It’s not Simply Handing over the Keys

The transfer of new team members to a new practice takes some planning

Practices are bought and sold all the time, and we know that anyone who has either been the seller or purchaser can attest to the fact that there is a lot to accomplish to complete the transition. But the area that tends to be the most difficult for both sides in the transfer is the team.

In the best-case scenario, the present team members all stay where they are and basically move on with the new owner/dentist ready to adjust to new systems, materials–just about everything. The vision for the practice will no doubt change as the new owner looks forward to putting his/her own brand on things, and frankly from what I have experienced over the years, most are excited to install their new state of the art “toys” and bring in new methodology, systems and procedures.

While some team members manage well with the change in command, others will choose to leave for numerous reasons. One of the very first things that the current team members begin to worry about almost before anything else is an adjustment in their wages.

“The new young dentist is not going to be able to afford me”, says the hygienist of 20 years.”

“Are we still going to get our medical benefits?”

“Will we now be working on Saturdays and perhaps starting earlier and ending later?”

While all these concerns are very real and many do occur, the only way everyone can move on in the healthiest and most respectful and expeditious manner is for both the outgoing and incoming dentists to agree that they must be totally honest and transparent. As soon as they are able to share the details they must plan to open up to the team.

Nine times out of ten the new incoming dentist prays that the entire team stays together. After all, the patients know them, so it’s a strong piece of congruency. The current employees know the systems, keeping the necessity for training to a minimum, and there is also an element of security there for the new dentist. Not to mention that it will not be necessary to go through the arduous hassle of hiring personnel. A huge load off one’s mind!

While this arrangement is probably ideal for the new dentist, the established team may be thinking differently. Some, upon hearing the news immediately give notice, whereas others will agree to give it some time, while there are others that might announce “unless everything stays exactly the same, I’m out of here”.

While this transfer of ownership/leadership can be stressful, it really doesn’t have to be. The missing link to this situation is that in almost every case the announcement is made to the team with very little information, hardly even eliciting a discussion. There is no dialog as to how things will proceed, but rather just the bare minimum of facts. Very little detail is offered, if any at all. Therefore, the passing of the baton can easily take a miserable tumble.

It doesn’t have to go this way. Why and how you might ask?

It’s once again about communication. As soon as it is feasible, sit the team down with both the incoming and outgoing dentists. The outgoing dentist introduces the new boss, fills everyone in on perhaps how they met and why he/she was the best person (in their mind) to take over the practice. The new dentist then shares his/her vision, how they see things moving forward, what changes will be made, what things may never change and what may totally change down the road.

They will be honest and open and completely transparent about everything from changes in salaries, to days and hours, any cultural changes to the feel of the practice and anything else they may need to know or should ask about.

Once the group is satisfied with the information they have gathered they are then told that they should take a week (or other pre-set time frame) and ask that they think about their positions and whether they want to stay or move on. Be very sincere when you let them know that whatever they decide to do there would be no hard feelings, but that it is best for everyone and the practice to know what the team members are thinking prior to getting totally entrenched within the new practice with the new leader.

Out in the open is the ONLY way to handle this. Everyone can move on in a healthy manner with no hard feelings and mutual respect rather than everyone trying to make things fit.

The outgoing team members can be offered an arrangement whereby they agree to train and possibly their replacement in exchange for giving them some time off to conduct interviews for their new jobs. This is done by agreement, in writing, with clearly defined timelines and specific compensation arrangements.

With it all, we do know that unfortunately there will be those that leave without a smile on their face, which unfortunately can’t be avoided. Better to know now rather than later so that everyone can develop a game plan together, making it a win/win for all.

 

 

When You Come to a Roadblock

How long do you try before you realize it’s simply time to give up

As children we are told to “try”, “don’t give up”, and “just keep on trying”. I know I heard this growing up and I’m certain that most of you heard this as well. As a result of these words, it takes me time to finally put my hands up and announce, “I just can’t make this work!” It could be as simple as my throwing up my hands during dinner preparation to state– “I have tried to open this jar for the past 5 minutes or so and my hands are red from trying, so I’m just going to have to give up and go to other ingredient alternative for my dish.”

The same applies to working hard at educating patients to understand the importance of flossing, maintaining a healthy mouth or simply being on time for their scheduled appointments. How many times do we have to have these discussions and how many different ways do we need to try and get our points across?

“When will others get it?” The answer is, in many cases it just will never happen. Again, for many of us (present company included) it’s an upsetting reality check to realize that our passion, our patience, our dedication and our sincerity is just not getting across—we just can’t break through.

It’s quite common for me to hear these things from fellow colleagues who contact me for guidance and advice when it comes to dealing with this very subject. It’s usually regarding the team members that are resistant to even “listening” to suggestions, much less agreeing wholeheartedly to make the changes that are recommended.

Getting stuck and receiving “push-back” is very common and for the most part when a client or team member offers nothing more than “ok’s” and “yes’s” you can probably assume that they will not agree to making any changes. Now as the old adage goes, “for every action there is a re-action”, which to me is where all the non-compliance begins. When you offer your advice, does your doctor agree with your suggestions? Does he/she support the direction you want to take? And is the team totally aware of the fact that the doctor is in total agreement to the change or changes that you are diligently working on correcting?

If the doctor/leader does not support the changes that are suggested by an advisor/coach or consultant, then you can rest assured the team will never buy into anything. I’ve said many times “just enrolling someone to help with team or practice management isn’t going to make everything right.” You must get total

support from the practice leader or you will continually be hitting the wall. How long do you want to pursue this exercise when you know after time that the owner/employer is just not going to bend at any cost?

Having experienced these types of frustrating and psychologically daunting situations over my 5 decades in the dental profession, I have come to use them as both a learning experience, and as an extra incentive to strive for success. And in the end, it has served to make my successes even more rewarding.

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.

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.

Change Even Scares Me

Rewriting my job description

As we come to what has historically been the end of summer–Labor Day–I realized that it marks an end for me too.

For the past 25 years or so I have put all my efforts and professional energy into both onsite and virtual dental team development, team integration, team maintenance and related subjects. I’ve written for many dental publications over the years, spoken across the country and have contributed to many online social networks.

Like everything in life, there are always some challenges, but I managed to make it through them all unscathed and consistently came back for more. I’ve met some amazing people along the way and although I’ve coached and advised hundreds, I’ve learned a ton from all of you and know for sure that I could never have gotten this far without the lessons you have taught me. Here I stand, someone who should be thinking about retirement like most of my peers, yet instead I am re-inventing myself one more time as I create a new role and developing a totally new job description for myself. Sound vaguely familiar, Linda Miles?

I must say that this change is bittersweet and I’m not afraid to admit that I too fear change to some degree. I know this is an ongoing issue for most of us in the dental profession, and all of us discuss the fear of change quite a bit. But how can I not practice what I preach? Change must happen, for if we all lock ourselves in and choose to never make adjustments or changes, how can growth occur?

I’ve been here before, but each time it’s been a little difficult. If we become obsessed with the risks connected with this, then we should also be concerned about leaving our homes since we could get hit by a truck, or not taking chances with other things that we routinely do on a daily basis.

As OurPerioTeam begins to take off and show traction and the interest is beginning to percolate, I know that I’m needed here at this point, supporting the growth, development, and ongoing enhancement of the product.  I plan on being involved, but it’s been a tough adjustment for me to come to the reality that working with dental teams in the capacity that I had been for years is now going to change.

What is helping me with this “change” is that I have decided to continue to stay active on social networks, continue to write and contribute articles to support my peers, and give back to all those that helped me get to this place. I will not charge for any advice I offer, but I will only have time to offer limited suggestions and guidance based on my new job description and work schedule.

Believe it or not, setting up this arrangement with myself really did ease the anxiety so now I can sleep better.

How Long is Too Long?

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The Impact of Delaying the Inevitable

It is not at all uncommon for me to connect with a dentist who approaches me simply for advice, although often it is followed up by a full engagement.  The struggles and challenges vary, but one problem seems to be more and more prevalent; and that is the long-term employee who has actually stayed way too long. 

All too often when asked, “How long has this employee been with you and when did you realize that they were not right for you and your practice?”  I have heard things like, “Oh, about 25 years and I knew this wasn’t going to work about 24 years ago.”  The first time I ran into this I was shocked, but having heard a similar strain a number of times I am no longer shocked and have almost learned to understand the dynamics of why this happens.

Once again, we are back to the behavioral style of us dental folk.  We are not comfortable with change or confrontation, and in some cases to such a degree that we would rather deal with less than competent employees year after year than to either address their weaknesses or try to help them correct their inefficiencies.  After a while it gets to a point where the employer just accepts what “is” and learns to deal with it, at the expense of ideal practice culture, harmony, and effectiveness.  In some cases they are even willing to sacrifice good team members who leave the practice, unable to work alongside of the bad apple or non-productive, disinterested employee.

There’s no one “moment of truth” that puts the employer over the edge or gets them to a place where they know it is time to dismiss this person.  I haven’t been able to isolate one specific thing that seems to be the catalyst or “inspiration” that finally makes them wake up and realize that it’s time! I’m also amazed at how often I observe them saying goodbye to outstanding and valuable employees over and over again, knowing quite well that the contributing factor to their resignation is clearly based on the one employee that they also know is bringing the team and often the production down.

So are we slow learners?  Would a major catastrophe be something to get us going? What type of stimulus does it take to motivate an employer to do what they should have done many years ago?

I’ve written before about those dentist/employers that prefer to keep their heads in the sand. As for a recommendation going forward, there’s really no “secret”.  I think it’s just a matter of recognizing the problem team member and having the will to take action.