Dental Business Coach | You Teach People and Train Dogs

Last month I asked the question if you have employees, or a team with whom you work. Now I would like to address a pet peeve of mine when working with a team. I have said before that the words we use matter. Not only in our personal lives, but also in our dental office. Communication is very important when we talk with one another. The way in which we communicate impacts our team members.

It has always bothered me that some refer to working with people as training people. That phrase drives me up the wall like nails on a chalkboard. You teach people, and train dogs. Think about that for a moment – it will change your perspective. Training denotes something basic, almost demeaning. We should want much more for our team that represents us in our practice. Whenever I hear that phrase, I think of when I potty trained my kids or training a dog to sit. See what I mean? What professional team member wants to be trained? As a dental student did they train you or teach you clinical skills?

Contrast that with teaching someone. Learning new things is fun. We get the opportunity to learn new information daily. Throughout our lives as students from elementary school forward, we have teachers, not trainers. On the collegiate level, they are called professors – still not trainers (whether they have tenure or not) 😊 Every office I have worked with has appreciated the difference when I explain it to them from my perspective. Ultimately, it is a respect thing.

Please understand, the words we use matter to your team. Are you skeptical? Just ask them for their opinion. Learning new things is something that should never stop – not for those that want to continue to excel. Those are the type of people I want on my team.

Dental Consultant | Do You Have Employees or a Team Working with You?

When I start working with a dentist, I ask if they have a team or employees working with them. Most of the time they respond with “I have a team.” I think they really want to believe that, but soon realize after I ask a few questions, they have employees working with them.

Have you ever had a “team member” reply it wasn’t their responsibility? Or better yet, “it wasn’t my fault.” Those are employees.  Employees are a group of people that work for an organization.  They may have a goal to accomplish but do not understand how their role and responsibility is related to the rest of the company. Employees will complete tasks that are assigned to them but will not care how that relates to anything else in the organization. They just want to check off their to-do list.

Contrast that, with what I believe, a dental team should be. A dental practice team is a group of people working together cohesively towards the clearly defined and stated goals of the doctor. There is a very high level of patient satisfaction while knowing that all members of the team are accountable to each other using their individual strengths to enhance the performance of the team. A team will sacrifice for each other. As the doctor, you will not have to ask someone to take care of something, it will already be done. A team takes responsibility for their individual actions and are accountable to one another and the doctor.

As you can see, a team is totally different than employees working for you. While we are defining some things, I also want to mention a team is not a staff either. Staff (staph) is an infection, not people. When we have the correct culture in our office, the words we use will reflect that. I think it is also about respect. We need to respect one another, and words have meaning. When you put time and effort into developing the culture you want in your practice, you should be selfish about who gets the opportunity to share and grow with you and your team. After the right people are on your team, investing money, time, and resources to fully develop them will pay off for you and your practice. By taking care of your team and putting them first, they will take care of you and the patients you serve.

Not sure how to build a true team? Please contact me so I can help.

Dental Business Coach | Gratitude

Dental CoachSometimes we just need to change our perspective and answer one simple question – what are you grateful for?  As business owners we can get into a rut of comparing ourselves to our colleagues, no matter what our profession. It’s been said that comparison is the thief of joy.  When we focus on what we are lacking instead of what we are blessed with, our focus needs to be re centered.  Gratitude does not fix any of our problems, but it does bring to light our blessings.

I have been working with a client who has been concerned about a trend he has seen in his office for the last couple years of peaks and valleys from a production/collections standpoint. He has been so concerned that as a business owner, he was starting to lose his passion for dentistry. He shared with me that one question I asked brought his focus back to where it should be. My question was very simple, “what are you grateful for?”

To help him through this process, I asked him to journal at least 3 things he is grateful for each day, and to compile that in a weekly email to me. In the beginning, he was mentioning the surface things in life. By the third week however, he was grateful for deeper meaning things. I began to see a difference in how he was working in his practice.  His team also let me know how much better he looked at work each day.  They joked and said whatever I was doing was taking years off his face, and he was acting like he did 10 years ago.  I can’t ask for better results than that.  I really knew things were better when his wife wrote me a long email thanking me for helping him get his “zing” back.  All from recognizing gratitude in his life.

So, at this season of Thanksgiving, for what are your grateful?

Dental Consultant | Are You Scheduling Correctly Using the “and” Philosophy?

Dental Consultant

It seems like everyone has a suggestion on how to set up the schedule in your practice.  If you ask three people, you will probably get three different answers.  That is why, for the purposes of this blog, I want to look at scheduling from a framework standpoint.  The schedule is the heartbeat of the practice – it can either increase or decrease the stress of all team members.  At the end of the day though, is it convenient for your patients to schedule?  There is nothing more frustrating than waiting for several months for a hygiene checkup and evaluation – it is so much more than a cleaning and that will be a different blog post 😊 If you have capacity issues, then solve them for the sake of your patients.  When patients are ready to schedule, your office needs to act. Is that happening for you at your practice?

I find that most offices are scheduling so they meet their daily financial production goal of the practice. For some reason, offices think it is an either/or situation. Either you schedule to make goal and make patients mad, or you don’t schedule according to goal and make patients happy. I do not agree with that statement at all. I think with the correct communication skills, scheduling is an “and” situation. You can schedule to goal and make patients happy.

By communicating correctly, your team will be building rapport with all your patients. I believe dentistry is all about relationships. Building a trusting relationship is key to making sure your patients continue coming back to your office instead of seeing the guy down the street running a special promotion.  By taking the time to build rapport correctly, your team should be able to keep your patients happy while scheduling for your daily production goals.

If you need help in implementing this “and” capability for your practice, please get in touch with me so we can chat about it.

Trusting Enough to Take a Leap

I just returned from a week in Oahu, celebrating my 25th wedding anniversary in paradise. It’s such a wonderful place. During our time there, my husband Steve and I went on a catamaran cruise snorkeling adventure. This was my first-time snorkeling, ever.  The beach/ocean is my happy place and I couldn’t wait to see Oahu from this vantage point. As we traveled to the reef upon which we were to snorkel, we encountered several pods of spinner dolphins. I love dolphins, and I was so excited to see them around us while we were on board.

As we reached the reef, getting my gear on and into the ocean was easy. What I did not expect was the hesitation I felt as I prepared to jump in to the middle of the ocean, and away from the beautiful catamaran on which we traveled. I had been looking around seeing all sorts of fish and enjoying myself until I saw some dark crevices in the reef at the bottom. I would be lying to you if I told you I didn’t “have a moment”. In those crevices, I am sure ocean life could hide – think dorsal fin (not a dolphin).

It took me a moment to adjust, and trust the strangers – those professionals on the catamaran that do this each day for a living. My husband even asked me if I was alright.  I had to play it cool and get a hold of what my issue was – it was trust. Once I trusted the crew member that swam up beside me, I started to

relax. I noticed my breathing evened out and I started to enjoy my time looking around under water. She explained to me the different fish around me and was I taking it all in. Remember, I had never snorkeled before and it was so beautiful.

Having these trust issues for a moment made me think of a dental practice, and some clients I have worked with in their office.  At times, you may have the same feeling of uneasiness in your practice. You are busy in your operatories, and you really don’t know how your patients are being treated away from you or how the phones are being handled. Is everyone doing what they should be doing? Are the claims being taken care of correctly and the money managed correctly in your office?  These questions can leave you with a panicky feeling just like I had snorkeling the first time in Oahu. I understand that stress and it is real.

I work with many dentists that have shared those stresses and emotions with me regarding their practice. You do not need to continue to feel uneasy regarding your practice-please get in touch with me. I enjoy reducing those stressors for dentists so they can enjoy their practice and running their business.

Dental Business Coach | What Does A Hotel Experience Have in Common with your Dental Office?

Dental Management Consultant

Dental Office CoachI want to share one of the hotel experiences my family had this summer. What does a hotel experience have in common with your dental office? Let’s find out.

I travel quite often during the year coaching and speaking around the country. I am one of those people that use apps to manage reservations for the hotel chain for which I do business.  Mainly for the ease and convenience it allows. When using these apps, you should always be sure to input how many people are staying in the room. In this instance, I was traveling with my family.  To allow the hotel to plan accordingly, I input the number of people in our family, four, and selected a room that would accommodate us as well.

Based upon the information given, we thought there would be at least four towels in the room, but that was not the case. It’s the first thing I always check once entering the room.  Ok, I thought, no big deal.  I would call housekeeping and have more towels brought up to our room.  However, the towels never came.  Soon it was late enough that we all went to sleep.  The next morning, I went to the front desk and requested them, and finally, hours later, the towels were in the room.

Over the course of the next few days, there were other examples of less than expected customer service.  You can imagine as a Diamond member with this hotel chain, I was starting to ask myself how will I address all of this. When checking out, they always ask “how was your stay”.  I took this time to give the manager constructive thoughts of our stay and the ways it could have been better.  It is important that we share the bad, as well as the good, so that improvements can be made.  The same is true in our businesses and practices.  When we were finally all in the car leaving Atlanta, I told my family this situation was going to be a blog post.

I am sharing this so you can see there are some similarities with patients in your practice. Do you ask for your patients to fill out paperwork online or mail them a packet of information? Are you confident your process is a smooth one for your patients’? For a new patient, this is one of the first interactions with your practice, other than the phone, and you need to make sure it is an easy one from a customer service standpoint.

If you are using an outside lab, is the item in your office before the patient gets there for their appointment? It is simple things like this that can put a sour taste in the mouth of your patients very quickly. From a business standpoint, it is easy to for patients to do business with you?

I suggest that the team review all your patient processes at least once a year to make sure you are not missing something, especially the opportunity to wow your patients from the clinical and administrative point of view.

Making sure you are up to the challenge of your patients’ expectations is a must for any practice today.

No Surprises

Recently, my son had to have jaw surgery. A sagittal split as well as a midline split needed to be done along with third molar extractions. I can tell you seeing your son with a ng tube was not the highlight of our summer so far, and thankfully, there were no surprises.

Everything leading up to the moment of surgery was planned, every step of the process was explained in detail. The oral surgeon said, “I follow this process so no steps are missed, all i’s dotted and t’s crossed. I do not want any surprises in the operating room.” This is his way to guarantee he has done everything in his power to have a successful outcome.

His process during the multiple weeks leading up to the surgery included molds and models, multiple radiographs and scans to ensure his ultimate goal with my sons’ case.  All this preparation made me think of the steps and processes that the non-clinical side of the practice needs to do to ensure the satisfaction from the administrative side for your patients.  Everything we do in the practice should be repeatable for each patient. There should be one standard for your front desk coordinator, scheduling coordinator, treatment coordinator, etc. To ensure quality for each patient, the process should be the same for the administrative team members.

This begs the question, is this taking place in your practice?  Could anyone of your administrative team members flow chart the process in your office? I think this subject is worth discussing at your next monthly team meeting.

I am happy to say my son is doing very well since his surgery. He even asked me if his experience was going to end up in one of my blogs or presentations. I guess he knows my process of not letting any teachable moment pass aside without addressing it. 😊

If I can be of any assistance with the needs of your practice, please get in touch with me so we can chat about what is on your mind.

Dental Consultant | Do You Have Goals?

This may be easy for some dentists to answer but for some, goals are a tricky thing. I recently spoke with a client about this subject and his answer surprised me. He did not want to have anything to do with goal setting and refused to do it. After some lengthy conversation, he admitted that he had a fear of setting goals and he did not want to fail. The more I thought about this from his standpoint, the more I understood his hesitation.

As a dental student, he did not look at his grades as goals, he knew he was smart and would not have any academic trouble in dental school. This perception of not having goals continued for over 10 years until he spoke with me. I had to remind him that a goal is just a target or an objective. Goals change over time but he needs to know what he has accomplished and where he wants to be. Fear does not change the fact that he is a business owner and needs to know where he stands financially as a practice.

I wanted to honor his concerns and took things at a pace he was comfortable with. Once I started asking him specific questions, he realized he actually had goals, he just wasn’t formal with them. When we established monthly goals, he could see why they are important as a business owner and why the metrics are needed for his practice.

After leading him through the process of goal setting, his fear has greatly decreased and he looks forward to watching the metrics in his practice on a regular basis. I share this since the first ½ of the year is almost over. Where are you and your practice according to your goals?

Dental Consultant | Why Having a Monthly Team Meeting is Good for Your Practice

Last month I wrote about the importance of the morning huddle. This month, I want to go into detail about monthly team meetings and why they are important.

Just as the morning huddle is an opportunity for everyone on the team to communicate their expectations of the day, the monthly team meeting is an opportunity to communicate, brainstorm, review status/progress and resolve larger issues that have been discovered during your morning huddle. Think of an average day in your practice. You are busy from the moment you get to the office until you leave the office. There needs to be time when you and your team are not rushed and are able to sit down and discuss how things are going, review goals, any areas of concern, and what is on everyone’s mind.

I equate this to coaching basketball. After every game, I recap what we did well as a team, and where we need to work on our weakness. The same is true for a dental team. At every team meeting, you need to discuss the schedule and get everyone’s feedback. The administrative team and clinical team will have different perspectives, and all are important for everyone to function together as a cohesive unit. This is also a time to discuss how you can do things differently or brainstorm ideas. Having this time with your team is so important. It will let them know you value them and their opinion. It further demonstrates that you have built the culture that everyone on your team can feel free to share their own ideas and to listen to one another. Having this time also brings the team together in a relaxed atmosphere with one another.

It has been said that where you spend your time is what you value. By spending your time with your team, you are demonstrating to them that you care and their ideas are welcomed and valued by you, their leader.

Dental Consultant | Why Have a Morning Huddle?

Dental Office ConsultantAs a dental coach/consultant, I hear very similar complaints during my first conversation with a potential client. They typically revolve around the “team” is not on the same page. There are various reasons why this occurs, but I frequently respond with this question, “Do you have a morning huddle?” Often, the answer is no. Which leads me to discuss why a morning huddle is important.

The morning huddle is an opportunity for everyone on the team to communicate and to understand their expectations during the day. That is really it in a nutshell. There is nothing magical about it but it needs to be done the correct way so it benefits everyone and sets the tone for the day. It starts with the doctor/leader creating the culture that attendance is expected so your patients receive the best care possible. When your patients are the priority, everything falls into their proper place. Meeting is great, but there must be an agenda to follow, or else you are wasting precious time. Some offices struggle with this step of putting an agenda together. I recommend having a whiteboard or a place for everyone to note any situation that occurred during the day. Some things happen that we cannot predict and these situations are the very items that need to be on the agenda of tomorrow’s huddle.

My suggestion is always to have a system for your huddles so whoever is tasked with an item, you will be able to follow up and make sure accountability has taken place. As you know, this is an area of weakness as well. A simple word document can suffice, it doesn’t need to be fancy but it needs to work for you.

The agenda needs to contain the following each day:

  • Notes about the schedule – Any item that you need to bring to their attention such as which patients need certain paperwork or any money owed.
  • This is your opportunity for every member of the team to communicate with one another – the front office to the back and visa-versa.
  • Any situation that occurred yesterday that needs to be discussed – from the whiteboard

When you have a morning huddle, the team becomes accountable to one another since everything is discussed out in the open. No one can hide from their responsibility. The culture of the practice is also strengthened with this as well. It never ceases to amaze me that many conflicts are due to poor communication. The morning huddle alleviates a lot of potential conflicts as well. When every member of the team understands their role in the schedule that day, it will decrease the surprises that tend to catch us off guard. I think many surprises occur due to a lack of communication and having the morning huddle solves most of these issues.

Some items may be too lengthy to fully resolve during a morning huddle. When this happens, please add that item to your agenda for your next monthly team meeting. Not having those meetings? That will be the topic for a different blog post – stayed tuned.