Ah, the cell phone!
How did we ever manage without it?
Well, we did for hundreds of years and many lived to talk about it.
One of the many frustrations that I hear from clients is the “relationship” their team members have to their phones. My clients share: “They need them by their side all day long” or “The employees with children are always insisting that it is imperative for them to have access to their phones in the event of an emergency” or “I only use my phone during breaks and during lunch” is the promise of many.
But how many team members are truly disciplined enough to restrict their phone usage when there are no firm cell usage practice rules?
How did we ever exist without cell phones back in the 60’s or 70’s? How did we care for our families, check in with our spouses, learn that our mother needed an emergency appendectomy?
They called the office and asked to be connected to you either immediately or if it wasn’t necessarily a critical situation, then as soon as you, the employee, had an opportunity to call them back. This is how it was accomplished during the pre-cell phone era.
While some employers have successfully managed to develop these office protocols, there are still many that have lost control and subsequently the ability to restrict cell phone usage. The Morning Huddle Phone Protocol is one that I endorse and is observed in many practices. This requires relinquishing all cell phones into one common location, away from the business of the day including all patient interaction. And would you believe that the teams that follow these
guidelines manage very well. No children are neglected, no parents or husbands stress due to not being able to get a message to you at work, and yet no emergency calls go unanswered.
This is managed very simply. All it takes is a phone call to the office with the caller either leaving a detailed message for the recipient of the call, or perhaps the timing is such that the person who is meant to receive the call happens to answer it as it comes in. Nonetheless, this is a much more efficient way to manage calls as well as assuring that many more messages get to the right person immediately. After all it’s highly unlikely that one can carry a phone around in their pocket and continue to be an effective employee.
Let’s face it, even on vibrate the timing to take the call must be perfect. It’s difficult to answer a cell phone during a procedure, while checking out patients, answering the business line or simply when trying to stay on schedule.
I know we have all been on fast-track since technology has played a big role in our lives, but I do believe that there are some situations where we need to allow technology to take a back seat and instill old values and go back to simpler times.
A business practice that seems to be disappearing
“Transparency” is a word we are hearing more and more today, whether it be related to politics, everyday life or in business. Along with transparency, I like to include good old-fashioned healthy communication and valuable exchange of ideas. Technology has enabled us to communicate in several additional formats that were not available to us as recently as 20 years ago. Emails and texts are a lot more convenient and quicker than face-to-face communication and even voice-to-voice interaction is becoming an archaic form of interaction. I feel this has added an additional layer of stress to the current climate of dental team development/maintenance.
From my vantage point I have observed a considerable amount of non-transparency and in some cases, avoidance of sharing and addressing issues that were once approached via reasonable and considerate personal interaction. There appears to be some avoidance of sharing information to eliminate any form of possible confrontation. Texting a message from an employee to an employer that they will not be in today. Really? Or even worse, texting a message to an employer that they will not be back to work–ever! The convenience of non-confrontational interaction appears to be more and more widespread and this includes employers as well. Although I have never been comfortable supporting the dismissal of an employee in a very clandestine manner, I used to feel that in many cases there were no choices but to handle things on the QT. I’ll be totally transparent to admit that in the past I felt that in some instances there were not many options to manage the replacement of an employee unless it was handled secretly. Today I have come to realize that this difficult business decision can be approached differently.
There is nothing more stressful to an employee to learn that their employer is secretly looking to replace them. The release of this information can show up in numerous ways as many of us have been on either side of the process.
Quite frankly, over the years I’ve had a change of heart and no longer support nor understand why it must be done in this fashion. Before the proverbial rug is pulled out from under someone, initially I have always encouraged the need to share the performance concerns with the employee, along with giving them the tools and the opportunity to correct their shortcomings. If the necessity for dismissal stems from disciplinary reasons that although once addressed are not resolved, then this would be due cause to sever the business relationship as well. Nonetheless, secretive measures are almost never the way to go and I now feel strongly that there are better ways to address this.
My proposal is to apply some transparency, open healthy communication, and an approach of “honesty first” prior to cautiously getting the word out that you are seeking a replacement for a current employee. If the attempts of cross-correction doesn’t appear to resolve the issue at hand, then a one-on-one conversation regarding the need for both parties to move on in a healthy, respectful manner might be in order.
I will often hear a client voicing their concerns about sabotaging the practice, abusing other team members, or just downright leaving the practice. Truthfully, I have found that transparency and honesty does make a tremendous difference. There is suddenly a level of respect that flows from the employee in question, an appreciation for the openness and the fact that they were shown respect for an uncomfortable situation.
That’s not to say that they still might leave based on being disappointed or hurt, but the employer can’t ever feel as though they didn’t try their best to make a difficult situation as comfortable as possible. As
for the existing employees, it sends a message of “our employer tried his/her best and handled things as fairly as possible”.
We tend to forget the effect that this all has on the valuable employees that are excellent performers but that could possibly fear for their jobs.
Preparing for appropriate compensation
One of the topics that I see recurring on a regular basis in many social media forums is that of dental team compensation. It’s a subject that seems to show up more often than any other.
Questions such as “what do you pay your dental assistant?” to “when do you give increases?” While these inquiries are important, I find that the one major addition to the hiring process is simply going back to an area that should be obvious–yet so many simply skip it. Few prepare for this, the most important facet of the hiring process.
How many are aware of their market?
The range of salaries for the various positions?
How many have even an idea as to how much the position they are wanting to fill is worth?
I have some concrete protocols in place for my clients, but before we can even move forward with the process, I ask that they not only check their budget, but also conduct some due diligence related to their specific market. I’m not sure how we all drifted off from these very basic standard guidelines, but somehow we often count on the job candidate to set the standards.
Compensation based on what the job candidate made in their past position, what they “want” to make or what they “need” to make is not only a completely illogical approach, but one that will typically result in major problems down the road.
In preparation for hire, consider some valuable diligence so that YOU set the stage.
What’s your budget?
What does the job entail?
Are they the only business office employee, clinical assistant or hygienist in the practice? Working alone can require more responsibilities and could affect salary.
Are there specific certifications required?
Are you asking this employee to participate out of the traditional 8-5 4 day/week schedule? Yes, this can warrant additional compensation in some cases.
I work with my clients on touching many points prior to making the final hire, but if you consider applying one of the above parameters, I can assure you that you will be ahead of the curve. Heck, you may even find that you are much more successful onboarding new employees and experience a lot less costly turnover.
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.
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.
Who Seems to Fear it More, the Clinical or Administrative Teams?
Ok, so I am going to date myself now and my hope is that my dental contemporaries out there are not shy to chime in.
Remember when x-rays required dipping tanks? We’d go into the small (very small) darkroom and carefully unwrap each x-ray taking care not to touch the film with our hands. If we were developing a full series we would clip them methodically to the rack and carefully dip the x-rays into the developer. We would slowly be sure to cover the tank so that no light streamed in, set our timer and slithered out of this tiny space. Usually we didn’t have to even wait for the buzzer to go off since we were so accustomed to this “drill” that knowing when the films were ready was instinctive.
We would then go in, dip the films in the water and place them in the fixer tank. This routine was repeated throughout the day and all of us on the clinical team worked together throughout the process. Boy, was that developer/fixer dangerous stuff! No matter how careful we were it was not unusual to get it on our uniforms (that were always white by the way). There were no other choices in colors and they were dresses! That’s right, no pants, no scrubs, no options.
Then came the birth of the Automatic Processor. It was a huge change for us, but we did adjust rather quickly and effortlessly. I believe that it was such a vast improvement to what we had before–damaging our clothes and staining our hands. That’s right, no one wore gloves back then or masks either for that matter.
This transition was really a pleasure and I can clearly remember my practice mates rejoicing as to how much cleaner and more efficient this new method was. It saved us time too, since the process was much faster than the old traditional way. There were lots of smiling faces walking the halls of the Medical/Dental Building I worked in on Long Island–happiness everywhere!
Of course, since then we have graduated to digital x-rays, intraoral cameras and a myriad of other technical advancements. For some reason, the changes that were developed for the clinical side of the practice appeared to be much more readily accepted than the improvements that were made to the Business Office. I don’t know why, and perhaps my assessment is not accurate but I can distinctly remember the fear that came over the administrative side of the practice when the peg board system was replaced by THE COMPUTER!
I can clearly recall one of my fellow front desk buddies refused to let go of the “One-Write” system and would enter her information both in the computer and on paper. “I’m terrified of losing information. Where does this all go? What happens if the computer breaks?” (crashing wasn’t even in our vocabulary back then). And if this wasn’t scary enough, what about replacing the Appointment Book with the computer? OH NO! This was frightening to the Business Team AND the doctor.
Technical transition can either make us or break us, at least this is how we felt. How many practices would you say continued to maintain both a computer version of the schedule and a hard-copy appointment book version? From what I observed, I would say perhaps 85-90% initially.
No secret that dental peeps fear change, but I have noticed that the advancements on the clinical side of a practice do not seem to rattle team members quite as much as advancements within the front desk. I’m really not sure why, but there seemed to be a little more resistance when it came to enhancing systems that pertained to the business office.
Of course, now in this day and age everyone is working with lots of technology. I can honestly say that with the hundreds of practices that I have worked with over the years, I don’t know of one that is not computerized—well for the most part anyway. There are still a number of practices that have slowly migrated to a paperless practice. As a matter of fact, as recently as 3 months ago I worked onsite with a practice that was actually making clinical notes in the paper charts as well as documenting all information in the computer.
I’d be interested to hear from you regarding your thoughts on the difference between the clinical side of the office and the administrative side. Do you feel one department is somewhat more resistant to changes than the other? The administrative team is often gun-shy with the possibility of more work, fear of crashes, and they “don’t have the time”. Whereas the clinical team often welcomes advancements and enjoys challenges.