In last month’s newsletter, I introduced the term “fun deprivation”. I defined it for you and then gave you a little exercise to complete, the purpose being to help you see what you might not be seeing about your true level of happiness and satisfaction within yourself and your team. If you didn’t take the five statement assessment and score yourself per the instructions, you might want to go back and do that now. As with most things, regardless of the score there will generally always be some room for improvement. Remember, low numbers indicate the likelihood of a higher than necessary level of stress in life and also tend to reflect a lower than desired degree of growth in your practice. Let me expand on each of the five statements from last month and offer some suggestions on how to improve your score and start having more fun!
Statement 1 – Your existing team creates a warm, friendly, helpful, inviting, accepting atmosphere with new team members so the new person doesn’t have to “prove themselves worthy” before being genuinely accepted into the inner circle.
- First and foremost, remember that you (owner and boss) set the tone. If this statement describes the kind of practice you want, then make it known and don’t accept anything less. There are no great practices without great people, and it only takes one rotten apple to spoil the lot. If your people aren’t with you 100%, sharing your vision and helping you achieve your goals, then they need to get on board or go explore other opportunities.
- Work hard to develop a “staff owned practice” mentality and atmosphere within the practice. You don’t want anyone who has an “it’s just a job” mindset. These people add no value. In fact, they tend to be giant anchors that hold you back.
- Once you’ve gotten everyone focused and moving in the same direction, begin allowing the existing employees to make the hiring decisions on new employees. As the practice grows and there are more people and personalities involved, whether or not someone “fits in” becomes the most important element in the hiring process.
- Perform some sort of personality testing on all applicants. There are some people who are not well-suited to working in a dental office. Know this up front.
- If you don’t have detailed, written job descriptions for each job position in your office, get that done immediately.
- If you procrastinate or outright ignore periodic performance reviews for each person in your office, shame on you! Everyone should know what he/she is and isn’t responsible for and deserves periodic feedback on whether or not they are performing up to expected and desired levels.
- Have enough Staff Meetings or Team Meetings to insure that lack of communication is never a problem. If confusion reigns in your office, this is likely to be the biggest reason.
- Implement an effective bonus program. They do exist. If yours isn’t excellent, scrap it and change to one that works. Then consider changing the name of your Staff or Team Meeting to “Bonus Meeting”. The bonus is a result of great teamwork. Until teamwork is highly valued and becomes ingrained in the culture of your practice, you will struggle.
Statement 2 – There is a noticeable shift in attitudes, behaviors and friendliness between team members and in their interactions with you when the first patients enter the practice at the beginning of each day. It is as if the team is now “on stage” for a performance.
- This statement could be summed up with three little words: “It’s Show Time!” No matter how bad anyone feels, the patients really don’t want to know about it.
- Explain this expectation during the hiring process and then demand that it happen all the time.
- Remember, you set the example. It’s show time for you as much or more than anyone else in the building. If you don’t think that your team members follow your example in behaviors and moods, you’re just plain wrong. Fake it if you have to, but do it.
- Be physically fit. Have high energy. Eat better. Exercise more. Get enough sleep.
Statement 3 – Your patients often comment on how much they enjoy being in your office, how friendly and happy everyone is, and how it must be a great place to work. This leads naturally to the willingness (even eagerness) of a vast majority of your patients to refer their friends and family to your practice.
- SMILE! Lighten up. Be friendly. Tell a joke. LOL (that’s laugh out loud for you uninitiated in the fine art of text messaging). Don’t take everything so seriously, including yourself.
- Create a friendly, family atmosphere. Be the Disneyworld of dental offices.
- Say “please” and “thank you” to each other (doctor and team) routinely. And mean it! You’ll be amazed at the positive comments this will generate from patients.
- From the viewpoint of the patient, this all starts with a warm and friendly greeting from each person they come into contact with. Usually this is a person at the front desk first, followed by an assistant or a hygienist, then the doctor, then front desk again on the way out.
- This has been said a million times, but you really do only have one chance to make a good first impression. DO IT!
- No matter how stressed you feel or how far behind you are, never let the patient see or hear it. Not even indirectly through your tone of voice or the expression on your face.
Statement 4 – You experience very little employee turnover. Once someone joins your team, they recognize it as a unique opportunity and they stay forever. When you do need to hire someone, it is usually a consequence of practice growth and there is a ready pool of candidates due to the outstanding reputation your office has for being such a great place to work.
- High turnover and a steady parade of new people in your office is generally perceived by the patients as “Gee, this doctor must be a real jerk to work for.” I’m truly sorry to have to be so blunt about it, but there it is.
- Another possibility is that you simply have a lousy hiring system. You did realize that hiring is something you need a system for, didn’t you? You aren’t likely to get good people via a poor system.
- One important component of a good hiring system is those detailed, written job descriptions I mentioned earlier. You must paint a realistic picture of your expectations.
- Praise people for a job well done. Routinely. No one gets tired of hearing it. If you start to focus on this and make it a priority and then realize that you honestly can’t find one single positive and encouraging thing to say to someone every day, that is likely a sign of a bigger problem.
- Don’t forget about training. And remember that telling is not the same as training. Don’t expect too much too soon. But don’t wait forever. Remember those performance evaluations.
- Don’t forget the rewards. The aforementioned bonus plan is essential to keeping a highly motivated team.
- Try not to hire someone who lives too far away. This always complicates things.
- Try to hire someone whose father or husband (or both) owns his own business. It tends to create a different mentality. You can’t make this your only criteria, but if you have two fairly equal candidates, go with the ownership mentality.
- Creating a “fun” atmosphere is an important component of having highly loyal employees who stay with you a long time. Nearly everyone has had a miserable job with a lousy boss at some time. Don’t let it be your practice and you.
Statement 5 – You enjoy all aspects of your practice equally and consider yourself an astute business person as well as a highly skilled and competent clinician. Everyone who really knows you would wholeheartedly agree.
- If the ownership and business management aspects of practice aren’t among your strongest natural skills, then take steps to correct the deficiency. These are learnable skills. Google the word “management” and it returns 1,180,000,000 entries. That’s over a billion – with a B! Wow! Go to amazon.com and search the word “management”. I just did and it lists 788,749 books related to management. Wow again.
- Read more books. If you want a list of great business books to read, send me an email and I’ll get a list out to you. Or listen to recorded books as you drive. Or download books to your iPod and listen as you exercise. No excuses. Just do it. It has been said that the main difference between the person you are today and the person you’ll be one year from today are the books you read and the people you meet. Think about it.
- Emailed newsletters abound these days – you’re reading one now. I subscribe to several.
- Michael Gerber (great author and speaker) talks about the difference between working IN your business and working ON your business. Most business owners only work IN and rarely, if ever, work ON the business. How much time each week do you spend working ON the business that is your dental practice?
- Have a plan. Establish goals. Do everything you do with PURPOSE.
I’ll close by reiterating once again that if a problem exists and it is acknowledged, solutions can then be created to bring you and others back into balance. We are here to assist you with this process. If you’d like to talk about any of these things, or anything else related to your practice growth and success, please email or call. There is no good reason to continue to struggle along dealing with frustration after frustration. Begin today to realize the type of practice you really want.