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.

Playing Nicely in the Sandbox

Bullying can happen at any age

My earliest recollection of naughty playground behavior goes way back, to the days of elementary school. Once lunch was complete and our places cleaned, we all went out to the playground to mix and mingle until the bell rang that it was time for us to come back into our classrooms. This day, which I can remember quite clearly, there were lots of secretive “girl” conversations out on the playground, lots of buzzing about something. Turns out that two gals were handing out birthday party invitations both of which happened to be on the same day starting just a couple of hours apart.

I can clearly remember the word “disinvited”, was this even a word I wondered? Nonetheless this is basically what precipitated the chatter within the group. The two birthday girls were bantering back and forth as to which of them was going to change the date, neither would budge. This is when the subject regarding “disinvited” began to circulate. “If you choose her party over mine, I will disinvite you and you will NEVER ever be invited to anything I have in the future”, said one to the other. Hearing this the other classmate made the same announcement and the conversation began to escalate. I can’t recall all the details from here, but my mother who has always been the quintessential diplomat said, “Debbie, it’s easy. You will go to one party for half the time and the other for the other half of the time. The solution made total sense to me and I remember feeling the relief since even at that young age, I didn’t do well with conflicts.

Now looking back as an adult, I can see that each of my classmates were fighting to be the one recognized. Understandably at 8 or 10 they were not able to logically come up with a reasonable arrangement to appease both girls at the time. I was so grateful that my mother offered me a perfect solution to keep both girls as friends. Fast forwarding to today and here I am 60 years later continuing to see similar situations like this one occurring in my adult life. Adults challenging adults to be the top dog. Bullying on Facebook and not by kids, but by intelligent business professionals. Often, I read about plagiarism and stealing systems and protocols. Employers not giving employees the benefit of support when they are underperforming, helping them to make the changes required to meet the goals of their positions. Hearing their challenges and compassionately offering them the

help they may require. Then there are the employees, working just hard enough so that they can fly under the radar without being noticed. They could be taking advantage of CE meetings and seminars just so that they are able to get away, eat in nice restaurants and interface with fun and influential people. They have no interest in supporting your practice or have any interest in bringing some of new skills learned back with them. It’s more about serving their needs and enhancing their own interests.

Back then in grade school I learned that there are solutions that can be applied so that no one loses. I believe that today as adults we need to get back to old ways of working together. Why must so many feel that unless it helps to self-promote or get themselves noticed, they will simply take advantage of anything that benefits them and continue to step on or whoever/ whatever it takes to get them to the top!

What I Learned on the Court Had Nothing to do With Tennis

We never know where or when a valuable lesson can be learned

This weekend I got to meet one of the newest pros at Omni Golf and Tennis Club here in Tucson where Russ and I have been members. Although we are both busy with our professional lives, we make sure to get on the court no matter what may be happening to hit tennis balls once or twice a week. We heard there was a new pro–a true pro–one that was rated 300th in the world during his active participation on the circuit. While this might not sound like a great accomplishment to those non-tennis enthusiasts, to people who have actively played and/or followed the sport, I can tell you that it is an amazing feat considering the sheer number of great tennis players on the planet.

Jonathan Igbinovia is a remarkable 38-year-old who spent a bit of time with Russ and I after we finished a round of cross-court drills this weekend. He was on the court next to us coaching an up-and-coming local 20-year-old on backhands and serves. Watching Jonathan’s form and mechanics was akin to watching a Bolshoi Ballet, mesmerizing for both Russ and me. We were awestruck and could hardly keep our eyes on our own court. We hit for about an hour with occasional stops to grab a quick sip of water. At the end of our drills, we walked off as Jonathan and his student did.

The resident pro. Tom, who has been a friend of ours for years introduced us all. In Russ’ usual teasing fashion, he asked Jonathan if he thought it was too late to get me prepared to play competitively at his level. Of course, Jonathan was a gentleman and with a bit of a smile said, “it’s never too late.” With this a conversation ensued between us and I had the opportunity to hear his story. And what a story it is!

Born in a small village in Nigeria, he had the opportunity to view professional tennis on TV at a young age. He was fascinated by the “beauty” of the game as he put it, felt certain he could learn strictly by watching and emulating every motion, every position and every step they made. Apparently, he is someone that has an uncanny ability to perfectly emulate what he observed.

Before he knew it, he was playing on the very rustic tennis courts in his small village, shoeless yet playing for hours. Without even one formal lesson of any kind, he was asked to “play up” as we call it. Which means playing stronger, older, more experienced opponents. He practiced, practiced, and practiced some more, always watching the players he so wanted to replicate.

Before too long, he was approached by people who recognized and appreciated the natural talent he possessed. These enthusiasts supplied him with the proper shoes, rackets and a pipeline to connect with those that could promote and enhance the gift that he was given and to support his journey. By age 13, and without one lesson or one minute of formal training, he advanced to the number one ranked junior in South Africa, where he had moved to be mentored by his sponsors.

He’s played against the Nadals and Federers of the world and traveled everywhere, places he had only dreamed of. I could have listened to Jonathan all day, as it wasn’t just his captivating accent, but his gracious, appreciative and humble style that was so appealing. He now coaches the young adults here in Tucson that have aspired to make it further than local tournaments.

Jonathan began to share his thoughts on how he teaches and what he teaches, and from what we heard, neither are taught in the traditional way. He said, “Don’t try to do too much at once, rather focus on no more than three things at a time.” I can relate to this, for even after playing for the past 40 + years I still talk myself through every stroke and yet when I play a match or when I don’t try to focus on everything, I tend to get better results.

Jonathan asked me what I did for a living, and as I started to share it with him, something hit me. The methods he applied and the mindset he shared gave me some food for thought. His success came from watching closely, and concentration on trying to make it less complicated. He took his time, although clearly investing hours and hours in learning and perfecting things, he didn’t “muddy the waters” by trying to assimilate too much at once. It suddenly hit me that this is very much the same way I have coached and encouraged my clients to improve their skills. Listen to those who have been successful and work hard to mirror and duplicate the things that have worked well for them.

“Copy genius”, but don’t try to take on too much too fast. His words were words of wisdom that would apply to anything we are desperate to master.