Coach’s Corner | Team Cohesion Is a Work In Progress

I receive some great emails from my audience, and I appreciate you taking your time to watch/read the Coach’s Corner and be engaged to the point you are asking me follow-up questions. As you know, I love helping all of you so please keep emailing your questions to me.

The question I was asked was to explain what I meant when I say culture. I think the easiest way for me to explain this is to give a real example that has occurred with a client of mine and walk through the process. After you have written down your Mission and Vision of the practice, then it is time to define the Culture of your practice. For those of you who follow my Coach’s Corner each month, you already know I define culture as what is or is not acceptable. When I say acceptable, think of human behavior.

For this client, he kept referring to those he worked with as his team. He needed my help with a specific thing that kept happening in his practice. Even though he created the mission and vision of his practice (on his own) he thought that would stop some items from falling through the cracks. There is a reason why I always advocate for the Mission and Vision to be created as an entire team – so everyone has input, and their opinions are heard. Having it done with their involvement assures the group will start working as a team. That part is extremely important as this client found out. Defining the culture of your practice is really where the rubber meets the road.

As I’ve said before, culture, as I define it, is what is acceptable or not acceptable in your practice. For my client, the issue that needed to be addressed was accountability with each team member. Some felt that they did not have to complete their assigned tasks and/or someone else would always be there to pick up the slack. The problem arises when that behavior is allowed to continue. This behavior is the antithesis of being a true team member. Letting someone else do the job that you are responsible for cannot continue for the well-being of the practice. This will breed distrust among the team and, if that behavior is allowed to continue, will bring into question the leadership of the doctor in the practice.

Together, the doctor and I corrected this issue. After I explained all of these steps to my client, he understood the importance of involving the team in every part of the process. Clarity of everybody’s role and responsibility is something that I cover when I create the vision statement of the practice. That is crucial so that your team members understand who is responsible for what task. If you are acting as a true team, you should be able to anticipate the next move of your teammate. It really should be that simple within your practice. The cohesion of the team is created when there is trust between team members that they will be accountable for their role within the practice. That is why culture is paramount to your team cohesion. If a team member is allowed to pawn their responsibility onto another, then that is what is acceptable in your practice. If that behavior is acceptable then that behavior will continue to occur in your practice. If, however, that behavior is not acceptable, then that behavior will stop. These are the conversations you need to have with your team and discuss your culture as a team so that everybody is on the same page.

The next step requires the leadership of the doctor. You have created and written down your culture – meaning the behaviors that will be expected as well as the behaviors that will be avoided by your team members. For example, gossiping is a behavior that is not allowed for your team members. Please keep in mind, especially in the beginning, that it will take the daily leadership of the doctor to make sure human behavior changes in your practice. Once you have taken the time necessary to create the culture that you desire in your practice, you will always fight to keep that. This means that the accountability segment and the team cohesion are something that you will always expect your team members to uphold.

There is an additional benefit that will separate you from other employers in the area. When hiring a new team member, you will have a written mission, vision, and culture to share with them. By having these ready to share with new team members, there should be no confusion about the expectations the doctor and the team will have for future new hires. This is a competitive advantage for you and your practice. Having these items written down proves how much you care for your team and ultimately for your patients and the care they receive in your practice.

Please reach out to me via email at lynne@victorydentalmanagement.com with any questions you have or if you would like to schedule a complimentary call.

Top 4 Ways To Boost Case Acceptance In Dental Practices | Dental Practice Management

dental consulting

Treatment acceptance can be a sensitive subject for many dentists. You do not want to come across as pushy or salesy, especially for a health-related service. However, you can improve your case acceptance rate by simply rethinking the way you talk to your patients about recommended treatments. 

Explain and Educate

Patient education is vital to both oral health and treatment acceptance. Provide a thorough explanation of any treatment needed without coming across as critical of their oral health. Any whiff of judgment is a turn-off to many patients. Avoid being too graphic and refrain from over-explaining. It can be helpful to have pamphlets, laminated charts, dental models, or other visuals on hand to aid in explaining a condition or treatment. The key is to provide a thorough explanation of their current dental and oral health. 

If they are curious about hairline cracks in their teeth, for example, explain craze lines. If they want to know why their gums bleed when they floss, explain periodontal health and how to prevent it. Always follow up with suggested treatment options. When patients feel that you are invested in their education and wellbeing, they will likely feel more confident in the care you’re providing.

Emphasize the Benefits

While being thorough and honest about a condition, you should also focus on the benefits of a particular treatment. Always strive for buy-in. When most people are approached with an important decision from an outside source, they tend to go on the defensive, especially when it comes to something as intimate as health care. 

Our dental business coach says to be careful how you present information. Your patient needs to understand their situation, whether it is an urgent oral health concern, a cosmetic issue, or a preventive measure. They need to be able to follow the logic in your suggestions for a service and understand exactly how it can positively impact their oral health.

Once they have a thorough understanding of the issue and the solution, they are more likely to accept the treatment they need.

Be an Excellent Listener 

During your patient appointments, don’t just run through a treatment checklist. Patients want to believe that they’ve been heard, not talked at. Ask what their oral health goals and concerns are, and then let them speak. It shows that you care about them and how they feel, both before and after treatment.

Encourage Two-Way Communication

Make sure that you strove for ongoing, two-way communication with patients. These conversations help ensure they understand their oral health issues, are educated on treatment options and are given solutions in a positive manner. Patients will know that your suggestions are offered with their best interests in mind — that you care about them as individuals, not as a mouth to fix or a goal to meet.

Schedule a consultation with our dental practice consultant today to discuss more techniques on how you can boost treatment acceptance and improve your practice.

Victory Dental Management
Phone: (804) 399-2053

Increase Marketing Investment to Boost Revenue | Dental Business Coach

Dental Business Coach

Every business experiences trends of increasing and decreasing revenues, and dental practices are no different. When new business slows and income begins to stagnate, many practice owners react by cutting back on budget items they think are most expendable. One of those is marketing. 

This is almost always a mistake. When you cut your marketing budget, your revenues almost always suffer. Today’s practices cannot survive only by word-of-mouth referrals. Your company needs to keep up a flow of new patients, not just in the weeks following a postcard blast or mass email. In addition, you need to maintain the loyalty of your existing patients. 

Consistent, effective marketing helps you achieve both goals. One recent study found by our dental business coach examined the marketing budgets of several publicly traded companies. The researchers found that businesses that were spending an average of 16.5 percent of revenue grew up to 15 percent annually, and those that spent an average of 22 percent grew 16 to 30 percent annually. 

Marketing can mean many things, from emails to brochures to internet outreach. Increasingly, it is digitally focused. A coordinated social media, advertising, and email campaign, for example, can serve to keep you top of mind in the worst of economic times. 

Of course, technology is a double-edged sword. While it is easier to attract and retain patients this way, it is also easier to lose them. A Salesforce study shows 70 percent of customers say internet searches facilitate their search for a business that better suits their needs. That’s where good, old-fashioned customer service comes in.

When your marketing budget increases, your revenue usually follows suit. There are several rough indicators that can influence how much your practice should spend on marketing:

  • Is your practice new? You may need to invest more until you have established a patient base.
  • Do you want to maintain the growth of your established practice? Compare your current growth rate to the number of patients lost in a year to help determine the health of your budget. 
  • Is business stagnant or decreasing? Consider investing an additional 5 to 10 percent above your current marketing budget, at least until the trend reverses.
  • How competitive is your local market? Higher competition requires greater investment to grow business. 

For customized advice on setting your dental marketing budget and growing your practice, contact our dental management consultant today.

Victory Dental Management
Phone: (804) 399-2053

How to Handle a Toxic Employee | Dental Management Consultant

Dental Business Coach

Hiring new employees is time-consuming, stressful, and sometimes expensive. It’s no wonder, then, that many businesses find it more cost-effective and less emotionally taxing to retain employees, even if they turn out to be a negative influence. Enter the devastating effect of the toxic employee. 

Dental offices tend to be small and close-knit, which makes it even more difficult to confront someone about their behavior and let them go. While finding the right fit for your practice can be a challenge, holding onto a toxic team member can be far more costly.

What is a Toxic Employee?

A toxic employee may be a competent worker, or started out that way, and they may be decent people at heart. For whatever reason, however, their actions and attitude become a drag on the workplace culture. See if you recognize these red flags in your practice shared by our dental business coach:

  • Poor attitude: This type of person will exhibit passive-aggressive characteristics. They may agree with a directive on the surface, but accompany it with eye-rolling, exaggerated sighs, sarcastic comments, muttering, complaints, or a confrontational tone.
  •  Dishonesty: Whether blaming others for their own mistakes, refusing to accept responsibility, or outright lies and thefts, this type of toxic employee can harm your bottom line as well as morale – especially if you don’t confront it. 
  • Lack of engagement: This type of employee avoids work, lacks enthusiasm and is lackadaisical toward responsibilities. They are often inattentive at meetings and huddles. 
  • Falling work performance: The toxic employee will not do any more than the bare minimum of what is expected. They appear disinterested in feedback or training and are otherwise unwilling to improve.
  • Bullying behavior: Anyone who intimidates other team members, is disruptive, or otherwise makes others feel uncomfortable, could be a toxic employee. 

If you recognize any of these indicators, you have two choices. You can give them another chance or let them go. There is almost always an underlying reason for someone’s toxic attitude: The employee may be going through personal turmoil or carrying forth maladaptive behaviors from childhood. Some toxic employees don’t even realize they are behaving in a negative way until someone points it out. 

While practices are often family-like, keep any discussion strictly work-related. Outline your findings in a factual manner and document, if possible. Create an improvement plan and a timeline. Consult labor laws in your state for additional guidance. 

Your second choice is to outright fire the toxic employee. You may have no choice if you have found an issue that puts patients at risk or involves financial malfeasance.   

If you are still on the fence about letting a negative team member go, consider these consequences of keeping a toxic employee.

  • Loss of new patients: If a toxic employee is interacting with potential patients, they are creating a negative image of your business, which can lose hundreds or thousands of dollars in revenue.
  • Loss of existing patients: If they are treated poorly even once, they may choose to take their oral care elsewhere – and they may tell other people.
  • Loss of your best team members: Your best people want to work in a positive environment where they feel supported and appreciated. By tolerating the complaints, bullying, or shoddy work of one toxic person, you risk losing valuable team members.

Don’t compromise your business or your best team members by refusing to fire toxic employees. For more strategies to improve your practice, contact our dental management consultant.

Victory Dental Management
Phone: (804) 399-2053

3 Easy Ways to Find More Time in Your Day | Dental Team Coaching

Dental Practice Management

We all have days when time management seems like a dream instead of a reality. Some days, making the clock work for you instead of against you seems close to impossible. If so, it might be time to reevaluate the strategies you are using to organize your day. What other tools could you be using to save your practice’s most precious commodity? Here are three methods shared by our dental business coach that can help you organize your time. 

1. Re-evaluate Your Time Management Tactics

Keep track of how you are spending your time. Write it down in detail. Do you tend to start one task, put it down and go back to it later? Maybe completing one task before starting another will help you check off more items at the end of the day.

What about interactions with your team? Are you so focused on keeping them productive that you neglect your own to-do list? Try this: Ask each team member to record their tasks for the day and send them to you in a quick, to-the-point email daily for a week. This will give you a good idea of who is doing what without micromanaging.  

Getting a clear picture of what each team member is contributing may also help you scale back on team meetings. Having a list of completed tasks at the end of the day allows for everyone at your practice to be keenly aware of who is accountable for each task. That kind of clarity encourages harmony.

2. Use Apps to Maximize Efficiency

There are many time-management tools available for your laptop and phone. Why not take advantage of apps and software? They can be extremely valuable for keeping track of hours and productive time. Everyone can benefit from efficiency apps. There’s no need to manage all aspects of your business manually unless that method works for you; if so, stick to it.

Take advantage of scheduling apps and software, too. You can schedule next-appointment reminder emails to patients instead of sending them in real time. This keeps you in regular contact with your patients and can help with retention, as well. 

3. Consider Express Check-In

One late patient can throw the whole day off schedule. Make it easier for your patients to register at the desk. Provide forms online for them to fill out before they set foot in your office and offer touchscreens to help them check in with a few touches. This saves time and prevents you from earning a reputation as a practice that always runs late. 

Your patients will not want to fill out redundant forms. Rework any documents or forms where possible to prevent redundancy.

Successful business leaders are experts at time management. Put methods in place that allow for concrete, quantitative results to measure productivity. Utilize technology designed to make your life easier and create a more pleasant patient experience. If you need help with time management and practice efficiencies, call our office and talk to our experienced dental consulting team.

Victory Dental Management
Phone: (804) 399-2053

Coach’s Corner | March Madness and Your Team Wrecking My Bracket

For those of you who know me, you already know March is my favorite month when it comes to sports – it’s all about March Madness baby! I have coached various levels of girls’ basketball, from elementary age to AAU for nearly two decades. In fact, I even enjoy seeing a team wreck my bracket since that means the team performed better than expected. Doesn’t that sound great – to perform better than expected. As the doctor, wouldn’t you love to say your team performed better than expected- of course you would!
Being able to say that about your team is possible. It takes planning and executing the plan – much like the top teams vying for the championship. That is why I love teaching leadership using the coaching model since everyone understands what I am referring to. Coaching gives you the anchor point when learning how to lead your team.

I am writing this before the first round takes place so I cannot make any statements about any games yet. What I can do is draw some analogies for you since I am sure you will see some examples during the tournament.

I mentioned planning. Without a doubt every coaching staff is looking for a certain player to round out their team each season. They are looking for a special skill set or stats and strengths that they need. The same thing is true for your dental team. Do you know their strengths? If not, please get in touch with me – I use some personality testing so you know as the head coach what you should be looking for in your team.

Once you have solidified your team, what plays will you run? What offense and defensive sets fit the team you are coaching? What is your philosophy of coaching? In your practice, this would match your mission and your philosophy of practicing dentistry. How do you want your players to interact with you and your coaching staff and with each other? This is akin to the culture you have created in your dental practice. For those of you who are familiar with my Coach’s Corner, you already know I define culture as what is or is not acceptable in your practice.

When it comes to your expectations as the head coach, do you want your team to hustle? Do you play tough each possession of the ball? Are you teaching mental and physical toughness? Believe it or not, this matches your dental practice as well. Think about each team member’s role and responsibility in your practice. Do they need to follow your process and protocols or is it ok for them not to do their job? Do you expect your team to work until completion of a task or is it ok to quit when it gets tough? You are all smart, you know exactly what I am describing. Have you created a team that encourages one another when things get tough?

If anything I have written causes you to pause and wonder what your team would do, please get in touch with me. It could be you need a little help in the planning stage or maybe some tweaks in the execution of your plan.

Here’s to your team wrecking the bracket!

You can reach Lynne via email lynne@victorydentalmanagement.com

4 of the Best Team Building Practices | Dental Management Consultant

Dental Business Coach

Your team is vital to the success of your practice. Working in a positive atmosphere is sure to keep every member motivated for long-term success. The opposite is also true. If you have noticed your team’s synergy slipping, it may stem from a lack of communication. Here are three proven ways to boost your team’s morale and work ethic.

Know your work style

To lead a successful team, you must be aware of how you work as a leader. Understanding your leadership techniques and styles will help you tailor your techniques to your team’s needs. Don’t be afraid to be critical of yourself and continue to look for new ways to improve.

Get to Know Your Team

Our dental consultant recommends to get to know your team members on a more personal level (while always keeping things professional). Learn their strengths and growth areas and understand what they expect out of you as a leader. This will make them feel heard and feel invested in one another, you, and the practice as a whole. It also helps to define roles and responsibilities clearly.

Delegate According to Strength

When you get to know your team members as individuals, you will have a better understanding of how to delegate tasks. This gives you the opportunity to clearly define each member’s roles and responsibilities around the office. Giving a clear vision to each member will allow them to make strides in their respective areas.

Give Constructive Feedback

Employees like to know how they are doing on the job. Remember to give them plenty of feedback on where they excel and how they can improve. Be tactful in making corrections, tailor your feedback to how they best receive it, and always be conscious of celebrating their successes.

Leaders are only as successful as their teams. Appreciate who they are as individuals and you will appreciate what they do as employees. They will respect and appreciate you on a personal and professional level, too, if you play to their strengths and deliver feedback in an affirming way. If you are looking for help with management, team-building techniques, or you need help improving your practice, contact our dental coach today and speak with one of our highly experienced consulting professionals.

What to Do About a Chronically Late Team Member | Dental Business Coach

Dental Business Coach

Our dental business coach see this all too often. The daily team meeting has begun and you realize that one of your seasoned staff members is missing. To the best of your recollection, this is the fourth time that they have been late to a morning huddle in the past three weeks. As you go through the agenda for the meeting you suddenly notice that the tardy employee has quietly snuck into the back of the room. Their arrival is now greeted with subtle head shakes and sighs from around the room. Clearly the entire staff has now become aware of this problem. How do you address this issue with your team members?

Employees who are chronically late to work can reduce the overall productivity of your practice. It often lowers the morale and work ethic of other team members who might resent that the late arrivers aren’t getting reprimanded for their lack of respect for the schedule. It might even encourage other employees to show up late to work if they see no consequence for the detrimental behavior. Fortunately, there are actions that you can take to encourage your employee to correct their behavior.

1. Identify the Behavior

You have already recognized that your team member has developed a bad habit of showing up late for work. Not only are they missing out on portions of your morning huddle meetings, but their absence is starting to cause a noticeable delay in the patient schedule. The other members of your staff have also begun to voice their displeasure through verbal and non-verbal cues. Be proactive in your approach with this employee. Make a point of documenting their arrival time so that you have data to support your claims that the employee is chronically late to work. Be prepared to share this with the team member at your meeting.

2. Confidentiality

Each member of your team deserves confidentiality when discussing matters that relate to their performance. You want to save them from public humiliation and the possibility that you may escalate the problem even further. Inform your employee that you have scheduled a meeting with them in private to discuss your concerns.

3. Be Clear, Be Objective, and Listen

Once the meeting has begun, identify your specific concerns with your employee. Use the tardiness data that you have accumulated to state your case. Explain how their chronically-late behavior has impacted their fellow team members and the practice in general. Share your disappointment, but keep your emotions in check and remain as objective and neutral in tone as possible. Pause as you allow your employee an opportunity to respond to you. It is critical that you listen carefully to what they have to say. Take a few moments to write down pertinent notes of what is being said. Your goal is to help them identify the root cause of the behavior so that you both can develop an achievable action plan.

4. Create an Action Plan

You have spent a few moments listening to your team member describe why they continue to be late. You underscore that you have clear expectations for their behavior moving forward. Those expectations have to be tailored to the reasons behind the excessive tardiness. Perhaps the employee is dealing with an illness or a family issue previously unbeknownst to you. What matters is that you have laid out a clear and concise plan moving forward. When the team member leaves the meeting, they should recognize that “if I don’t do this- then this action step will occur.” In any case, they need to know that more serious consequences will occur should this behavior continue.

5. Put it in Writing

After the meeting has concluded, recall the dialogue that took place as well as any notes that you may have written. Take some time to carefully craft a memo that simply restates what took place during the meeting with your team member. Mention the reasons why the meeting was held; the reasons the employee gave to you for their behavior, and the action steps that will be taken moving forward. Once the memorandum is completed, hand a copy to the employee for their records and keep another copy for your use. This document becomes critical should the employee continue to demonstrate similar poor behavior in the future.

6. Positive Reinforcement

Positive praise and reinforcement will go a long way towards improving employee behavior. Take every opportunity to recognize your team member making the effort to curb their actions. Let them know that they are still valued and appreciated. You will often find that this praise will motivate them even further.

If you’re looking for more business management tips, or have other areas of your practice that need improvement, let us help! Contact our dental consulting firm to schedule a consultation.

Victory Dental Management
Phone: (804) 399-2053
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Coach’s Corner | Hiring the Right Team Member

I received such a great response to last month’s Coach’s Corner that I wanted to go further into the hiring process. Specifically, what to look for when hiring the right team member for your practice. Let’s make sure that we’re all on the same page. Last month I discussed the difference between having employees and having a true team work with you. The leader of the team is the doctor, and you will need to create your own game plan for your practice. Part of that game plan is writing down your mission, your vision, and your culture of the practice.

When looking for a new team member, hiring just anyone to fill the vacancy is not good enough. I’ve often said, “hire for character and teach the skill”. There are many new hires in the dental industry that have no past work experience in the field, obviously these are for non-clinical roles in your practice. I believe the personality that you are looking for as well as the character of the individual is more important than their skill set. When looking for additional team members, remember you have the ability to teach how you want things to be done. If they show the initiative and have the self-discipline needed to work in your dental practice, then that is what you should be looking for. Again, focusing on someone’s character and then teaching them the skill. All new team members will need to be onboarded correctly in your practice regardless of their past dental experience. Until someone has worked with you, they do not know how things are done in your practice and all of that needs to be taught. If you find yourself needing to hire new team members, then please start writing out an onboarding plan for every role in your practice. This plan will help you set up all new team members for success in your practice.

After you have found an applicant that has the character you are looking for, then you will need to make sure they align with the culture you are creating or have created in your practice. Last month’s Coach’s Corner I refer to culture as what is acceptable or not acceptable. I believe culture or defining culture is something that we really make harder than we need to. It’s that simple – what’s acceptable or not acceptable in your practice. In other words, what behaviors are acceptable or not acceptable in your practice.

In addition to culture, you will want to share your philosophy of dentistry. Your philosophy is something that should be covered in your mission statement. This needs to be shared with a potential candidate to make sure that everyone is in alignment. If they do not share the same viewpoint then please do not try to fit a square peg in a round hole; it will not work. I want you to be set up for success right from the beginning so that is why I’m mentioning all of these things. Next to share is your vision statement which is forward thinking. The manner in which I create vision statements with my clients is so encompassing, that it becomes part of your business plan. To make sure everyone is on the same page, please share these items with your potential hires.

All of these previously mentioned items are necessary to put your practice in the most honest and relevant light with new hires. It has been my experience that new hires are looking for most of these things: a dental family that focuses on patient care, want to be a true team member, and want a healthy, non-toxic culture. Having the right culture and doing the work to have a mission, vision, and culture written down is really a competitive advantage for your practice. Practices that want to be the best will invest their time in creating all of these things because of the importance to the team and the practice. The most important is all of this is done to make patient care the priority. Bringing like-minded individuals together on a team is the first step to make sure that you and your practice are as successful as they can be.

If you need help creating your plan or you have questions, please contact me lynne@victorydentalmanagement.com

How to Manage Difficult Employees and Reduce Office Conflict | Dental Consultant Near Me

Dental Practice Consulting

Running and managing a dental practice is no easy task. One of the most common shared concerns is  the challenge of managing people. In both small and  large practices, even one difficult employee can cause enough problems to interrupt business and potentially impact profits. That’s why it’s important to have a system in place for addressing staff issues that occur when an employee refuses to comply with office rules and directions.  Adopting a process and tailoring it to fit your needs can help you potentially avoid unwanted confrontations that lead to even larger business concerns. Learn how to handle difficult employees now so you and your whole team can get back on the path to success. Here are some tips from our dental consultants to help you do just that.

Speak to Them Privately and Listen

Open communication with staff members can help solve and sometimes avoid issues with employees as soon as they arise. If a member of your team consistently fails to take direction, sit down with them privately and have an open discussion. Share your concerns with your employees using clear language and simple, open-ended questions. Making sure to truly listen to their  responses during these conversations is also important. Once your employee responds, restate what they said back to them to avoid communication breakdowns, e.g., “So what I heard you say is that you didn’t follow our customer service procedure because you did not understand what was expected of you, is that right?”

Monitor and Document Progress

Once clear communication has occurred between you and your employee, make sure to document and monitor the situation and its progress consistently. Employees can sometimes feel their needs fall on deaf ears, and in these instances, they will go right back to the same way of doing things. Showing that management cares and is working towards a solution can lead to a behavioral shift sooner rather than later. On the flip side, if progress is not seen consistently or at all, it may be time to consider a more formal disciplinary approach.

Taking Disciplinary Action

Addressing a difficult employee using disciplinary action (formal write up, demotion, or employment termination) is never easy. As a business owner, it is unfortunately something you will likely have to deal with at some point. Remember, the goal of early disciplinary action is to help improve the behavior and keep the employee/employer relationship moving in a positive direction. Having clear, well-defined policies that you can refer back to is essential so that you can deal with the potential legal and team morale issues that may arise, should the situation lead to termination of employment.

If you are dealing with a difficult employee or would like to consult on other areas of your practice, contact our dental business coach today.

Victory Dental Management
Phone: (804) 399-2053
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