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.

One Man’s Treasure

What might not be the best employee for one dentist, might be perfect for another

It’s time to seek a new employee. You go through the necessary “drill” to help you locate as many viable, appropriate candidates as you can. You narrow the field down to 3, the two then the one remaining that appears to be a good fit for your practice. You see a name on her resume that is very familiar to you, and upon further research you remember where you heard the name. He was a fellow dental school student and although you haven’t seen or spoken to him in years, you take the time to track him down.

Without first asking permission of the potential employee (which should never be done) you call to speak with him about the candidate you are considering. “Oh no”, says your old friend, “stay clear of her.” Wow, you think to yourself–this is a pretty strong statement. You’ve actually completed much of your hiring process and find this hard to believe.

Every instruction has been followed perfectly. She is well spoken and professional, had a long history in the two other practices where she worked during her career and was legitimately interested in working in your practice and oh—the team loved her! No doubt the once statement from the past contemporary caused you to stop dead in your tracks. You couldn’t help but wonder that maybe she isn’t all that you thought she was.

In light of the fact that you believed she could be the perfect employee for your practice and you were excited and prepared to continue the process, you still choose to move on and continue to interview others. Unfortunately, no one even came close to this particular candidate, and what was also quite interesting is that as she continued to interview, she too found that no practice or employer compared to this one.

With all the due diligence conducted successfully (the background check and drug testing came back clean as a whistle) the hiring dentist chose to pass on this person and continue to seek additional candidates. Days went by and then it became weeks. Neither one (the employer or the job candidate) were able to find another situation that felt quite as “right”. The frustration level was rising for both of them not being able to find a better option.

I am then approached by the employer/dentist who asked me for help and advice. My advice was this: there are so many reasons why one sees an employee as a great asset when someone else may not.

It could be as innocent as the employee being quiet by nature when the last employer preferred a gregarious and outgoing behavioral style.

What if another employee was threatened by the advanced skill sets of the employee in question?

Another common problem is the jealousy issue—not to generalize, but women can often be this way.

Nonetheless, are these reasons for you to move on? Whether they are or are not, I always advise my clients to continue to conduct “your” screening in “your” way and make a decision based on “your” specific situation. Take it slowly, hire gradually, make certain this candidate is a good fit for you in spite of what someone else is feeling more on a “personal level” than a “professional level”.

Granted, if the concerns have to do with performance or ethical issues, then there would be no reason to conduct additional due diligence. It’s these rare occasions that would be more legitimate cause to warrant some reservations on your part.

I’m not so sure I’m happy with this

Many recent changes in business, politics and life in general

Perhaps my age is showing and if this is the case I’m going to say “I’m happy that it is!”

I’ve been on this planet longer than most of my professional peers, and I shake my head almost daily. I honestly never remember such anger and downright hate that is constantly circulating in every aspect of our world. From the mass shootings to the bullying, and from our government that has become nothing short of a nightmare to my beloved dental profession, the anger is palpable and quite frankly it scares me to death.

Will we ever recover from all of this? I have come to the sad realization that I will never live to see the world the way it was when I was a child over 60 years ago. It’s difficult for me to wrap my head around the way I see my dental professionals treat each other; and more so just the “style” in which many choose to communicate with each other.

The foul language, rudeness, the ungrateful way they react to those who help and support their causes and then turn on a dime, not only forgetting what they’ve been given, but not hesitating for a minute to turn and jump on those who have given their time freely for no other reason than to be generous simply because they care.

We all work hard supporting our cause, and I am no different. But I too have been terribly disappointed by many for whom I have stopped dead in my tracks to offer them help and support when I’m asked for it, only to find that I am being chastised unnecessarily (often with borderline disreputable and questionable business practices).

There are days like today when I feel I don’t belong in the business I’ve devoted 50+ years of my life to. I’ve been patient trying to break through the anger and unreasonable behavior of my peers, and in

particular the “newbies” that are just breaking into a business that I love and respect.

Thank goodness there are still those that have deep appreciation for our honorable profession and take great pride in being a part of it. To you I say, “Thank you!!” I would also have to ask “Where have all the sincere, passionate dental professionals gone?”

The Hiring and Integration Process for New Hires is Never Easy

Try this approach if you want to reduce stress

The ongoing dialog on dental related social media pages regarding “Working Interviews” has gotten the best of me. I’m not sure how well-received I’ll be or if anyone will even pay attention, but I’m passionate about this and feel as though the banter and confusion regarding this event (or better yet, let’s refer to it as the extension of the interview process) is an area I’ve been involved in more than most.

I won’t bore anyone with the details, but it should suffice to say that I have been coaching and supporting dentists and the owners of my dental placement agency franchises for over 20 years. I did sell the original prototype and all rights to the franchise licenses many years ago, but continue to stay involved in this area of dental practice management.

For starters, I much prefer to call this segment of the hiring process “The Skills Assessment”. I did away with the term “Working Interview” over 15 years ago when I realized that it was not a term I felt comfortable using, nor did it describe that part of the process in the right light.

I would like to take this from the very beginning, and I mean “VERY”. Let’s first talk about the true purpose of a Skill Assessment and how it applies to both the perspective employer/owner and perspective employee.

The purpose of this event is for BOTH the potential employer and potential employee to assess whether or not both parties are compatible. This means it should be as equal an evaluation as possible. There should be structure in place and in writing for each position that is being evaluated.

The owner/employer should NOT ignore this individual during the time they are being evaluated. What good is it if the hiring person (always with owner/doctor) has not been able to effectively view the skill sets, temperament, professionalism and any other areas that need to be assessed.

As I begin to walk everyone through this segment of the hiring process as I have been coaching it for my client/dentists for years, I will start with the basics and also offer some food for thought.

Let me first be very clear that I do not endorse a traditional on-the-job “working interview”, as my hope is to eventually prove that what has been in place for years is simply not working. I felt I needed to address some of the questions and concerns that have been posted regarding “Working Interviews.” My intension is to slowly offer some road-tested and proven advice on changing this particular event. This will eliminate many of the challenges and legalities, along with offering some guidance to set the final decision for the job seeker in order to make a smart and educated decision to accept the position.

And for the employer, I am proposing a thorough, concise and less “vague” way of evaluating a particular position. Hence, with more structured processes in place the debiliatating turnover rate in our profession will hopefully be considerably reduced. I can tell you, I’ve witnessed it with my clients since I’ve been guiding them through my systems, but there are thousands that I never had the opportunity to reach.

Facts to Keep in Mind

The hiring process is “driven” and managed exclusively by the doctor/owner/employer seeking the employee to ultimately hire.

It is their responsibility to have everything spelled out and prepared to oversee the hiring process with a purpose, clarity, transparency and re-usable systems.

This means “they” should be prepared with a thorough definition of what the position entails (and not simply a title), a printout of skill sets that are required initially including a comprehensive Job Description Outline. Also, the days of the week and hours are required to fill this position, a pre-determined amount of compensation for the (onsite, in-person) Skill Assessment that is set at a fair wage for the particular position for which the candidate is being evaluated.

When No One is Perfect Enough

Demanding perfection can be a fool’s pursuit

Seeking an additional dental professional for hire is not an easy process, but what makes it even more challenging is integrating a new team member to join a team of very long-term employees.  It’s the equivalent of becoming a part of a tight, close knit family or joining a sorority and having to watch your p’s and q’s to simply gain acceptance.  Breaking through and being welcomed unconditionally can be a struggle for the candidates vying for a spot within a group that has moved together (with locked elbows) for years.

It’s interesting how critical and analytical a group can get when it comes to admitting a new team member to a long tenured team. “She doesn’t laugh at our jokes” says one. “She doesn’t want to eat lunch with us.” Says another. “I don’t think she gets us.”

The truth is, she will have some hills to climb since she doesn’t have the track record that the rest of you have accumulated over time.  It will be another learning curve for her until she understands the little innuendos that have floated around the office for years.  She won’t know that doctor absolutely despises mayonnaise and that Mary at the front desk lost her husband recently, so we are all careful as to not bring up anything that might remind her of his passing.

Understandably this new hire has her work cut out for her.  Not only will she need to learn new systems and new protocols, but she will also need to relate to the “lay of the land” and be adept at navigating through the little “teases” and inside jokes. These added “skills” are typically what come when one joins a practice of long-standing employees.  I find this interesting and these dynamics are only present in practices with extended team longevity.  It’s an additional component that does not exist in practices will less team commitment and short-term employees, but it’s an important segment for the team to learn to overcome for if they can’t get past these out of the ordinary requirements they will find it extremely difficult to ever bring in new team members.

It’s fascinating to me in that they will sacrifice the extra help in lieu of chugging that much harder to make it through each day.  Come on team members, give that well-trained, kind, considerate, hard-working and very worthy job candidate a chance.  Remember, at one time you were the new kid on the block and also had to learn the “inner circle” back stories too.