As leaders in the practice, the doctor and office manager serve as “models” for office morale.
And how they respond to challenges can have a profound impact on the entire team
Whether you (or they) know it or not, when things happen, your staff are watching. More specifically, they’re keeping an eye on how you handle these issues. And your actions become an example for them as to what’s expected and acceptable in your office.
If you’re calm, focused and can create a sensible plan of action to address any given situation, you’ll notice that your team will respond in kind and things will roll out smoothly. On the other hand, if you appear nervous and unsure of what to do, your team will mirror this franticness.
(Related: Solving the Biggest Problem in Your Dental Practice)
So, how can you best equip your team with the confidence to sort out issues they may face in the practice? And what can you do as the doctor/owner or office manager to be an effective leader through stressful times?
Realize problems will happen
Of course, it’s unrealistic to think you’ll never run into any problems. A good executive makes sure to prioritize these issues and gets the team well-equipped to handle them. Asking your team to solve problems without the appropriate knowledge or “tools” is setting them up for failure.
As an example, look at First Responders. They are called upon to show up and solve supremely stressful, actual life and death issues every day. They do their job confidently, fast, and effectively. Why? They have the knowledge and tools to solve what they are going to encounter. When things are frantic and stressful, they still operate at maximum effectiveness. And they didn’t become this way overnight. They were educated on what to do and this education was put in practice until they could perform as close to flawless as possible.
Dialing this back a bit, an empty schedule isn’t truly a “life or death situation” as above. But it does fall somewhere on the stress scale. How well equipped is your Scheduling Coordinator to handle huge last-minute openings in the schedule? Well, ask. Find out what they would do if they walked in on a Monday and three of your four days of primary time all of a sudden emptied out. Have them walk you through their contemplated actions – including the sequence in which they would execute them. Did they have to think too hard? Or was it second nature? When immediate action is required – the last thing you want to do is think, think, think. You want knowing action. Based on his or her answers you’ll have a generalized idea of how they might respond. And sure, you never know how someone will perform under stress until they…you know…perform under stress. But I can guarantee the potential for a negative outcome goes up the less they know what to do.
(Related: 6 Leadership Qualities All Dentists Should Have)
Help your staff to solve problems on their own
You won’t always be available to help with the issues that come up in the office. So, it’s best for each staff member to know the specific problems they may face on their job and how to effectively handle them. This way, each person has their own responsibility for what happens on their job and feel like they can confidently handle anything that comes up.
Using our scheduling example from earlier, you should ideally have a training manual for their position containing all the vital info on how to handle anything that might come up. At minimum, you should have some basic write-ups on the common barriers or issues they may run into on their job and what to do about them. Then have them practice how they would solve these issues with another team member until they feel completely confident in handling them. These training procedures you’d be writing down, by the way, would act as POLICY.
Creating office policy
Policy isn’t just for things like dress codes, cancellation fees, billing, etc. There should be policy for how different scenarios and issues get handled in the office.
What should the receptionist do when a patient calls to cancel? When a patient has a complaint, who should address it and how? Where are lab cases placed when they need to be shipped to or from the lab? What does the Scheduling Coordinator do when the doctor is running behind schedule and patients are waiting?
These are all things that should be laid out in written policy, and they should be placed in manuals as above for the appropriate employees so they can read them and familiarize with the policy. This way even a brand-new employee can learn how to handle these issues even if they weren’t present the last time this situation came up to see how it was sorted out.
(Related: Why Your Practice Needs to be Systems Based)
Only when all the appropriate employees know and have agreed upon how problems are handled can they begin to handle them on their own, without your intervention. And believe me, just telling them verbally how you expect things to be handled is not enough. It makes all the difference to have something in writing that they can read and can be referred back to if they make a mistake in the future.
It may seem like a big task to create policy for every aspect of every job in the office. So, I suggest starting gradually. Every time you need to handle a situation that arises, once it’s sorted out, write a quick policy about it and then print it out and give it to the staff. This doesn’t need to take long. In some cases, the policy may only be a few sentences or a short paragraph. That’s fine.
As a note: on our online training platform at DDS Success (www.DDSsuccess.com), we provide complete training for front office positions and this includes extensive policies, checklists and instructions for a ton of functions and issues that can arise in the office. These are presented as Word documents so you can edit them and customize for your office. I highly suggest looking into that.
Don’t blame your staff
A good executive empowers their team to solve problems and has their back in solving them. The worst way you can “solve” a problem is by blaming it on your staff. Sure, there will be times when employees make mistakes and isn’t directly your fault. But, if we take responsibility for it as the leader and executive, and take on a problem-solving attitude, I bet you the problem will be solved pretty quickly.
Of course, you’d want to correct the staff member who made the mistake, but it doesn’t do anyone any good to blame our own team; it’s best to acknowledge a mistake was made, help them solve it if necessary, and correct them so it doesn’t happen again. This is the way everyone can win.
I hope this helps! Again, I do highly recommend checking out DDS Success. It has made such a great impact for a ton of MGE Clients, and I’d love to see your team have the same success. For a FREE DEMO, head over to www.ddssuccess.com/demo to schedule a time.
And as always, if you ever have any questions, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Until next time!
This is a great article! Much needed information. Thanks John!