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.

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.

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!

The Fear of Change- One Gal’s Observation

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.