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Considering a dental practice from a business perspective, the dentist serves as CEO with all the typical responsibilities: managing personnel, setting the practice vision and goals, making decisions about finances, and more. Because the doctor is responsible for most of the production (i.e., patient care) as well, delegation and an effective team play crucial roles in practice success.
Staff members look to the dentist to set the tone for the practice and resolve any conflicts that arise. Unfortunately, dentists receive little or no management training as part of their education. Below is a crash course on how to simultaneously empower a team, reduce stress, and increase practice production.
To take a proactive approach to team-building, instead of waiting for breakdown, ask your team members how they feel about their work. Not only will questioning allow you to assess the state of your team, but it will also help you open the lines of communication. Set aside some time for a relaxed meeting where staff can thoughtfully respond to the following questions.
Do I communicate clearly, too much, or not enough?
Do you have sufficient access to me? To the office manager?
Do you feel heard?
Do you receive enough feedback about your performance?
Do you think we treat everyone fairly and equally?
What could we do to promote more camaraderie?
Once you know how your team members feel about the office environment, take action by making some constructive changes to your organization and your leadership style. If more interaction is desired, make sure you’re having daily business meetings and monthly business reviews.
Offering more positive feedback can boost morale in any office environment. Here are some examples:
When team members do a good job, let them know.
When they underperform, re-educate rather than criticize.
When staff members exceed your expectations, recognize them.
Encourage everyone to take responsibility.
Promote teamwork and courtesy.
Give consistent encouragement.
One of the best team-building activities is updating the staff every month on the practice’s progress toward goals. The doctor should monitor that progress on a regular basisâsimply setting targets once a year and seeing if they have been achieved will not create a collaborative mentality the way regular check-ins will.
Daily business meetings provide another occasion to foster teamwork. Concentrating on the current day’s patients, schedule, opportunities, and potential problems, the morning meeting is the equivalent of the locker room pep talk before a game.
Another way to strengthen office cohesion is to enlist staff in reaching the targets you set for the practice. Not only will team members appreciate being included, but they will also be more enthusiastic about the changes you want to see.
For example, every individual in the practice contributes to production. However, if the staff is unaware of the production target, they cannot work toward it. Your practice should have clear, specific, and measurable numbers for production, collections, new patients, and a host of other parameters. Also, team members should understand their role in accomplishing these targets. Sharing practice objectives creates group commitment, a purpose for coming to work and a sense of belonging.
Over time, systems get modified in a disorganized fashion. The resulting processes hold the practice together, but do not necessarily facilitate high levels of efficiency, productivity, and profitability. Effective business systems, in contrast, will do the following:
Improve production, profit, and efficiency
Lower stress and create a more enjoyable work environment
Enable the dentist to focus on leadership and team-building without detracting from patient care
Motivate the team
Train new personnel quickly
Analyze each of your practice’s systems, beginning with scheduling, and eliminate unnecessary or repetitive steps. Once the schedule has been redesigned and additional scheduling capacity created, the next step is to fill the schedule. Then you can replace your systems for case presentation, customer service, and internal marketing.
In today’s difficult economy, practice unity is more important than ever. A content team is a productive team, able to provide better patient care with lower stress while meeting crucial milestones and increasing production. Even as the team changes over the years, a strong culture and positive morale will help new staff quickly assimilate into the practice and keep the momentum going.
Editor's Note: To learn more about the impact of team effectiveness on practice production, attend one of Dr. Levin’s upcoming seminars. Pick a convenient date and location at www.levingroup.com/gpseminar. You can also sign up for an email Tip of the Day at www.levingroup.com/tipoftheday.