Prioritizing – Maybe the Most Valuable Skill of All


It’s really NOT about multitasking

Many of my clients, when asked about skill sets and behavioral style, tell me what they hope to find in job candidates. One thing they will say often is that they really need individuals who are able to multitask. This seems to be the attribute that is most valued for the hiring dentist and has always been a recurring request.
Truthfully, studies have proven that multitasking is not possible from a literal standpoint. Our minds can only process one thought at a time, although we are able to switch from one to another very rapidly. Rather than hoping to find someone who can “multitask”, I look for those who are able to prioritize, whether it be in everyday conversations with fellow team members, patients, or simply having the ability to quickly identify the most logical order of things based on importance. These people tend to be visionaries who can see beyond the “clutter” of daily activity, and are able to quickly assess what should be accomplished in what order.
When we look at running a successful business we need to prioritize the order of things to assure the most effective use of time and resources.
As an example; when might be the best time to develop and launch a marketing campaign? Some would believe that anytime we feel the business is in need of additional patients and growth would be appropriate. I understand the need for marketing, although I believe in an “inside/out” philosophy. In other words, it’s internal marketing that needs to be polished up first before we even begin to think about increasing the patient base from external sources.
• What if the team you have in place is not prepared to welcome the newly acquired patients?
• What if you are short-handed, lacking team members to sufficiently handle the possible active influx of new patients?
• What if you haven’t developed systems or proper protocols to track those that you are marketing?
• What good is it to bring in new patients and find that you can’t maintain them?
• What if you do get some good response and begin to gather a lot of new patients on the phone and hopefully through the doors, but you’re not prepared to serve them and the bottom falls out?
Can you see how valuable proper prioritizing is here? You’ve spent money and time and possibly taken some of your team away from their daily responsibilities just to put their energy into the marketing process only to find that you were not totally prepared to bring in and welcome new patients properly.
Let’s talk about your business team and their need for prioritizing acumen. Imagine that you are having a particularly busy day and the phones are ringing, patients are coming up to the business office to be dismissed, the door to the reception area is opening and closing every few minutes with patients coming and going.
How might the administrative team prioritize all of this activity? Do they quickly recognize what they need to do first? Sometimes thinking fast on one’s feet is very challenging when lots of things occur at once.
Then there’s the clinical team and the quick decisions they need to make almost daily. There’s the patient that came in 5 minutes late, the patient who has been waiting to have the doctor check the dry socket they developed after yesterday’s extraction, and Mrs. Snodgrass who vowed that if she had to wait longer than 15 minutes for her appointment she was going to take her records and her family elsewhere.
In hygiene, the patient that was scheduled for a standard 1110 adult prophy was actually a quad scale requiring 1 ½ hours of chair time when she has only an hour reserved. This particular patient has been hard to get in the system since her schedule is a busy one with little time available. Then there is the special needs patient who is clearly sharing her anxiety with the other patients in the reception area and along with everything else, the doctor is behind schedule to check the hygiene patient waiting in the chair.
Handling these scenarios (which do occur all the time) is far more important than the ability to multitask. I believe that many tend to confuse the two. Multitasking is not a “talent”, but the really valuable ability is to think fast on our feet and come up with solutions that are acceptable and productive.