left side. She wanted to make sure you understand how important it is to schedule this appointment. It appears that the fillings are necessary because ____________________________________. Is a morning or afternoon appointment better for you?”
What if You Can't Reach the Patient by Phone?
Track the Results
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