5 Things Every Successful Office Manager Needs to Know
Most dentists have high expectations when they hire an office manager, especially if they’ve promoted one of their hardworking, loyal employees to the position. Now that they have an office manager in place, marketing will finally get done, the schedule will work like a fine-tuned machine and personnel issues will magically go away. It almost sounds too good to be true. Well doctor, that’s because it is.
An effective office manager must have a certain skill set and temperament that’s much different from any other position in the practice. Just because a team member excelled as part of the business team doesn’t mean that same employee is equipped to handle the extra responsibilities that come with the office manager position. And even if the person you promote has the necessary skills and temperament, this vital team member will still feel lost if you don’t outline your expectations in the form of a detailed job description and provide the training needed to succeed.
So what exactly does it take to be an effective office manager? Here’s a list of five things every office manager needs to know.
1. How to be a leader. As your Chief Operating Officer, your office manager must be a leader. For some this comes naturally, but others can learn leadership skills through training and education. Your office manager must be comfortable dealing with difficult issues that come up in the practice, and not afraid to discipline other team members when necessary.
Remember your office manager will be the first point of contact for patients and team members when issues arise. If he or she is uncomfortable with this or simply isn’t good at problem solving, it will just lead to more problems in your practice.
2. How to work with numbers. Your office manager must be comfortable working with numbers. The manager is responsible for overseeing practice overhead, accessing and understanding various practice reports as well as managing all the practice’s business measurements. This isn’t a job for someone who breaks out in a sweat at the first mention of profit and loss statements, no matter how long he or she has worked at your practice.
3. How to be personable yet efficient. Not only does the office manager have to work with numbers on a daily basis, this team member also handles the practice’s human resources. That means the office manager is in charge of recruitment, hiring, firing, performance reviews, schedules, grievances, raises, salary reviews, employee policies and team meetings. Yes, that’s quite the list, and if your office manager isn’t comfortable with the HR side of the position, I can guarantee you it’s hurting team morale and costing your practice money.
You need an office manager who is comfortable working with numbers and with people, and who exhibits a good balance between thinking and feeling in his or her temperament type. Why is this important? If your office manager scores high on the “thinking” scale,” he or she may be very task oriented, and will likely come off as demanding and inflexible to the rest of the team. But if the office manager scores high on the “feeling” scale, this person will likely find it difficult to hold staff members accountable and maintain practice policies. Either scenario will do nothing but create trouble for your practice.
4. How to handle pressure. On any given day your office manager will be pulled in multiple directions and will need to juggle various tasks. You don’t want someone in the position who becomes easily flustered or short-tempered when things get hectic. This can be a stressful job, and not everyone can handle the daily pressures. Make sure you find someone who can.
5. The dentists’ expectations. Providing a detailed job description that outlines your expectations is key to your office manager’s success. You can’t expect your manager to read your mind, as lovely as that would be. Creating a detailed job description will eliminate any confusion or uncertainty about the role, saving everyone time and frustration.
Before you develop the job description, you need to provide your office manager with the proper training. Not sure how? I can help. Consider having your office manager take my Office Manager Training Course.
Office managers are responsible for more than most dentists realize. The job goes well beyond answering phones and filling the schedule. The office manager handles the business side of the practice so you don’t have to. The wrong office manager can cause you frustration and cost you money, but the right office manager will help your practice reach true success and profitability.
For additional information on this topic and more, visit my blog: The Lighter Side
Interested in speaking to me about your practice concerns? Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Managing Yourself as a Leader
Many professionals, dentists included, have found their way to being quite successful in their careers and lives. However, it is commonly the case that the development of a ‘career plan’ or some kind of road map to help us fully self-actualize as people, professionals and leaders has never taken place. Does your “success” align with who you are, or who you want to be? Are you where you want to be professionally or in your personal life? Rather than wait for something to “open up” or “unfold” for you, why not become methodical and proactive about deciding which direction you want to go next? The five steps below outline the work required to begin to manage yourself more effectively toward even greater outcomes.
1. What are my strengths? To accurately identify your strengths, use feedback analysis. Every time you make a key decision that affects your practice, life, or career, write down the outcome you expect. Six months later, compare the actual results with your expected results. Look for patterns in what you’re seeing. What results are you skilled at realizing? What abilities do you need to enhance to get the results you wanted? What unproductive habits are preventing you from creating the outcomes you desire (e.g., making emotional decisions, not weighing your options, or not taking initiative)? In identifying opportunities for improvement, don’t waste time on the skill areas where you have little competence. Instead, concentrate on – and build on – your strengths.
2. How do I work? In what ways do you work best? Do you process information most effectively by reading it, or by hearing others discuss it? Do you “learn by doing”? Are you up on the latest research or techniques? Do you offer state-of-the-art services? Do you accomplish the most by working with other people, or by working alone? Do you perform best while making decisions, or while advising others on key matters? Are you in top form when things get stressful, or do you function optimally in a highly predictable environment? How much control over, or adaptability to, your environment do you actually have? In answering these questions, you really flesh out who you are – your strengths – and therefore where you should spend your energy on this work.
3. What are my values? What are your ethics? Or, in other words, what is your “true north”? What do you see as the most important factors that make your life feel well-lived? Is it financial comfort or success? Is it to provide excellent care to your patients? Is it to develop and sustain quality relationships? Or more personally, do you value intelligence, humor, work ethic, timeliness, accuracy, compassion, etc.? Do your practice’s ethics resonate with your own values? If not, your career will likely be marked by frustration and poor outcomes. Write down your personal values and closely examine whether you are aligned with these or not.
4. Where do I belong? Consider your strengths, preferred work style, and values. Based on these qualities, in what kind of dental practice environment would you fit in best? Find the perfect fit, and you’ll transform yourself from a merely acceptable dentist into a star performer. Does your patient-base satisfy the reasons why you became a dentist? Are you providing the care or treatment you believe in most? Where/how can you make adjustments?
5. What can I contribute? In earlier eras, dental practices dictated what the dentist’s contribution should be. Today, you have choices. To decide how you can best enhance your practice’s performance, first ask what the current climate requires, or what your patient’s feedback indicates. Based on your strengths, work style, and values, how might you make the greatest contribution to your practice? How can you delegate and enlist the support of others to assist you in your goal? How can you thereby lead the way to your own self-actualization?
These structured steps toward beginning the process of self-management are a start, and a good one. However, these kinds of personal and transformational processes are very difficult to initiate and sustain without support. Do not set yourself up for disappointment by trying this on your own. Enlist the support of a mentor, trusted friend or spouse, or a leadership coach. You’ve gotten to where you are primarily on your own. Use the appropriate support and guidance available to you, and you will see yourself take that next leap, one which you might not even know is ahead of you!
Dr. Gale provides coaching and training to enhance leadership skills, interpersonal communications and team building. If you would like to learn more, contact him at email@example.com
Four Things to Never Say to Patients
Two of the most important (and often exhausting) components of dentistry are dealing with treatment explanations and handling patient questions. After a few years as a dental professional, a person can only get so excited discussing plaque! Even so, just like actors putting on a play day after day, we owe it to our “audience” to remain upbeat and enthusiastic about the information we give them. We have to guard against the urge to simply “phone it in” and watch what we say and how we say it to promote confidence and patient satisfaction.
Patients need to understand what is happening during their dental care. Most have very little preliminary knowledge about their mouth and teeth. To accept dental treatment, they need to know why they have developed a problem, how we intend to correct the problem, and what they need to do to maintain or prevent the problem from reoccurring. They need to be instructed in modern techniques and materials, diagnostic tools, and current thinking on periodontal issues. They should be brought up-to-date on links across the medical spectrum. The mouth is no longer separate from the rest of the body (even if it still is a stand-alone on most insurance plans).
While we are making our explanations, we should avoid a few statements:
1. “This won’t hurt”
Rather than saying, “This won’t hurt”, say, “We do our best to keep you as comfortable as possible. Let me know if anything is bothering you. I get very focused on your teeth and may not notice if I am leaning on your arm for example. Let me know right away.” This gives the patient permission to speak up without fear, and focuses on an external issue (“leaning on your arm”) rather than possible oral issues. After hearing that they can, rarely do they actually complain.
2. “Brushing a little better will take care of the problem”
3. “There is no charge for this”
4. “We can do that crown today”
How we talk and interact with our patients is an important facet to their general acceptance and satisfaction with our care. Watching what we say is important.
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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