Chapter 1: Mindset

Study Guide and Resources

Ask Yourself

  • Do I only wear my dental hat in the office?
  • Do I know the difference between my dental and business hats?
  • What is my current mindset regarding my practice and services?
  • Am I leading my staff effectively or do I avoid taking control?

Ask Your Staff

  • Do you feel motivated while working?
  • Is customer service a top priority?
  • Do you know who to ask for answers or guidance?

Take Action

  • Start to shift your mindset from dental to business.
  • Identify areas that need more of your personal leadership and make changes.
  • Develop a plan to ensure your staff knows who to talk to and where to turn with questions or concerns.
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6 Tips for Increasing Staff Performance

How to make sure your team is doing their very best!

Improving employee performance is an ongoing process. In a previous article, we talked about the reasons why continual training is essential—Staff Efficiency and Productivity, Staff Motivation and Ownership, and Staff Loyalty and Retention. But exactly how can your office achieve these goals with continual training?

Study Guide Increasing Staff Performance Image

A practice that stands out from the competition is usually comprised of a great team that works well together—a like-minded team of employees that work hard to achieve the practice goals. So, how do we develop and nurture such a team to ensure stellar employee performance?

Most practices make the mistake of focusing on increasing production, and so they invest in means and systems to support performance results. Unfortunately, many of these systems turn out to be time-consuming and impossible to implement into everyday work responsibilities.

Here are six ways that your practice can improve staff performance to meet those long-term growth goals.

1. Discover the Reasons Why

The first step is to discover why a staff member is not performing well, and it is important not to assume or jump to conclusions. Discuss your concerns with an open mind and positive attitude. Always ask open-ended questions and, more importantly, listen to the answers. Remember that your goal is to determine the root of the problem, which will help you determine how to improve the staff member’s performance.

2. Encourage Communication

Staff members want to be involved in the success of the practice’s growth and want to play an important role in creating excellence. Encouraging communication among staff members, teams and even management is essential. Awareness can be gained from employee input at staff meetings, team meetings, morning huddles or even a simple suggestion box. Again, being open-minded and uncritical of ideas helps encourage staff members to speak up and express their thoughts, which can sometimes be very insightful.

3. Establish a Positive Culture

The culture within your practice starts with the practice owner, and should be developed and encouraged in all staff members. The culture you create must be one in which all team members feel they are appreciated and valued. Keep your door open, and always make sure your staff knows they can come to you with questions or ideas. Remember, a happy staff is a productive staff.

4. Establish Continual Training Opportunities

Ongoing training is essential to practice success. Staff can help improve their skills with virtual training that is available at their fingertips when they need it. Learning is an ongoing process, and training should not be regarded as a one-time event, but rather a continual activity that happens over time. You can successfully train your staff and improve their performance by taking advantage of technology which enables staff to learn anytime and anywhere with virtual training.

5. If It’s Not Fun—Don’t Do It!

Training doesn’t have to be boring, and, in fact, it should be fun! No one wants to sit in front of a speaker, a webinar or a training module that is boring and dull. If you want to inspire change in behavior and adoption of new ideas for growth, the training you provide must be interesting, challenging and engaging. Give your staff members the opportunity to learn and grow in their skills with a program that’s fun and entertaining, and they will grasp the knowledge twice as fast, as well as be excited about implementing it. Some people don’t understand the necessity of training to be fun and entertaining. But the fact remains: if training is boring—regardless of the content—it will fail.

6. Recognize and Acknowledge Contributions

Everyone appreciates when they are recognized and acknowledged for their contributions and achievements. Use recognition to reinforce the actions that will cause your practice to excel. This approach will give your employees the essential boost to help them be engaged, and it has a trickle-down effect that goes well beyond the individual. Your recognition lets staff members know that you care about their contributions and accomplishments. It also demonstrates your dedication to creating an environment where they can succeed. Through recognition and acknowledgement, you establish a culture that attracts and retains the best staff members.

In addition to these six tips, it’s also important to develop protocols for identifying and working toward practice goals. Putting protocols in place will ensure that the team works effectively and efficiently towards achieving your practice goals. Like any practice policy, your employee training protocol should have clear guidelines in place that every team member must follow.

Take advantage of the opportunities for virtual continual training for your staff. In doing so, you’ll be the catalyst to their success—and, ultimately, yours!

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Why is Implementing Change Hard?

I hear from doctors and office managers all the time asking how to make changes happen in their office.

They tell me stories about all the things they have done to motivate their teams and efforts they have made to push positive change in the office, just to hear grumbling from the staff.  It is a frustrating situation and they look outside for help because they figure they must be doing something wrong.

There is a correct way to implement change in any organization, which I address in other articles but if it is something that is positive, easy enough to implement and will help the office grow or better serve your patients, it should not be difficult.

If the proper steps are taken to ensure the entire team has been informed about the initiative, trained appropriately, they understand the reason why and it is positive, it should be easy to set in place.

When it is not easy or it appears there is resistance, I suggest you take your focus off the change and shift more onto who is pushing back.  When a positive change feels like it is being resisted, an employee must be trying to stop it and avoid implementation.

There are people who work against you without your knowledge.   When you discuss the idea with them, they seem fully on board but then later you hear they were talking to other staff about what a bad idea it is and why it won’t work.  Why wouldn’t the person just come to you and tell you this?  Why are they hiding their negativity about this change or idea?

The first step to addressing the opposition is to identify the person is who is pushing back, even if hidden from you and why.

There are different reasons why this person may be opposed to the change.

  • They could feel threatened about their job or their status in the office.
  • They might be the type of person that doesn’t like change because it means extra work.
  • They like to feel important by getting co-workers to follow them.
  • They may have been like this all along but until you started to implement this change, you never noticed it before.

The why behind the resistance is not the key issue, but identifying the employee and handling them is.  Regardless of their reasons for pushing back, they are not working toward the advancement of the practice and following the directions of the owner and that must be handled.

To implement a change, resistant employees need to change their ways as soon as possible or it may be time to find a new office to resist growth in.  If they continue to push back and prevent change, any new idea or process will be difficult and ultimately this negativity and resistance root into the culture of the practice.

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What Happens When Your Practice Runs on Autopilot?

When your front office suffers, your whole office suffers. Find out what you need to keep your practice healthy.

Recently, we had an upset in our practice, and I thought sharing our experience might help others. I have been the office manager of my husband’s practice since 2002, but about two years ago, I took a step back from running the office from day-to-day so I could focus on growing my own business, Front Office Rocks. I was still available to them on a high level and as needed, but I no longer managed the team, schedule or systems daily.

Then, one week ago, I got the call from my husband. Our junior office manager gave notice. Okay, that’s not good, but we can still manage with the remaining staff. Then, he called me again about two hours later. Another front office employee just gave notice. What the heck was going on there? It was time to head back in and see what was happening.

After a very long and difficult day, one person walked out and the other was let go. We went from a front office staff of four (and we were in the process of trying to hire a fifth person) down to two people in a matter of a few hours. I sat there at the end of the day trying to process everything that had happened, and knew that though it seemed bleak right now, this would be one of those days in our career we would remember forever. The question, and decision we had to make, was: will it be remembered as negative or positive?

One week later, I can happily say it is going to end up a positive memory, though we still have a huge hill to climb. The only thing to realize is that when things like this happen, there are always lessons to learn.

Here are two lessons we have learned very clearly thus far:

There are times it is okay to let go.

As I said earlier, one of the people that left that day was our junior office manager who was running the staff and practice. When she took on the role, for a long-time things ran great. But about six months ago, things started to go flat, and then more recently turned from flat to a decline. The office was reaching its goals on a daily, weekly and monthly basis, but the culture of the practice was changing. The staff was no longer having fun, and the doctors were no longer excited to go in to work.

During this time, we were unaware that the junior manager was no longer doing her job well. She was letting things slide and not working with the team. She was in her office looking busy and working on “stuff.” The doctors saw it, but just let it slide. It was easier to ignore it than to confront it or confront her.

Now that she is gone, it is like night and day and we are witnessing a visible shift in the office. After she left, we discovered she just wasn’t doing her job. She had been threatening the staff rather than motivating them, which as it turns out is why the other employee left that day. She warned the staff not to go to the owners with issues because they would only be told to come right back to her. This is one example and there are so many more.

Don’t run on autopilot.

There was a second hard lesson learned during this process. The owner doctors and I had “let go.” The practice had been running well and systems were in place, so we let it go into auto pilot. We were not in touch with the practice the way we should have been. There was not enough real communication with the employees to hear or know what was going on and hear how they felt. The systems we worked so hard to put in place, were slowly either modified to become ineffective or dropped out altogether.

In the end, we let the practice go. We stopped checking in. We stopped monitoring it. The practice needed someone who built it and cared for it from the ground up to ensure it was staying the course and heading in the right direction. We didn’t do that. We let go of the steering wheel and it turned us to where we are today. The good news about our current situation is we know what needs to be done.

There are five steps to take to regain full control and fix this:Study Guide What happens when you practice runs on autopilot image
  • We began by acknowledging what happened and took responsibility for it.
  • We need to reinstate the systems and training, like we had done before.
  • We need to hire some rock star front office employees that we will ensure are trained well and follow the office policies.
  • We will make sure if someone isn’t working out, it’s better to part ways than hold onto them too long.
  • Finally, we will put safeguards in place so when the practice is running smoothly again we don’t take our eyes off the road or our hands off the steering wheel.

My point is not to tell you our sad story, but to tell you that this situation was happening and the owners had no idea. We uncovered all of this after she left. But now that we know, we’re getting back to the basics and communicating with the staff. This past week was the best production week we have had in over a year with half our normal front office staff. Our employees seem to be happier and more motivated. The entire vibe of the office is fun again.

Our lesson was a hard one to learn. But when someone needs to go on your team, it is best for all involved to take the steps to make it happen than to ignore it or hold onto them even one day too long.

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Dealing with Staff Issues with Dr. Tony Hatch (Webinar)

Welcome to Dealing with Staff Issues with Dr. Tony Hatch.

Even though we try to keep staff issues or “drama” out of the dental office, it may sneak in here and there. The doctor relies on the Office Manager and staff to keep the drama at a minimum. In this video, you will hear directly from Dr. Hatch about how he might handle the drama if he did not have a good Office Manager and then some tips on how to handle and eliminate any staff issues that arise in the office.

Please enjoy this FREE video as part of your study guide.