Making Changes To Assure Success

 

Quick fixes Rarely Bring Long-term Results

Making adjustments to the way we run our lives and our businesses is never easy. So much of who we are is ingrained in the day-to-day manner in which we conduct ourselves and manage our lives. Fear can easily take over when we attempt to change our comfort zone. Making alterations to the way we operate and handle things can be a shock to our systems.

All of us know to some degree that if things aren’t working satisfactorily then the only way to turn things around is to make changes. Recognizing the importance of making necessary change is not so much the act of enacting it, but sticking with it! We begin with all good intentions and a desire to move forward quickly for immediate results on what is needed. Then why is it that more often than not this determination begins to fade out and eventually disappear, and before we know it our old ways have resurfaced.

We know we need to lose weight, so leap straight ahead with a burst of determination. We don’t just join a health club, but start off BIG by joining a spin class and perhaps a very aggressive Zumba group. We don’t just cut back on some of our poor food choices, but we instead go on a fast routine working to stick with 1,000 calories or less a day. We don’t stop smoking with the aid of a counselor or support meds, but we choose to throw the cigarettes out the window (including the carton we just purchased) and go it cold turkey.

So what’s wrong with these approaches? Shouldn’t we be commended for the strong desire shown and a demonstration that says “we really mean business”?

Yes, a statement is being made and to the outsiders looking in they are quite impressed with your expression of sincerity. Truthfully though, these examples of making changes in one’s life will most likely be short lived. Taking an aggressive approach may sound encouraging yet when it comes to change, change that will stick, it takes planning and at a pace that doesn’t overwhelm.

This same principle applies to changes we make to our businesses. Bringing in new systems, crafting new protocols and getting those “cultural” issues set up and spelled out in the brand new Office Handbook that you are excited to implement can be exciting. Many employers apply these new ways of managing their business and teams in the very same way. Now that they are ready and focused to make the changes they are recognizing as needing to be fixed, making the shift can’t come soon enough. They are ready to roll and can’t wait to implement all that is suggested as soon as possible.

Again, enthusiasm and the desire to get things going is a wonderful thing, but being anxious to get as many changes made as possible as quickly as possible is a prescription for a quick failure. Just as weight loss programs bring long-term success through a slow and steady process, so does the process of making changes in policies and programs that have been a part of a business model for years.

Take one new format at a time and don’t necessarily put a timeframe on what needs to be revised, that is unless you are changing methods that are causing immediate harm to the business/team in some way. When an advisor that you respect and admire offers you advice that you know you need to pay attention to and strongly consider for the betterment of your practice, don’t let any of it throw you.

Between the two of you, evaluate the priority order for the changes you need to make and then slowly integrate step by step. Slowly incorporating new ways of handling things is definitely not easy for most of us, but slowing things down as much as possible will help us to become more and more secure with the change.

Slow and steady DOES win the race.

Do You Hire for the Person Within or the Outside “Packaging”?

Talent may not be “visible”

I fear that we are seeing more and more superficial rationale when it comes to building a dental team. I find it so disturbing when a client paints a picture of the team member they envision and the first words they mention are that they should “look good”, which means what exactly?

While I would agree that taking care of one’s self from the hygienic standpoint as well as a professional presence is important, I don’t believe that we need to be seeking out potential beauty contest winners.

To me, it’s much more about professionalism, dedication, the ability to take direction, to work well with others, to think before they speak, and of course to not flood the office culture with unnecessary dialog or disrespectful banter. While presenting a healthy “look” would make sense in that we are in the healthcare field, I will never support refusing to offer a great employee a position based on some level of perceived physical attractiveness.

Are they neat? Are they well-spoken? Are they talented and skilled? Have they proven to you that they are perfectly qualified to manage the job that was offered to them? If all this fits then it’s not about them, it’s about you!

I realize that this is a touchy subject, but I’m at a point where I felt it was important to bring my concerns out into the open in the hopes that it will bring to light some very shallow thinking and stimulate some healthy assessment when situations of this nature are presented.

Don’t pass up an ideal team member based on superficial values. Many very special qualities are not visible to the naked eye.

Managing Team Conflict

notlistening

Whose job is it anyway?

I Stopped at my favorite local Starbuck’s today and things were jumping.  Could it be coffee for your sweetheart on Valentine’s Day?  Nonetheless, after I placed my order I couldn’t help but overhear what sounded like a heated discussion between one of the baristas and the store manager, Erica.  The level of conversation was high and continued to escalate in spite of the crowds and cross-banter at the coffee bar that should have drowned it out.  I’m sure that not only could I hear the conversation, but I suspect many others could as well.

“She never picks up after herself”, said Trevor, “and with that she runs out the door as quickly as she can and the end of her shift and I never see her grab the garbage or do anything to help the rest of us. I’ve really had it with her. You need to address it as soon as possible.”

The body language was almost as interesting as the dialog, with Trevor leaning forward and Erica looking stunned with almost a glazed look in her eyes.  It appeared as though Erica was near tears and didn’t know how to respond.  I was hoping that with every word Trevor uttered she would be intentionally moving him toward the back room, but this never happened. With Trevor’s rambling, it was obviously difficult for her to get a word in, or move him away from the patrons at least. Erica was clearly very uncomfortable

My coffee was placed on the bar and as they called my name I grabbed it as I heard Erica say, “Okay, stay a little later with me and help me make a list of the things you want me to address with Stephanie. Is there anyone else that has similar issues with her?”

Whoa, really?, I thought to myself.  I see a couple of things here that are unacceptable and problematic at best.  Why not stop him right away noticing the crowd that had been forming in the store? Why not immediately take him to a quiet place for a moment so that others wouldn’t be privy to the conversation? And why oh why would you encourage this employee to continue his anger with you so publically? These aren’t your issues, they are between him and a fellow employee and should be resolved between them without any interaction from their managers, bosses or superiors.

My experience today reminded me of those I have witnessed while working in practices over the years. It’s the team members airing their issues and not always in the most healthy manner or most opportune time. It’s the dentist/employer who will stop and listen to this rhetoric getting much more engaged in the story than they should.

Have you established guidelines and very specific “language” in your practice culture overview or employee manual to manage issues of this nature?

Direct your employees to solve their own problems and become more self-sufficient, for if you continue to offer them a platform to vent, their problems will immediately become yours.

Outside of the Box Thinking

officeinabox

Must every employee be fulltime?

When I am asked by my clients to help them locate some strong candidates to fill a particular position within their dental practice, the usual request is that they require a fulltime dental professional to add to their team. While this is understandable the majority of the time, there are occasions when the questions I ask reveal the need for a permanent part-time employee and not necessarily someone on a fulltime basis.

Granted it isn’t always easy to determine the exact man/woman power to effectively manage the needs of a practice, but there are things that I like to consider when guiding my clients through the process. In some cases it’s based on the physical size of a practice and how the work area lends itself to the flow of activity during the work day; while in other situations it’s based on the lack of proper systems, protocols and efficiency measures applied within the business model.

More times than not, the lack of systems is one of the main reasons an employer/ dentist assumes that there is a need to hire more help; when truthfully without proper direction and protocols an efficient team can easily be mistaken for a group that just can’t keep up with the workload .

I encourage my clients to assess and evaluate the systems or lack of that they apply within their practice along with making sure that everything is clearly defined and every team member (whether it is in their job description or not) is aware of the methodology established within the culture of the practice.

I suggest taking a good, clear look at the structure and overall organization within the business and how it relates to running and managing the various duties that are distributed among the group.

Are the employees assigned responsibilities that they can not only manage properly, but thoroughly? Do their duties align with their ability?

Is everyone clear with exactly what they need to accomplish to successfully manage each day, each month and end of year?

Here’s a thought–what about seeking a permanent part-time employee to manage the overflow that may not necessarily require an additional fulltime employee? I will say that it’s a little more difficult to find a permanent part-time employee than a fulltime one, but once you and your team can pinpoint the specific area(s) that are lacking within the structure of the business, seeking out the necessary team support will be so much easier.

Part time permanent positions when designed correctly are very effective for both administrative as well as clinical positions. If the box is organized, it’s ok to think outside of it!

Eventually, You Have to Take the Leap

 

leapoffaith

Importance of due diligence during the hiring process

When it comes to guarantees, we can expect to receive them when we buy groceries that appear not to be fresh or when we have our cars serviced with guarantees attached, along with other large ticketed items.  This is a normal expectation.

The one area where we NEVER have guarantees is when it comes to new employees that we hire.  Over the years I have heard many many times statements such as, “She’s a great employee, but what if she moves?” or “He’s the best employee I’ve ever had, but what if he grows tired of my practice?”

While these are definitely concerns, I always let my clients know that there are indeed no guarantees when it comes to employees, be it their longevity or work ethic.  I also make the analogy of the risks we all take everyday just getting up in the morning. We could slip in the shower or, heaven forbid, get hit by another car while we are innocently sitting at a stop light.

Truthfully you do have some control when it comes to making a decision on a hire, although again, there are many things you simply can’t control. Examples are: guaranteeing that they will stay with you forever, continuing to prove themselves as the best employee you’ve ever had, and all the other accolades you hope would apply.

You can conduct background checks and drug testing, and weigh all the negatives and positives.  Many negatives can be addressed properly right from the start and corrected, since so much has to do with communication.  Thorough due diligence is a must, and when you feel all of your “I’s” are dotted and your “t’s” are crossed you really need to trust that you AND the new hire both made the right choice going forward.  Remember, they are taking a risk with you also, for there are no guarantees for them either. What they hear during the interview protocol and skill assessment might have to be enough for the new hire to believe that they too found their long term employment.

Take risks my friends, but make sure they are calculated risks.

It Pays Dividends to Take Your Time

rush

Rushing a Hire is One of the Biggest Mistakes an Employer can Make

I’m so frequently asked what the biggest mistake I see when it comes to dental team development. Although there are a number of things, by far the biggest mistake of all is hiring too quickly in my opinion.

The hiring dentist receives an ideal, picture perfect resume and almost sight unseen is ready to make the applicant an offer. Then there is the job candidate that presents beautifully, with a resume in hand in a shiny folder. Or it’s the applicant who arrives early and introduces herself to the front desk, shaking hands as she moves from one to the other. While all of this is admirable and great to experience, this is not enough to make a well educated hiring decision. Not by any means.

It’s a process that we need to go honor–one that takes time and one that requires much more than simply the superficial things that initially might impress. Making a hasty decision based on a first impression is not the way to enter into a long-term hire, one where you and your team member can celebrate years of “togetherness” and basically establish a match made in dental heaven.

They do happen, as I have seen many and the one commonality is that there was not a hasty decision made from the side of the new employee or the employer. It took time for everyone to see if the fit was right, if the personalities jibed, the practice culture was aligned, the dentistry was in synch and the mutual respect was reciprocal. These things take time and time is what should be invested by both parties in order to be sure that everyone can expect a long-term, healthy business relationship.

How many marriages have endured based on a very short courtship? Take the time to be sure–from both sides–and once everyone involved agrees, it’s a matter of maintaining the bond that you have created.

Attracting the Candidates You Want to Meet!

doclaptop1

Advertising Verbiage Does Make a Difference

A client called me last week in a panic. “Deb”, he said, “I’ve been running an ad for a couple of weeks and we have found that the majority of those who respond don’t fit our needs and the few that seem like possibilities once invited in don’t even show for their interview. Out of the 3 that had some of the qualifications I’ve been looking for, one called hours before their interview was scheduled to inform us that she has accepted another position and the other two just plain didn’t show up, and this was with confirmation calls! I’m so discouraged and can’t figure out what the heck I am doing wrong.”

I began by reviewing the verbiage and approach they used with their advertising,

I said, “Doctor, you need to ask for what it is you are hoping to find”, and with this I proceeded to explain how I craft ads that send the message to those that you are wanting to attract and GRAB.

When I asked him if he could pinpoint what he felt was lacking from the few that did respond he said that none of them were sincere. I would agree 100%, so I suggested that we take things in a new direction.

Here’s the ad I crafted for him:

“Sincerity” is the key word for us when it comes to filling this position. Are you “sincere” about continuing your current experience within the dental field? Do you “sincerely” appreciate making a difference for others? Is your interest in managing your responsibilities a “sincere” one? Is the dental profession one that you are “sincerely” proud to be a part of? Are you “sincerely” interested in learning new systems and perfecting your current skills? If any of this resonates with you and if you come with some significant experience as a *true dental professional*, then we would really like to hear from you. The most important qualities are that you bring:

* A strong desire to contribute to a “sincerely” devoted team

* That you have been responsible for various dental business office duties

* That you pride yourself in your attention to detail and your ability to prioritize as needed

Locating that perfect employee is much like selling a home, it only takes one! Tons of resumes may seem impressive, but what good are they if none of them are appropriate for your practice and requirements?

Sure enough, within the first few hours that the ad ran I received 2 resumes. Both “appeared” (I never use the resume as the beginning and end of all to make that hiring decision) to show me some of what I’ve been hoping to find. They both included cover letters that responded to my ad and were well constructed resumes with what seemed to be valuable backgrounds, but it was still too early to pop the champagne.

I conducted my first phone interview today and was pleased to say that so far all is good. I always ask why the job candidate responded to my ad, it’s interesting what I hear.

Some will say “what did your ad say?” I hear the imaginary alarm go off… Noooo! The ones that remember and share with me why they responded continue to get my attention.

This particular candidate couldn’t wait to share with me before I even asked. “Deb”, she said, “I read your ad and then I read it again and again and couldn’t respond fast enough. You wrote this to find me! I’ve been working in a corporate environment since I moved to town, and although I’ve lasted almost a year, I just know this culture is not for me. I am sincere and I do care so much, yet the style of this practice is holding me back from developing the wonderful relationships that I was able to create and nurture in my other practice. I really could relate to the message you were sending with your advertising.”

It’s early in the process, but so far so good and once again it’s like I always say: “Ask for what you are looking for!”