“I feel like I have to do everything myself. My team members seem to be incapable of giving 100%.” If I had a quarter for every time I heard that from one of my clients, well, I wouldn’t need to be a dental coach anymore! “Lazy” team members seem to be a nearly universal problem of dentistry. After I heard this from countless clients, I started to wonder… Could the dentists themselves be to blame? It seems an absurd claim. How could hard-working dentists be responsible for negligent or unmotivated employees? Dentists have a responsibility to create healthy, nurturing work environments. Be honest with yourself. If you have a constant problem with “lazy” employees, and especially if you have a high turnover rate, it’s time to take a look at your practice. With a few simple changes, you may find that you suddenly have a more energetic and hard-working team than you ever thought possible.
In my experience, team members are frequently seen as “lazy” because they honestly don’t know what they are supposed to do! They may understand the clinical side of dentistry, but they may be clueless as to your particular preferences and ways of working. You should establish set guidelines for your team members before the initial interview. When you lay out your expectations up front, you can gauge whether or not an interviewee is likely to be a good fit for your practice. Never hire someone whom you don’t believe can eventually be at a level 10 in his or her position.
What if you have already done all your hiring? Should you just sack all of your employees and start over? Actually, you are in the perfect position to grow together as an office team. Set out firm and specific guidelines for each person in your practice. Job descriptions, protocols, and Growth Conferences are just a few of the items you’ll need to have in place. After you have presented these parameters to each of your team members, ask if he or she needs any additional training to meet the new demands of the practice. In all likelihood, your employees will appreciate your faith in their abilities and the newfound sense of responsibility. Taking this initial step may transform the day-to-day operations of your practice.
Providing Positive Feedback
Of course, establishing expectations is just the initial step. Your team members will require your support and feedback on a regular basis. This may prove difficult at first, but think about how difficult it would be if you never got any recognition or feedback from your work. In all likelihood, many patients have thanked you for ending their toothache or providing them with a beautiful set of veneers. They probably don’t thank your hygienist when they don’t develop a cavity. You wouldn’t want to labor on in a thankless job, and your employees don’t want to either. A few words of recognition can make all the difference in the world. While privately expressed sentiments never hurt, don’t forget to acknowledge accomplishments publicly at team meetings.
Creating a Nurturing Work Environment
If you feel that your employees are not dedicated to the practice, you may be right. However, instead of immediately blaming your team, stop and think about why they are not dedicated. Do they feel like active participants in the practice, or are they simply dental drones? Your employees have undergone years of training, and they don’t want to stagnate. Encourage team communication and collaboration. This is one of the main reasons that I encourage Growth Conferences, rather than performance reviews. At Growth Conferences, you can address concerns with each of your team members individually, and you can provide productive feedback. However, these meetings will also allow your employees to make suggestions for future practice growth. Remember, this mutual communication is important in regular Growth Conferences. However, you should also maintain open communication and idea sharing on a daily basis.
Lastly, is your practice a healthy work environment? If not, make it one! You can watch an hour-long video on my website about this topic, or you can contact me, or you can even contact the American Psychological Association’s website for guidelines. Unhealthy practices are costly, have increased turnover and absenteeism, are less productive, and underperform compared to healthy practices.