From Problem Child to Positive Powerhouse
Most practices have experienced it at one time or another - a problem child. And I’m not talking about a screaming three-year-old, in fact, it may well be the hotheaded 33-year-old who has the rest of the team ready to crawl under the nearest chair. This individual is negative, defensive, and can come up with an excuse for virtually anything. Quick to point fingers and even quicker to run from accountability, this person may be so profoundly controlling and territorial that even the slightest suggestion that something could be improved will be treated as a personal affront, resulting in days of sniping and discontent.
If your practice used 360-degree evaluations, what would your co-workers say about you? Are you the power player, the go-along to get-along type, or the problem child in your office? The good news is, anyone can change - well, almost anyone. It’s a matter of becoming aware of your behaviors and committing to make adjustments where necessary, starting with your attitude. Not only will an attitude adjustment improve your work, it just might enhance your life as well. An article published by Mayo Clinic in March noted that positive thinking yields health benefits including:
• Increased life span
Positive people also are much better team players than those who are constantly finding fault with everyone and everything around them. So spurn the sourpuss.
But it’s not so easy to take a good hard look at ourselves. If we could only see what others see, perhaps we’d understand why people react the way they do to our comments and behaviors. Maybe it’s time you see your actions as well as your attitudes through your coworkers’ lens.
Listen to your comments. Are you never at a loss for something negative to say? If you have legitimate issues or complaints, bring it up with the person who can take action or suggest to the doctor that the matter be discussed during a staff meeting where everyone can offer input to address it. Otherwise, leave the whining to the two-year-olds.
Are you never at a loss to dish the latest to any and all who will listen? “Did you hear about Mrs. Wentworth? Well let me tell you…” “Did you happen to notice the doctor’s husband hasn’t been in as much lately? You know what I think…” You assert that you’re just making conversation. Call it what you want, but it’s gossip and it’s poison for any practice. Pick a different topic, the weather, the latest movie, a good book you’ve read, a new recipe you’ve tried. That is making conversation.
Are you always running behind, caught in traffic, oversleeping and generally undependable? You mean well, but darn you just can’t seem to get your act together. It’s rude, it’s inconsiderate, and your teammates are tired of your excuses. Set the alarm earlier. Allow more time to get your child to daycare. Pack your lunch the night before. You’re accountable to your coworkers, and it starts with being there when you’re supposed to be.
You’ve been doing your job this way for five years, why should you change it? You dig in at the mere suggestion that a system be changed or improved to enhance efficiency and/or patient service. After all, you know what you are doing, and there is no point in someone suggesting that you do things differently. Pay attention to the barriers you’re erecting in the way of system improvement. Be open to change and you’ll benefit from the opportunity to learn something new.
Do you know exactly, precisely, and specifically what your job duties are, and if others don’t, well too bad? If someone asks you to do something that isn’t in your job description, they can expect either a “that’s not my job” response or something along the lines of, “I’m always having to clean up after so-and-so.” Weak employees draw lines of demarcation. Strong teammates step in to help with the heavy lifting to get the job done happily and with a smile.
So, are you the problem child? If so, choose to be the practice powerhouse instead.
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
Objective Not Subjective
In college, we were always told that anything we write in the patient’s record should be objective and not subjective. This not only pertains to the patient’s record, but also to what is said in the office. Many times we get too comfortable with our surroundings and the offices that we refer to, and forget the saying our parents taught us: “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” This holds true in the work environment too. The walls do have ears, and those ears are attached not only to other employees, but to patients as well. There is nothing worse than having a patient hear a conversation that should not be heard.
Let’s take a look at a few different scenarios that may be happening every day in your practice. These can have a direct impact on patient and employee retention, or if you’re a specialist it may affect the amount of referrals you receive from the general dentists in your area.
Susie the hygienist has not been running on schedule, and patients are starting to complain. The office manager informs Susie that she needs to run on time - and this is done in front of the assistant in a condescending tone. There are three problems here:
1. The conversation took place in front of another employee
A better way to approach this could have been to inform Susie there have been a lot of complaints about her running on time, and ask her what she thinks the reason is for this. It may be as easy as rearranging her room, fixing something, or helping her with time management by evaluating her. Perhaps the scheduling coordinator needs training on how much time is needed for each type of appointment, and a reminder that squeezing patients into the schedule on a regular basis does not work.
Every time an issue arises with employees, not only should the problem be addressed in private, but it is best to approach it with the attitude that some training needs to take place - either with that person or possibly with another person all together.
The next scenario has to do with two employees having a conversation about a patient. Regardless of HIPAA, these conversations should be about the matter at hand and not about how Mrs. Jones is a flake and never keeps her appointments, and how they wish she would just go to another dentist. What you may not know is that Mrs. Jones’ best friend Gladys is sitting in the reception room and is able to overhear this entire conversation.
How many patients do you think may leave your practice when Gladys goes and tells Mrs. Jones about the conversation, along with sixteen of her friends, and Mrs. Jones tells sixteen of her friends, and those sixteen tell another sixteen? It does not matter if the conversation is between two employees, the doctor and office manager, or an employee and patient. The conversation may have even happened at a morning meeting where you thought patients could not hear you. The point is that these conversations should not happen at all. Instead, the information should be noted in the patient’s record in an objective way, that way if the patient is dismissed from the practice in the future it is well documented.
The conversation could have been as short as: “Mrs. Jones has a record of not showing for her appointments. We may want to call her again early this morning, so if we need to we have more time to fill the schedule.”
For specialists who depend on patient referrals from general dentists or vice versa, make sure your staff is aware of the need to stick to the facts. They should not give any of their personal opinions while talking to other doctors’ offices. It is very easy for us to have conversations that may be perceived as inappropriate by others. Always remember to be objective not subjective - not only in your clinical notes, but also in your conversations.
Interested in improving your hygiene department? Email email@example.com and ask us about our 1-Day Hygiene Training Program or call 877-777-6151
Intention vs. the Impact of ‘Micromanaging’
As a dentist, you likely have a high need for achievement and a strong fear of failure. I also suspect that one of the biggest leadership stumbling blocks you face is asking employees to do things that you know how to do very well. It may be that you believe success is less about getting the job done and more about doing things your way. This creates angst for you…and leads to behaviors implied in the term “micromanager.”
The reality is, micromanaging is a paradox. To the dental leader who checks and re-checks the work of others, the intention is to ensure accuracy and reduce anxiety. However, the impact is often very frustrating and even belittling to those on the receiving end.
Certainly employees need to know that you care about getting things done on time and in the right way. But effective leadership varies depending on the person being influenced and the task, job or function that needs to be accomplished. The bottom line is that your staff members need different levels of direction. So when exactly does the positive leadership trait of attending to the details become problematic micromanaging?
1. You spend too much time handholding employees. Sometimes you need to let go of things and allow people to find their own way. Yes, mistakes might happen - but these are also great opportunities for employees to learn and develop new skills. If you are doing too much handholding, is it because that employee is not capable? What kind of training do they need to gain the job know-how to do the work you’ve given them to do? Or, if you’ve been coaching that team member long enough, is it time to think about termination?
2. You spend too much time overseeing particular projects. Letting go of projects can be a fearful experience. As a leader you may fear losing control, losing face, and ultimately losing your business. It’s likely that you are dealing with these fears by using strategies that have worked in the past…like self-reliance. Not knowing any better, you may be overly controlling. Or trying so hard to avoid being controlling that you don't clearly communicate what's expected. Pay attention to which projects you spend the most time checking. Then ask yourself whether you have given the employees responsible for these aspects of the practice a chance to prove their capabilities.
3. You spend time telling people exactly what to do and how to do it. My experience in business is that most employees really want to do a good job. In most cases, if a team member isn't doing a good job it’s often because they don't know how. Think about what kind of instruction is necessary. Is there a way to give less information about ‘how’ you want it done and more clarity about the outcome you expect? In this way you empower employees to find solutions to issues themselves. Then give positive feedback. Successful leaders notice what employees do right, and give them immediate recognition for doing a good job.
4. You find yourself irritated when employees don’t operate the way you do. Not everyone works the same way. Your hygienist may be someone who is creative and spontaneous, but not a morning person. She’s terrific with patients and generates a lot of revenue for the practice. Is there flexibility to adjust her hours? Adapting to someone else's needs goes against the grain of most of us, but it's easier if you focus on the goal you want to achieve. Focus on the things that are most crucial for your success.
Remember, some employees want more direction while others need to be left alone. The key is to know what each member of your team needs to perform at his/her best…and adjust your style to them. Ask employees what level of support they need from you. You might need to adjust their expectations a little, but this is a great place to start.
Tell people that your goal isn’t to be a micro manager. Let them know your intention, and ask for feedback. Be open and make adjustments in your behavior. This approach is a big step in your growth and will change people’s perceptions of you. Aligning your intentions with your impact yields big pay-offs….in team morale and in your bottom line!
Dr. Haller provides training for leadership effectiveness, interpersonal communication, conflict management, and team building. If you would like to learn more contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Interested in having Dr. Haller speak to your dental society or study club? Click here
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