Hopefully you have read Chapter 18 in The Super General Dental Practice and are versed in the idea of Purpose Driven and Doctor Led practice culture. We are moving on to what I consider to be one of the most misunderstood and mis- utilized concepts in team and culture building, the staff ownership mentality. While you need each component of the triad of purpose driven, doctor led, and staff owned culture, you will find that this third component has to potential of creating a 10X level of improvement in your office. It is with this short introduction that we delve into the culture of team building.
Because team building and the culture of “staff ownership” is so important, let me remind you that everything we have and will discuss is creating a set of protocols and systems that will minimize your stress, increase the longevity of team members, improve consumerism, and increase your profits.
Speaking of protocols, let’s set a foundational basis for any and everything we will do. Protocols and systems must have four fundamental components:
Make this your mantra: Does this _______ system accomplish 1, 2, 3, and 4? If not, stop, reassess, restructure, and act until you can check all four boxes. It is possible, and it is necessary, for a super general dental practice to reach sustainable consistent growth.
When we talk about staffing, I would recommend that you add two books to your library and read each one multiple times. They are both authored by Patrick Lencioni. The Ideal Team Player and The Five Dysfunctions of a Team are must reads for any excellent business leader and their team. There is nothing as common as doctors complaining about not being able to find or keep good staff members. Sure, it’s easy to blame this situation on government, generational trends, laziness, and your demographics. But ask yourself this question: Am I, as the leader and owner, and my practice the type of practice that deserves to attract the best employees that will become integral to our team? For most offices, I think the answer would be a resounding no, especially if we asked potential hires (and possibly even current employees). Is your pay competitive? Are your benefits in line with other consumer driven businesses, because you are not competing with another dental office, you are just a single choice in a multitude of professions that your staff could choose as a career. Most dental practices do not offer competitive job pay or culture when compared to other places your potential hire might look at. We must create a practice that is profitable enough and a culture that is inspiring enough to attract the best of the best. If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys.
Since this staff ownership component is intimately tied to the leadership component, allow me to expand on the leadership vs management side of creating a winning culture that could check all the boxes we are looking at when we consider the results each of us want. Let there be no mistake or misunderstanding when we use the terms “management” and “leadership”. While they sometimes are used interchangeably, they represent two entirely different components in building culture and assembling a team. This realization, as well as implementing what we are about to discuss, must be in place prior to assembling the “dream” team we all wish we had.
For our purposes, I will discuss Management which for the most part is “transactional” vs Leadership, which is primarily “transformational”. In transactional management, where we find most dental offices, you see several common traits.
- Normally is based on rules and regulations. Kind of a military type of relationship with a carrot and stick approach.
- Because of this, we find that at its foundation it is fear based.
- There is mandatory compliance. Employees, because they are not a team, do what they do because they are forced to do it.
- This creates employees made up a group of workers with very little participation in leadership and ownership.
- It is purely results based and is not inspiring to the employee.
- Transactional management leads to poor morale, negativity, and high turnover, as well as stress for the owner.
On the other hand, Transformational Leadership:
- Is inspiring be being vison driven.
- It embraces change.
- There are shared values and purpose.
- There is commitment rather than just compliance to your vision.
- There is always open communication.
- Empowers the doctor and the entire team leading to a culture of “teamwork”.
If you have not read Chapter 18 of The Super General Dental Practice (free download at www.supergeneralpractice.com) do so. You will learn that staff ownership is characterized by having high communication, alignment of vision, participative leadership, shard responsibility, while being future focused. It doesn’t get any better than this.
If you become a student and apply your efforts to leadership and team building, you will find that your ultimate result will be a fully committed staff. You will no longer need to manage people but only the process for your team. Like me, you will learn that each of us must become and remain part of the team, not above them. We cannot just force compliance and still build a culture of ownership. Leaders create the conditions where people choose to commit to new actions. That is the goal of this 180 Degree Dental Journey.
Your search begins by creating the leadership and culture that attracts the right type of candidates. Secondly, you need to offer a package of pay, benefits, facility, and culture that attracts the best of the best.
Here are some bullet points for staffing your team:
Train from the ground up. There is never a shortage of candidates in a Super General Dental Practice regardless of the practice production and profits. Never assume anyone is competent. This is where onboarding takes a commitment in time and talent to make sure any new hire absorbs the culture and is competent at their duties.
Never hire for just experience. Some of the worst hires I have made had decades of experience but lacked the essence of what great team members need. Half of what is on a resume is an exaggeration and most of the interviews will be with people that have a great self-image for no apparent reason.
Hire for people skills. You can train anybody to suck spit or work at the front desk. You can never train people skills. They either have them, or they do not.
Hire for self-motivation. Again, they either walk through the door motivated or they don’t. Your job is not trying to motivate the unmotivated. It is finding and keeping motivated people.
Hire people that are problem solvers with an attitude of lifetime learning.
You will never go any further in your practice than the one person with the lowest commitment to your vision. This is the weaker link theory. Find these weaker people and “free up their future”. We can no longer tolerate or keep mediocre employees. What you allow, you encourage. Not acting quickly to eliminate marginal staff tells the good ones that what they do does not really matter. This will become crystal clear when we discuss profit sharing with the team. Staff ownership means that your team will self-police their ranks. They will not tolerate a poor level of commitment or performance from anyone, including you!
What you allow, you encourage: Team members are like your own kids. You cannot let anyone know you have a favorite, everyone is treated the same, you model what you want, and no one gets away with anything that you are not willing for others to do. An absence of leadership always leads to a lack of focus and engagement when it comes to creating consequences for those that color outside the lines or don’t play well with others. Don’t abdicate your responsibility of accountability when it comes to leadership and management. The buck stops with you and far too often we drop the ball only to find out later the ripple effect of not putting on our big boy panties and dealing with that employee or situation. You don’t get what you expect, you get what you accept.
Never hire from desperation. Life happens and people move on. Always be looking for better employees. The fatal flaw of having a great employee is thinking they will always be there. Sometimes we give up control because the team member assumes that you can’t replace them. Make sure you can. The number one mistake in management is hiring the wrong person when desperate, throwing them into the fire without proper training, and criticizing errors they weren’t even aware they were making because of lack of training. You don’t get what you expect. You get what you accept. Create a culture of accountability.
Always look to improve your team. You should always be looking to add or replace team members who are no longer committed to your vision or fail to perform at a high level of engagement. Look in places other don’t. There are a lot of other professions and jobs that are small consumer driven business that you could hire from.
Never hire anyone you cannot fire. Never put yourself in a position where you hire a family member, friend, or acquaintance that makes it impossible to free up their future because of the ripple effect from doing so.
Never keep someone in your office that makes your life miserable. Been there done that. What you allow, you encourage. Have that tattooed on your forehead. It is worth repeating every day you go to the office.
I find that there are four types of employees:
- Lousy worker that no one likes: Free up there future today. Figure out why you made the mistake in hiring them and correct the protocol to prevent this from happening again. Your entire team will applaud your actions.
- The lousy worker everyone likes: Free up their future as soon as possible. This is why you are always looking for new employees to upgrade your team. This is one of the most difficult actions to take. Quantify their deficiencies and make sure your team understands your decision to let them go.
- Great workers that no one likes: This is difficult for you, because you don’t see the damage they render to the team. You must understand that the team is more important than any individual. If they are not liked by the entire team, there is a good chance your patients don’t care for them either. Free up their future.
- The great worker that everyone likes: Never fire them, clone them, and make sure they know they are appreciated and key to the office’s success. Your goal in life is to have each and every team member at this level.
As the driver of the bus in this 180 Degree Dental Journey, I am assuming that you have the desire to make a change. If so, that indicates that you have identified a need. I was like you decades ago. I had a lack of results and knew I wanted more and was capable of a different future. This “need” that you will have to identify has to be more important than the emotional pain of confronting and dealing with it. Your desire for more must be greater than the cost of staying where you are. Why do we so often spend more time and effort avoiding the difficult decisions or the correct strategy than it would have taken to take the correct actions? You may feel safety in the past, but it is a myth and limiting belief that will control your future. Longing for the “good ‘ole days” is a siren’s song and a mistake and misplaced effort. You need a new commitment, flexibility in taking on this journey, while embracing change in all you do. You make your future by the choices you make today. Anticipation, action, and accountability are the words for this part of the trip. If you had a do over button, what would you change? What would you do different? Who would you listen to? Let’s git‘er done.
Michael Abernathy, DDS