As you well know, clinical competency is not enough for a successful dental practice. For a truly outstanding business, you should offer comfortable amenities, a good chairside manner, and good communication skills. Of course, a friendly, efficient, and knowledgeable office team is also essential. The ability to assemble and develop a great office team is one of the marks of good dentist leadership.
As a dental coach, I see far too many dentists who struggle with their office teams, hygienists, and assistants. They bemoan their team’s inefficiency, incompetence, or lack of people skills. The truth is that, many times, dentists themselves bear some responsibility for their problems. Insufficient training, lack of communication, or errors during the hiring process could all be partially to blame. The five steps listed below can help you build a better team for greater practice growth.
1. Establish Guidelines for Your Team.
“My assistant never does her job. She always leave loose ends for me to finish up!” “My office manager is so inefficient when it comes to scheduling. We always wind up over or under booked!” Do these complaints sound familiar? Yes, your employees could be at fault. On the other hand, perhaps they simply don’t know what it is they are supposed to do. For a smoothly running practice, it is important to set specific guidelines for each of your team members. Establish these parameters before you even begin the hiring process. That way, you know exactly what you are looking for, and there will be far less confusion in the office.
2. Be Selective in the Hiring Process.
Sometimes, your team may not function smoothly because they are simply not right for the job. It is important to be cautious and thorough when you are looking for new team members. In addition to having clearly defined job guidelines, you should work with a potential new hire for at least a day to make sure your working styles line up. You should also solicit opinions from existing team members. Do they think this new individual would be a good fit? Conduct background checks and contact previous employers before making a final decision.
3. Create a Nurturing Work Atmosphere.
Once you’ve chosen your team, you are largely responsible for their workplace happiness. Yes, some people will just be negative no matter what you do. For the most part, however, people want to be happy in their jobs. Do everything you can to make the office a welcoming, inviting place. Establish practices that support a work-family balance. Make your office a gossip-free environment. Celebrate personal and practice milestones. Above all, maintain open communication with your team.
4. Encourage Employee Involvement.
When employees feel like “dental practice drones,” their performances will suffer. Everyone wants to have creative outlets and means of self-expression. Respect their individual working styles, as long as they do not interfere with practice operations. Organize and encourage team participation in community service and charitable events. Allow your employees a voice when it comes to major decisions that could greatly affect the practice.
5. Provide Honest, Meaningful Feedback
As part of your commitment to open communication, it is important to provide routine feedback for your employees. I encourage my clients to forgo traditional performance reviews in favor of more open, productive “Growth Conferences.” At these meetings, you and your employee will discuss areas of improvement, and you will set specific goals for greater professional development. At the same time, your team member will have a chance to voice his or her concerns. You should be prepared to undertake honest self-assessment and set goals for your own improvement. Of course, you should also take the time to acknowledge your employee’s accomplishments and abilities.
By following these five tips, you will create a stronger, more efficient team. When your whole office works together well and truly feels challenged and stimulated, your patients will notice the difference. In turn, you could enjoy increased business and a more profitable practice.