Summit Practice Solutions was built on a philosophy of the Purpose Driven, Doctor Led, Staff Owned practice management office culture. These foundational principles were taken from my main office in McKinney, Texas, with over 3 decades of private practice success and including multiple locations. This is another look at staff issues and what part we, as doctors, play in a prosperous practice of committed and fully engaged team. People are complex. Expecting employee management to be simple or easy is often what gets us in trouble as managers, leaders, and owners. For me, and the doctors I interact with, the main trick is learning how to mange ourselves. This is the key to finding and keeping great employees and inspiring confidence. For me it came down to managing my own insecurities. Too often we allow our personal insecurities to affect how we work and how we relate with those we work with and manage. So, step one is doing a little self-reflection. Ask yourself these questions:
- Am I part of the problem or part of the solution?
- What fears about my own performance do I project onto my staff?
- Do I rob my staff of opportunities that stunt their growth and endanger their success in my office?
- While I spend money and time to attract and inspire my patients, do I spend as much time internally messaging to keep my staff morale healthy so that I can continue to grow?
When I reflect on practices that continue to struggle in spite of their best efforts, most often I see a lack of leadership from the owner and a failed culture that, if successful, would bolster commitment from the staff to further the vision of the practice. Keep in mind that you will never go any farther than that one employee with the lowest commitment to the culture and vision of your practice. So here is a short list of common traits that I see holding back or limiting practices everywhere.
- Micromanaging. Fear of your own failure often leads to never letting go and not replacing micromanagement tendencies with a healthy leadership style. I often see micromanagers projecting their own fears, which can make your employees feel nervous and less confident in you, and in themselves. Strong, competent hires, can be demoralized by micromanagement. The only time you should ever find yourself micromanaging is with the wrong hire. So, if you find yourself beginning to micromanage someone, it is time to “free up their future”. You made the wrong hire.
- Sweating the small mistakes. I guess there is always a cause and effect in every action. How do you react? I find the behavior of doctors who tend to get very angry, or even just somewhat upset being based on their own their fear of messing up. Overlay that with the wrong hire or poor onboarding (i.e. lack of training) and you find yourself over-reacting to a situation. How you react to small mistakes can either make an employee feel confident coming to you in the future with bigger errors or afraid of ever telling you the truth. Outbursts of anger are a symptom of an immature leader and a failed management strategy.
- Never saying “Thank You”. When I speak with employees the number one complaint I hear is that the doctor never acknowledges anyone when they do a great job. If you never thank your staff for big and small things, it makes them nervous and also unappreciated. (NOTE: This can also happen with your spouse. Avoid this at all costs.) Often times I find doctors who never got affirmations, or don’t need it to fall into this category. I understand that this is not intuitive for you to hand out these “Thank You’s”. One more word of advice: In addition to saying “Thank You”, be sure you provide specifics on what the employee did that was helpful or provided great results. Then other staff members will strive to do likewise.
- Negative talk about past employees (or current). This creates a culture of fear and intimidation. This action can immediately breed mistrust in you as an owner and leader. In addition, this “trash talk” doesn’t inspire confidence in your existing staff or you. If you think that your patients don’t notice this, you’re wrong.
- No personal interest. In a way, there is a fine line between having a personal interest in an employee’s life and getting too personally involved. I think most employees feel good that their doctor cares. If you are like me, and you are a task-driven and work-focused leader and owner who also values privacy, it might be a bit uncomfortable to talk to staff too much or too often about their personal lives. The negative, impersonal aspect of this is that you can make your staff and your patients feel like a number instead of a person.
As owners and leaders of our practices, it is our job to inspire confidence in the staff and help them build self-assurance, instead of reinforcing insecurities. This is how you Summit.
Michael Abernathy, DDS
PS. For a little additional reading on dental practice Leadership, just click below.
1-MINUTE PRIMER TO LEADERSHIP