Team Mutiny is Nothing to Take Lightly

Losing several team members in a short amount of time is probably NOT a coincidence

Losing employees is a part of doing business, but receiving resignation notices from several team members a few weeks apart is a “sign”.

Granted, things happen. Spouses/significant others are transferred, employees retire, team members want to work closer to home, and yes, there are those that know they are just not a fit or are simply not happy.  But when 2 or 3 employees give their notice over the course of a few weeks or a month you need to know this is not coincidental and is something to look at and explore.

There is a catalyst that is causing this “chain” of events, and though it may be difficult to look at and uncover the reason this is happening, it’s important that the employer closely review why they appear to be dropping like flies.  If this syndrome is not addressed I must sadly tell you that it will happen again. 

There are several areas to investigate and some deep introspective thoughts that must occur in order to stop the bleeding.  This is not an easy thing to do, but without properly addressing the problem and identifying the catalyst, it will unfortunately be but a matter of time before it happens again.

How are your leadership skills? How are your communication skills? Do you support an “open door” policy with your team members when it comes to voicing their opinions and concerns? Do you recognize their contributions to the practice (as well as watch for those that tend to take advantage and lean on others whenever they can)? Is the practice environment one that is democratic with mutual respect all around? 

And what about your team?  Do you feel that they work well and in harmony with each another or do you see where one team member is bullying the others even if it appears to be minimal from your vantage point? When you look at your team objectively can you see where one team member is more assertive than the rest? And let’s be totally honest and up-front—are YOU afraid of this person to some degree, thus letting a lot of the negative behavior slide?

There have been many times when I can see this occurring within a practice and the client/dentist–although very much aware of this–excuses poor behavior just so that they don’t have to replace this person and go through the hassle, or they fear that they will sabotage the business if they are dismissed so they simply turn the other cheek rather than to address the issue.

So, if you have ever experienced a mutiny in your practice, please don’t look at this as a minor problem and simply replace those that have chosen to walk and not look back.  You might say, “I just located all the wrong people” and in some cases one or two bad apples can slip in, particularly if you are not managing the team properly. 

However, the odds of multiple poor hires are very slim and cannot be attributed to poor interviewing protocols, although on the rare occasion it can happen.  Check your practice climate, evaluate it honestly along with the culture you have created. Then self-examine your short-comings as you openly study your existing team members.

I’m a very positive thinker and tend to look at the bright side. Nonetheless, if you can relate to this scenario you need to be realistic and course correct accordingly. 

 

Could it be Time to Redesign and Rebuild Job Descriptions?

Change for changing times

Have you noticed the gradual change that is occurring within the culture and the “flavor” of  dental practices today?

For years a list of the basic duties for each of the major dental positions has always been more than adequate, and the basic skill sets were enough to get the job done.  Today, with the influx of new technology and new clinical discoveries we are becoming more and more aware of the need to not only attract higher talent from our hiring pools, but once they are hired, onboarding and team maintenance is starting to looking a lot different.  

Finding strong candidates can be difficult, but as I always say, “They are there. You just need to understand how to attract and find them”. And when you do, it’s the integration, training and ongoing support that will complete the circle. You see, simply bringing them into the fold is far from finding that perfect hire. It doesn’t stop here.

We need to “up our game” so that we meet the changes that are occurring within the style of the practice.

I’m looking at this as “Designer Job Descriptions”. What I mean by this is what has worked in the past is not necessarily going to be effective within our current climate. Practices are starting to make major shifts in the way they operate today. Creativity when it comes to building a list of responsibilities has become an even more important segment of the hiring process.  The need for out-of-the-box thinking is something employers should be seriously considering and evaluating today.  The old stand-by job descriptions that worked in the past will probably not make it now.  

Some of the interpersonal traits that became much of the driving force when it came to locating the best hires should probably be revisited. Of course, the basics never change—honesty, integrity, loyalty, professionalism, etc.  It’s just that now we need to strongly consider those that are willing to shift gears, roll with the punches and not roll with their eyes.

They must be willing to listen and “try” to incorporate new systems and protocols as they find their way into the practice culture. The advancements we are seeing within the dental practice is in fast-track mode and every area of the practice is beginning to feel the affects.  We should no longer expect that the basic bullet point list of job descriptions and responsibilities will continue to suffice in this new world of dentistry.

It’s time to assemble and then align a team that is coming from the same place as the trajectory of the practice. 

With the surge of sleep medicine, state-of-the-art technology on both the business and clinical side of the practice (along with internal and external marketing strategies), it is necessary to build a team that can stay committed and educated with each and every new addition—flexibility at its best!!  

Look for more posts on this subject…

What is Your Price Tag?

Evaluation of a “Service Role”

If you were asked to value yourself–actually produce a price tag to hang from your wrist–what would it say? And by the way, how would you determine what a “fair” market price might be when it comes to how much an employer might pay for you?

Establishing a price tag for an inanimate object is definitely much easier than ascertaining a number for services rendered by a thinking, breathing, living human being. Nonetheless, many of us are hired based on the services we provide and the knowledge we have worked hard to acquire that can then be shared and transferred to better support the skillsets and proficiencies in others.

Is it tenure that we measure? Is it how many events we have publicly attended? Is it who we hang out with and rub elbows with? Is it the articles we have written and the presentations we have given?

I’d say all of this contributes to our perceived “worth”. Familiarity contributes to a big part of this, but what might really be the catalyst that enables a realistic price to be put on one’s services? What does your track record look like? Have you been a trend-setter, a pioneer or are you “beefing” up areas that others have already explored? Have you discovered a niche–something that might be virtually untapped by others that you yourself have pioneered through trial and error. Have you done the “dirty work” that has paved a path for others to follow? And even more valuable, have you saved others from a possible failure or “wrong-turn”?

Can you physically show successes you have been instrumental in attaining in black and white? Is just stating “this is what I do” truly enough to justify the price tag you command? See if this is something you can relate to:

Passion vs. Position

Ethics vs. Ego

Innovator vs. Imitator

When the product is “YOU”, there are no discounts.

Think You Can Juggle? Think Again.

 

How much can one person accomplish and manage to do everything well? Multi-tasking can, in a literal sense, be considered a misnomer in that we can technically only process one thought at a given time. Accordingly, those that believe they can simultaneously perform a number of tasks with equal efficiency are basically deceiving themselves.

The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and starting on the first one.

Mark Twain

I learned a long time ago that I must budget my time wisely, prioritize my lists and not take on too much on at once. Full disclosure–learning did not come naturally to me so making sure I was disciplined and structured was something I needed to pay close attention to since I started school.

Recently I found myself a little more “over-extended” with my workload than usual. I thought for sure that I could manage and balance things well, but quickly saw things starting to “slip”. I continued to utilize my online calendar and reminders on my phone, but even my support rituals were not helping me to manage all that I agreed to undertake. Granted, this is me and I’m sure many of you can handle perhaps more than I am able to effectively. But in reality, I suspect that some tasks have to suffer for others that juggle too much as well. My guess is that they don’t let things get to them as much as I do, so they just take things on until the bottom falls out.

I don’t like to be late, not even a minute. I get upset with myself when I find I have to ask a colleague for an extension on a deadline. And I really begin to lose sleep when I feel as though a presentation I worked on is not quite where I want it to be with little time to make adjustments.

For those of you that regularly juggle both your personal and professional lives and rarely (if ever) say no to a new project, do you feel that you cover everything successfully? Do you ever find yourselves scrambling to pull responsibilities, dead-lines, phone calls and appointments together without messing up or dropping the ball? I’m sure for some of you, there are friends and relatives that know that they

can count on you for always being late or forgetting a lunch or business date. What about events like birthdays and anniversaries? I admit that I’ve been known to get very creative with those who are habitually late.

Why is it that some people feel that if they excel in one area that they probably can “knock it out of the park” with many other things as well? How many areas of expertise can one person manage without failing, or worse, not being able to pay attention to such a degree that they might be compromising their reputation?

I say stick to what you know best and cultivate your knowledge. Become an authority on the subject in which you have invested most of your time and effort. Pay attention to the successes that have been achieved from your guidance and listen to those that you have influenced and made a difference for.

Don’t try to be everything to everybody. You will burn out way too fast.

It’s not Simply Handing over the Keys

The transfer of new team members to a new practice takes some planning

Practices are bought and sold all the time, and we know that anyone who has either been the seller or purchaser can attest to the fact that there is a lot to accomplish to complete the transition. But the area that tends to be the most difficult for both sides in the transfer is the team.

In the best-case scenario, the present team members all stay where they are and basically move on with the new owner/dentist ready to adjust to new systems, materials–just about everything. The vision for the practice will no doubt change as the new owner looks forward to putting his/her own brand on things, and frankly from what I have experienced over the years, most are excited to install their new state of the art “toys” and bring in new methodology, systems and procedures.

While some team members manage well with the change in command, others will choose to leave for numerous reasons. One of the very first things that the current team members begin to worry about almost before anything else is an adjustment in their wages.

“The new young dentist is not going to be able to afford me”, says the hygienist of 20 years.”

“Are we still going to get our medical benefits?”

“Will we now be working on Saturdays and perhaps starting earlier and ending later?”

While all these concerns are very real and many do occur, the only way everyone can move on in the healthiest and most respectful and expeditious manner is for both the outgoing and incoming dentists to agree that they must be totally honest and transparent. As soon as they are able to share the details they must plan to open up to the team.

Nine times out of ten the new incoming dentist prays that the entire team stays together. After all, the patients know them, so it’s a strong piece of congruency. The current employees know the systems, keeping the necessity for training to a minimum, and there is also an element of security there for the new dentist. Not to mention that it will not be necessary to go through the arduous hassle of hiring personnel. A huge load off one’s mind!

While this arrangement is probably ideal for the new dentist, the established team may be thinking differently. Some, upon hearing the news immediately give notice, whereas others will agree to give it some time, while there are others that might announce “unless everything stays exactly the same, I’m out of here”.

While this transfer of ownership/leadership can be stressful, it really doesn’t have to be. The missing link to this situation is that in almost every case the announcement is made to the team with very little information, hardly even eliciting a discussion. There is no dialog as to how things will proceed, but rather just the bare minimum of facts. Very little detail is offered, if any at all. Therefore, the passing of the baton can easily take a miserable tumble.

It doesn’t have to go this way. Why and how you might ask?

It’s once again about communication. As soon as it is feasible, sit the team down with both the incoming and outgoing dentists. The outgoing dentist introduces the new boss, fills everyone in on perhaps how they met and why he/she was the best person (in their mind) to take over the practice. The new dentist then shares his/her vision, how they see things moving forward, what changes will be made, what things may never change and what may totally change down the road.

They will be honest and open and completely transparent about everything from changes in salaries, to days and hours, any cultural changes to the feel of the practice and anything else they may need to know or should ask about.

Once the group is satisfied with the information they have gathered they are then told that they should take a week (or other pre-set time frame) and ask that they think about their positions and whether they want to stay or move on. Be very sincere when you let them know that whatever they decide to do there would be no hard feelings, but that it is best for everyone and the practice to know what the team members are thinking prior to getting totally entrenched within the new practice with the new leader.

Out in the open is the ONLY way to handle this. Everyone can move on in a healthy manner with no hard feelings and mutual respect rather than everyone trying to make things fit.

The outgoing team members can be offered an arrangement whereby they agree to train and possibly their replacement in exchange for giving them some time off to conduct interviews for their new jobs. This is done by agreement, in writing, with clearly defined timelines and specific compensation arrangements.

With it all, we do know that unfortunately there will be those that leave without a smile on their face, which unfortunately can’t be avoided. Better to know now rather than later so that everyone can develop a game plan together, making it a win/win for all.

 

 

When You Come to a Roadblock

How long do you try before you realize it’s simply time to give up

As children we are told to “try”, “don’t give up”, and “just keep on trying”. I know I heard this growing up and I’m certain that most of you heard this as well. As a result of these words, it takes me time to finally put my hands up and announce, “I just can’t make this work!” It could be as simple as my throwing up my hands during dinner preparation to state– “I have tried to open this jar for the past 5 minutes or so and my hands are red from trying, so I’m just going to have to give up and go to other ingredient alternative for my dish.”

The same applies to working hard at educating patients to understand the importance of flossing, maintaining a healthy mouth or simply being on time for their scheduled appointments. How many times do we have to have these discussions and how many different ways do we need to try and get our points across?

“When will others get it?” The answer is, in many cases it just will never happen. Again, for many of us (present company included) it’s an upsetting reality check to realize that our passion, our patience, our dedication and our sincerity is just not getting across—we just can’t break through.

It’s quite common for me to hear these things from fellow colleagues who contact me for guidance and advice when it comes to dealing with this very subject. It’s usually regarding the team members that are resistant to even “listening” to suggestions, much less agreeing wholeheartedly to make the changes that are recommended.

Getting stuck and receiving “push-back” is very common and for the most part when a client or team member offers nothing more than “ok’s” and “yes’s” you can probably assume that they will not agree to making any changes. Now as the old adage goes, “for every action there is a re-action”, which to me is where all the non-compliance begins. When you offer your advice, does your doctor agree with your suggestions? Does he/she support the direction you want to take? And is the team totally aware of the fact that the doctor is in total agreement to the change or changes that you are diligently working on correcting?

If the doctor/leader does not support the changes that are suggested by an advisor/coach or consultant, then you can rest assured the team will never buy into anything. I’ve said many times “just enrolling someone to help with team or practice management isn’t going to make everything right.” You must get total

support from the practice leader or you will continually be hitting the wall. How long do you want to pursue this exercise when you know after time that the owner/employer is just not going to bend at any cost?

Having experienced these types of frustrating and psychologically daunting situations over my 5 decades in the dental profession, I have come to use them as both a learning experience, and as an extra incentive to strive for success. And in the end, it has served to make my successes even more rewarding.

She Did It!

Taking responsibility and honoring our mistakes

Why is it that some people just cannot admit that they have been wrong or have made a mistake? 

We see this type of behavior all the time within dental practices.  Clinical team members blaming the cleaning service for broken equipment. An Administrative employee accusing the patient of not informing the front desk of an insurance carrier change, when in fact it was never adjusted in the system.  Even the doctor can be guilty of this when they blame an ill-fitting crown based on the incompetence of the lab. 

Why is it so difficult to recognize and honor our mistakes?  Is it easier to throw someone else under the bus than to stand up and admit to a mistake and fess up to the fact that it happens to all of us? 

Granted, mistakes on a consistent basis or making the same mistakes time and time again is a significant cause for concern, but on occasion we all “slip up”, is a sign that we are all human.

How might we correct this?  What can we do as a team to ensure that we take total responsibility for our own actions?

I believe that we should revert to the “elephant in the living room” concept. This implies that we all know it’s an issue, yet it is never addressed properly so it becomes an ongoing situation.  As a group we need to publicly give each other permission to not only make a mistake now and then, but to admit it and claim it.  Passing the blame to someone else or even more upsetting, passing the blame on to another team member, is downright unacceptable. 

Perhaps this is a character flaw which almost relates to a sign of immaturity and insecurity.  As kids we never wanted to be punished for mistakes that we made since we hated for our parents to be angry with us, possibly causing us to lose some privileges like our allowance or some freedoms.  As adults we don’t want to have to answer to a disappointed employer, fellow team member, or patient, possibly losing respect and credibility.  This can be quite hurtful to many of us in the dental profession and I include myself.

Once the “playing field” and team rules are spelled out with everyone coming from the same place with the same standards, much of this petty and unnecessary dynamic should diminish greatly.