One of the challenges of dental practice is managing a team. Working with a high functioning group of people is both about inviting the right people to join your team, and about helping them grow and develop and being clear around expectations. Each piece of this puzzle presents unique challenges, most of which we were not trained to do in dental school. A question I ask myself very often, is “how am I helping my team grow?”. In the busy hustle and bustle of a day in practice as I notice items that I would like or need done differently how do I respond. In truth often I make a mental note to mention it later, and well everyone reading this knows what happens, it doesn’t get mentioned. It gets forgotten about until the next time the same scenario happens, and over time it becomes an irritant. From experience I can share that this is a very inefficient and ineffective way to manage and does nothing to help team members grow.
This afternoon we had one of our routine team meetings. We try and get together as a group every 6-8 weeks for an afternoon in addition to our other meetings.At the last meeting I asked the team to make the agenda for today’s get together and they came prepared. The first item on the agenda was “NP Tours-Do We Have To Do Them?”. The question alone was telling about the feeling regarding tours but I went forward into the conversation anyway. So I asked the team to share how the felt about the tours and I got a variety of answers from ” I don;t like them” to “I think they are great”. The next step was the most critical and it was to answer the question “why”. So we started to tackle the discussion of what the outcome of giving new patient tours is? After some discussion and having to put ourselves into the shoes of the patient we came up with quite a list of outcomes attained from a new patient tour.
- Shows patients our office is different/Sets us apart
- Allows us to showcase our technology
- Allows us to introduce our team to new patients
- We talk about the range of services we offer, including having an orthodontist
- We can address our sterilization techniques for concerned patients
With our list in hand we then asked the question “what ways can we reach all of these outcomes?”. Now you may be wondering about this second question and the continued conversation. I do have a personal opinion about completing new patient tours, but I did not express that int he meeting. I also know that as with anything in our office I could simply say “this is what we are doing” and the team would try their best to do it for me, and it would fail. I have a fabulous, talented caring team but it would fail because no one can continue long term to do something they do not value, own the purpose of or that meets their values. I also know that I am only one person with one point of view and if we open up the conversation ides can come up that would have never been possible. That is exactly what happened as we created our list.
- New Patient Tours
- A Virtual NP tour on the television int he waiting room or consult room
- A printed “Meet Our Office” brochure we could mail, email or have printed in the office
- Talking about our office once int he consult room or sharing where appropriate during the new patient appointment.
The most important thing that came out of our discussion was reaffirming that we are not the “average, ordinary” dental office and we have to help our patients know that through all of the “soft” things we do. So how do you make sure patients understand the value of being a patient at your office?
I am in the process of creating an updated office manual over the next few months. One of the key pieces will be the job descriptions for each of the employees on the team. I have had the opportunity to work on job descriptions may times for my own practices and other companies over the years. In the early years i created them, sitting down and thinking through the things I thought a person in a particular role ought to be responsible for. With the job description in hand I then went about finding a person that fit that mold, or worse trying to make the person already employed int hat job fit into what I had written. it was often like forcing a square peg into a round hole, so you can imagine how well it worked.
I do not think it would be brash to claim that our morning huddle is the most important fifteen minutes of our day. The time we spend together is a valuable tool for focusing our energy and attention and maximizing our efforts. In our office the huddle takes fifteen minutes and no longer. The rule is that if it takes more than fifteen minutes we are either not prepared or off topic. The purpose of the huddle is to grant any team member who needs it an opportunity to clear their mind for the day. Every one of us has days when something personal is on our minds and can prevent us from being fully present at work. A good deal of the time if we can simply claim what is distracting us, the distraction seems to be less potent. On other days we need the rest of the team to pitch in for us.
On my way to work this morning I listened to “The Thriving Dentist” show by Gary Takacs on my iPod. It is a MUST listen to for every dentist.
One of the inherent challenges for dentists is balancing being a leader in the office and being a manager as most of the time we wear both hats. This is especially evident when we interact with our team members. They look to us for leadership, the vision for the practice, and to empower them to be the best they can at work. On the other side of the coin we have to manage their schedules, technical skill and compensation. No place is this more evident than during the dreaded “annual” review. Years ago through a mentor of mine I learned about a concept called Growth Conferences.
I learned today that it is Dental Assistant’s Recognition Week here in the United States. Supported by the American Dental Assistant’s Association the idea is to recognize the contribution dental assistant’s make to our profession, the health of patient’s and the experience of the dental team. I have to admit when I first came across this I was skeptical and a bit cynical about thew whole idea. After the idea settles in I began to wonder what I have done recently to recognize the assistants on our team? For that matter what have I done recently to recognize any of our team members for the incredible contribution they make?