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October 3, 2016

Constructive Conversation

Constructive Conversation!

October 2016

The words Constructive Criticism always make me cringe. There just doesn’t seem to be anything constructive about criticism. The dictionary defines criticism as the act of passing judgment as to the merits of qualities, values and abilities. I have yet to see where judging someone has helped to promote their further development and advancement or improve outcome. Instead, criticism comes across as judging, condemning or blaming and has negative effects such as employee shut down, lack of confidence and decline in performance. Yet employers and managers continue to utilize constructive criticism to promote employee growth and change. They continue to do so because of misconceptions about effectiveness and not out of maliciousness.

It’s time to transform the criticism part into a constructive conversation. A constructive conversation includes the following fundamentals and has two role players. The two role players are the Approacher and Approachee. The Approacher is the person conveying and enquiring and the Approachee it the person receiving and responding.


The Approacher’s Role

A constructive conversation is always in private and starts with positive communication from the Approacher. The Approacher shares what they appreciate about the other person. They build up instead of tear down by focusing on the other person’s strengths. A positive conversation has a minimum of a three to one ratio. Three positives for every one growth opportunity. Research shows that exceptional relationships have a five to one ratio. You may be thinking; what if I can’t find 5 positives. Every person has a least 5 strengths you can highlight! We will discover their strengths when we shift our focus from their weaknesses to their strengths. How ironic that our strengths are just taken for granted and minimized whereas our weaknesses are highlighted.

Be specific instead of generalizing. Focus more on objective points than subjective opinions. Just saying “I don’t like it or you’re doing this wrong” is not helpful. On the other hand, stating the specific strengths or skills you would like to see developed is helpful.

Don’t make it personal. Talk about issue not the person. Avoid saying, “you need to”. Start the conversation with the word I instead of saying you. For example, “I noticed,” “I have seen,” “I observed,” or when sharing feedback from others, “I have had reported to me.” “I” conversations are issue-focused instead of person-focused. Always consider how your words may impact the other person.   Ask yourself; how can I say what I need to say and be respectful of how they may feel.

Keep your energy neutral and come with a mindset of care, curiosity and concern instead of judgment and criticism. Never have a conversation when you are angry or frustrated or your emotions will rule the conversation. Instead take a few minutes to process and get calm. Start out by making eye contact with the other person. Be mindful of tone and body language as well as words. A tone of care and concern communicates a sense of importance and provides the appropriate level of sincerity to the conversation. Avoid using sarcasm or derogatory words or the content of the conversation will get lost in the harshness. Once you say something it cannot be taken back. An apology doesn’t mean we forget. The old nursery rhyme that goes sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me, is not true. Words can destroy even the best of relationships.

Break your feedback down into key points. Don’t give your feedback as one big lump. Break it down into various key points, then give your feedback point by point.

Give examples of each point. What are the exact issues, situations or examples where the person exhibits the behaviors you highlighted? There is no need to highlight every single one. – just disclosing a couple of examples per point will be sufficient. The purpose is to bring the person’s awareness to things which he/she may not be aware of and clearly illustrate what you mean.

Be timely! Try to address issues/concerns as they happen or within 24 hours of the occurrence. I have actually seen employers make a list of everything an employee has done wrong or needs to improve on for the year and go over it at their annual review. It reminds me of Santa Claus’s naughty list!   It’s no wonder why reviews get a bad rap!

Ask the other person what they need from you (communication, support, training, practice) to be able to achieve the desired results. Together discuss and agree on a resolution.



The Approachee’s Role

The aproachee is to start out by just listening and not taking offense. It is important to recognize that the approacher’s intent is good and to realize that it is not easy to approach someone.

Listen intently before responding. Make eye contact with the other person. Instead of defending, deflecting or blaming someone else consider how your actions or lack of actions affected the outcome.   Be honest with your response.

Acknowledge you heard and understand them. Never assume. If you are unsure ask questions until you clearly understand. If you are thinking I think they mean this…ask more questions.

Don’t take it personal. If the concern pertains to the patients, the practice or the team it is necessary to address. It can be difficult to hear when we are not meeting the standards or expectations. However, it is necessary to address in order to create and sustain a happier, healthier and higher performing culture.

Take it serious. It may not seem important or be a priority to you but it is for the other person.

Control your emotions. If you are upset don’t just walk off in anger or frustration. Instead, let them know that you need a little time to process the information they shared and you will respond later that day. Try respond within 24 hours.

If you are on the receiving end of anger or frustration ask the person if they are okay. This is their cue to reset their energy to calm and neutral. If they do not dial it down and you are still feeling attacked let them know. For example, I feel attacked or I feel disrespected when you: raise your voice; roll your eyes; are being sarcastic with your words.

Share what you need (communication, support, training, practice) to be able achieve the desired results. Together discuss and agree on a solution and make a commitment.

In the end it’s all about results! If we want to be effective at getting the results we desire, a constructive conversation always trumps criticism!


September 3, 2016

The Impact of Employee Turnover!

The Impact of Employee Turnover!

September 2016

The impact of employee turnover is more than just money. Employee turnover takes a huge toll on the patients, practice and the team by negatively impacting patient experience, practice culture, team performance and the bottom line.

The definition of employee turnover in HR terms – employee turnover is a measurement of how long your employees stay with your company and how often you have to replace them. Any time an employee leaves your practice, for any reason, they are called a turnover. You can calculate your annual employee turnover % by dividing the annual employee turnover number by total number of team members.

So what is the impact of employee turnover? Let’s start with the bottom line.

Losing only one mid-level employee that is paid $30 per hour and works 32 hours per week (annual salary of $49,920) can cost your practice anywhere from $24,960 to $99,840 in recruiting and training expenses. This dollar range represents a 6 to 24 months’ salary range of the mid-level employee. You won’t see it as a separate line item on the P & L. However, trust me it is there…hidden in reduced production and collection numbers.

I ask you to think about the last person you hired on your team. How long did it take to you to hire?   Where you successful on the first hire or did you need to rehire? How long did it take to train your new team member to a level of proficiency where they understood office protocols and could perform all aspects of their job? Six months in most cases is not a realistic expectation. The more detailed the position the longer it takes the more it impacts the bottom line. When I worked as a practice administrator at a periodontal practice we found that the average training time to be proficient was two years. Even very highly skilled and trained team members where not capable of just stepping in at the same level of performance. They still required a minimum of 6 months training to learn our office systems, protocols and culture.

Employee turnover affects patient experience. Your patients come to your dental office expecting to see the same faces. When there is constant turnover it creates feelings of doubt and discomfort. Patients are reassured when the person they expect to greet them is there to greet them by name and a warm hello as they walk through the door. Patients often build stronger relationships with the team than they do the doctor because they spend more time getting to know them. Patients often look to team members to reinforce the necessity of treatment. If you question this statement ask your clinical and non-clinical team if they have ever been asked by a patient; do I really need this treatment or would you do this treatment? High turnover results in declining trust and case acceptance.

Employee turnover affects team morale and performance. Most dental practices don’t have spare team members just waiting to pick up the slack. Which means that an existing team member has to spend a large portion of their time training the new team member. In most cases the team member was already working at capacity yet is expected to fit in the training and still perform at the same level. Very few practices adjust their scheduling to accommodate the training process. The added pressure spawns a culture of high stress, low morale and less than performance. In practices where there is consistent turnover there is very little desire to train the new team member. The mindset I often encounter is; why bother…after all they will just be leaving soon anyway. Even a high-performing culture is at the mercy of turmoil from turnover.

Employee turnover affects practice culture. Dentistry is a very small world and people talk. High turnover practices very quickly get a bad reputation in the dental community. The quality of team members they are able to attract and retain is limited. After a while they attract only those employees who can’t find a job anywhere else. OR they end up offering excessive wages to attract applicants and are still not able to retain them; resulting more turmoil and turnover.

Here are some ways to lower turnover in your workplace:

– Interview and vet applicants for character traits, attitude and skill sets as well as fit with the practice culture, managers and co-workers.

– Set comparable compensation and benefit packages with industry standard. Review compensation and benefits packages at least annually.

– Show respect and recognition to employees. Awards, recognition and praise might just be the single most cost-effective way to maintain a happy, healthy and high-performing practice culture.

– Create a positive practice culture with room to learn and grow.

– Keep employees in the loop and informed about future growth and how they can get there. Annual reviews or midyear check-ins are important; also encourage workers to come to you with career questions and goals throughout the year.

I also invite you to read August and September’s blog to learn even more about how you can transform a high turnover practice culture with high stressed under-performers into a low turnover practice culture with engaged high-performers!

Contact Judy Kay at today if you want to learn how she can help you build a cohesive team that support each other and the practice, become better leaders, and deliver service with more focus and passion!

August 1, 2016

How Can I Get My Team Motivated?

How Can I Get My Team Motivated?

August 2016

Trying to get someone else motivated is often a very confusing and frustrating mission.  I am often asked by dentists and managers, how can I get my team motivated? They are frustrated after trying a multitude of ideas including financial incentives and not seeing any change in behavior.

This may sound familiar to you?

We gave the team a bonus and they acted as if they were entitled to it…

We gave the team time off with pay and they didn’t show any appreciation…

We hosted a holiday party event for the entire team and their spouses and they complained…

We have the latest and greatest in technology, service and equipment and my team takes it for granted…

So if this is the norm…how do we get our team motivated?

The psychologist Fredrick Herzberg asked the same question in the 1950s and 60s as a means of understanding employee satisfaction. He set out to determine the effect of attitude on motivation, by asking people to describe situations where they felt really good, and really bad, about their jobs. What he found was that people who felt good about their jobs gave very different responses from the people who felt bad. Herzberg’s findings revealed that certain characteristics of a job are consistently related to job satisfaction, while different factors are associated with job dissatisfaction.

Factors of Satisfaction:



The work itself





Factors of Dissatisfaction:

Company policies


Relationship with supervisor and peers

Work conditions




The conclusion he drew is that job satisfaction and job dissatisfaction are not opposites.

For example, if you have a negative work environment, increasing someone’s wage or giving them a promotion will not make him or her satisfied. If you create a healthy work environment but do not provide members of your team with any of the satisfaction factors such as recognition, advancement or growth; the work they’re doing will still not be satisfying.

People are motivated by interesting work, challenge, and increasing responsibility. These intrinsic factors answer people’s deep-seated need for growth and achievement. In a nutshell dissatisfaction can demotivate but removing the source of dissatisfaction will not motivate. It takes satisfaction to motivate someone to work harder or smarter.

Herzberg’s work influenced a generation of doctors and managers yet his conclusions don’t seem to have changed the American workplace. Compensation and incentive packages are still considered the number one way to motivate.

Job satisfaction happens when we shift the emphasis from output to impact. Instead of how many crowns have we done or how many patients have we seen today…how have we have changed our patients’ lives today? Motivation comes from the daily work itself, a sense belonging, and constant reminders that what we do matters.

I think of motivation as the seat of a 3 legged stool.

The first leg – Be a Lifter:

We can either empower or unpower! Help your team develop skill sets. Show your team that you believe in them by allowing them to continue to grow and learn by taking on new tasks and new roles…EVEN if you can do it faster or better. Be a creator who creates versus a wallower who sees themselves as a victim. Model the waddle you want to see. Let them know that what they think and what they do matters!

The second leg – Be a Family. Show appreciation and acceptance for each person as an individual. Celebrate uniqueness instead of comparing. Get to know each other on a deeper level. What else do they care about? Give them a sense of belonging. Don’t’ we often claim we are all like a family? So treat each other like a caring, happy and healthy family would treat one another!

The third leg – Be on Purpose. Have a clear vision and mission that reinforces a larger purpose. Emphasize the positive impact of the work they do not just in the practice but in the lives of the patients. Clarify the main intention of your practice by defining priorities and it will help give the team a decision making strategy. As part of the daily huddle, mission and purpose can make even mundane tasks become significant!

Surprisingly money is not one of the legs. Money is often a factor of dissatisfaction when compensation is not adequate or fair. Money quickly loses its impact to motivate any sustained performance.

The bottom line is we all want to feel like we have a bigger purpose in life…that we make a difference… that we belong…that we matter! 

June 30, 2016

Cultivating a Culture by Design

Cultivating a Culture by Design!

July 2016

From the moment we step across the office threshold we become a part of the culture!  The dictionary defines culture as a way of life of a group of people–the behaviors, beliefs, values, and symbols that they accept, generally without thinking about them, and that are passed along by communication and behaviors. Every office culture is unique based on the culture they designed or allowed to happen by default. What we do and even what we don’t do creates our culture. If we aren’t cultivating a culture by design we will reap a culture by default.

I chose to use the word cultivate because of my farm upbringing and because it is a great analogy for how I work with teams. Cultivators are designed to disrupt the soil in careful patterns, sparing the crop plants but disrupting the weeds. Similarly I help teams cultivate their culture by maintaining what is good and positive while weeding out the weeds (adverse and negative). I am a culture cultivator! The focus of this message is cultivating a culture by design and references an article, “Five Performance and Accountability Standards to Help Your Team Soar,” that I wrote for the ADA’s 2015 book, “The ADA Practical Guide to Leading and Managing the Dental Team”.

Take a moment and think about your current office culture. Is there any drama, disorder or performance decline? Do any of the following team members and behaviors sound familiar?

The Drama Lover

Kelly makes mountains out of mole hills. Any schedule changes result in meltdowns. If Kelly is missing an instrument from her cassette, instead of just going and replacing it, she wastes time complaining to everyone. She often gossips about one co-worker to another. Kelly believes life doesn’t just happen, it happens to her! She always complains, whines, and criticizes co-workers, patients, family and, for that matter, anyone who crosses her path. Her ongoing drama lowers team morale and distracts everyone from focusing on the patients and the practice.

The Chaos Creator

Sam’s life is always in disarray. He’s almost always late and has an excuse. He overslept because the alarm clock stopped working and he didn’t have time to replace it. Or he didn’t allow adequate drive time because he didn’t check the weather or traffic. Or he was late dropping off the kids at school. Sam’s desk is a disaster, and he can’t find any of the charts or paperwork he needs when he needs them. He’s never prepared for meetings, and is always rushing around, stressed from trying to catch up. The team can no longer rely on him to do his job, and have lost trust and respect for him.

The Checked-out Employee

Georgia has been with the practice for 25 plus years. She was an exceptional employee the first 15 years, but her performance has been in a steady decline for the past ten. Georgia challenges any new ideas and refuses to adopt any change in standards or services. She often has an attitude of entitlement where she feels she deserves special treatment because of her longevity with the practice. She proudly describes herself as direct which really means she lacks a kindness/respect filter. What I refer to as cutting off at the knees. (If you cut someone off at the knees, you humiliate them, bully or force them to do what you want.) This makes others afraid to approach her. She may refuse to attend team functions, morning huddles or team meetings, and refuses to put in extra time in a crunch or do what she considers menial tasks. Her attitude and behavior affects the entire team’s performance level. The team starts to question why they have to adhere to standards if Georgia doesn’t.

If you recognize any of these employees or their poor behaviors…BREATHE…you’re not alone. Many offices struggle with undesirable behaviors – they are often unsure of what to do and don’t comprehend the toxic impact these behaviors can have on a practice. They affect communication, treatment acceptance, team work, work day enjoyment, stress levels, happiness, and more. Patient experience, team performance and the practice bottom line plummet. These behaviors are triggered and escalate from unclear and inconsistent expectations due to lack of culture standards.

Culture standards help eliminate the drama of who is right or wrong and get everyone rowing at a higher level on the same boat. Culture standards create clarity and structure. When there is clarity and structure the drama and confusion that often divides a team disappears. The opposite is true when there aren’t clear culture standards, assumptions, false expectations and differences of opinions run rampant. Every team member comes from a different background with unique and individual experiences. What they believe to be true is shaped by their personal experiences. These experiences create their personal truths, which is how they judge what is right and wrong. Drama, disorder and declining performance surface when there are different expectations of right and wrong due to lack of culture standards.

Have a team meeting to discuss what culture standards the team would like in their work environment. In essence, what will be the code of conduct for the practice? Create the standards together. Creating standards to work by creates clarity and helps the team to be accountable to a specific level of attitude, behavior and communication; the ABC’s of teamwork and performance.

Here are questions to ask the team that will help them create culture standards for the practice pertaining to attitude, behavior, and communication:

  • What makes them happy that they want to see more of – list it as a to do
  • What stresses them that they would like to stop – list what you can do to stop it – for example instead of stop gossiping, use support a gossip free culture
  • What can they do to impact their co-workers and patients in a more positive manner
  • How do they want the team to show up for work every day
  • How can they support each other more
  • How can they communicate more clearly, timely and positively with the team and patients

Once you have completed the culture standards list, print it, frame it and put it on display in your meeting room or wherever the team will see it most often. Review it at your team huddles and meetings, whenever you hire someone new and whenever someone’s behavior deems it necessary. It is important and necessary for the entire team including the doctor(s)to make a commitment to live and maintain the culture standards even when it is difficult or they don’t feel like it. If a team member chooses to not support the culture standards they are choosing to no longer be a part of that culture.

Cultivating a culture by design takes a commitment from the entire team to support and hold each other accountable to the culture standards!

June 1, 2016

4 Steps to Nurture a No-Gossip Culture!

4 Steps to Nurture a No-gossip Culture!

Gossip is a destructive monster that runs rampant in many dental teams! It has become the accepted and even expected as just the norm for many dental cultures! I speak nationally and internationally to dental teams on how to nurture a no-gossip culture.  When I ask them who has gossip in their practice I usually see every hand raise. The reasons I most often receive are:

  • It just is a part of every culture
  • It is a natural thing that women just do
  • It is a form of entertainment
  • It is healthy to vent or blow off steam to relieve stress
  • It is a way to get feedback and support
  • It is a lack of what it really means to gossip

People who engage in workplace gossip often have a strong need to “fit in”, and feel that gossip will help them achieve this. Gossipers often suffer from low self-esteem, and think that talking negatively about others will make them look better. If we truly grasped the devastating fallout from gossip we would no longer accept it as the norm for any culture!

Gossip affects:

  • Patient care and experience
  • Team communication, performance and relationships
  • Practice performance
  • Morale
  • Trust
  • Respect

Needless to say, gossip tremendously impacts the bottom line. I refer to gossip as the Poison Triangle of Mistrust because it often involves two people talking about a third person. Nothing shreds trust and respect and divides a team faster than gossip. Haven’t we all overheard someone talking about us? Do you remember how you felt? How much did you trust the people who were talking about you? How much did you want to communicate or work with them? Gossip is the most divisive form of communication. Just think about the total cost in team and practice performance, team relationships, practice morale and patient experience.

How much more successful could your practice be if could stop gossip from happening? Nurturing a no-gossip culture raises trust and the morale instantly it also elevates communication, team performance and relationships, patient experience and the bottom line! This is big stuff and plenty of reasons to adopt a no-gossip culture! If we want to nurture a no-gossip culture we have to clearly define gossip; set standards to prevent and stop gossip; and establish consequences if gossip continues. So if you are ready to nurture a no-gossip culture continue reading!

Let’s start by dispelling the misconceptions and clearly defining what gossip really is! The sad truth is gossip happens because it is often thought of as fluff stuff and something women just do! “Women do not have to gossip!” BTW women aren’t the only ones who gossip…men gossip too. In fact research shows men outnumber women who gossip by two to one. Men just refer to gossip as venting or blowing off steam!

Which leads me to address the term venting and blowing off steam. Anytime we say something negative or very private about another person it is gossip. We have this false belief that venting or blowing off steam is helpful and healthy. It is neither. Venting or blowing off steam are just more acceptable labels for gossip. Whether you refer to it as venting, blowing off steam or gossip they are equally toxic. When we spew negative words about others we not only bring down the receiver (listener); the giver (spewer) is also affected negatively. Consistent negative thoughts, words or energy whether we are the giver or the receiver or even just in the vicinity changes electricity in our brain which changes the energy in our body and our organs that depend on that energy or no longer nourished and can get disease and sometimes even die. Gossip is just plain toxic to everyone!

Doctors and managers be mindful of sharing a short retort of frustration or discontent with a team member pertaining to another team member. It is gossip, regardless of how harmless it may seem at the moment. How would that person feel if they heard you say it? If you have a frustration or concern go to the source and no one else. Otherwise, you have done nothing to address the problem and it will only continue to grow. The only exception is when the doctor and manger discuss with each other (behind closed doors) how to resolve a behavior or performance concern regarding another employee.

Here are four steps to nurture a no-gossip culture!

Have a with a team meeting and ask the entire team attend. The first step is to define gossip. Establish the definition of gossip for the practice as anything that is negative about another person that would make us think less of them; or private that they do not want others to know. We may think venting or blowing off steam is okay and is not considered gossip. Good qualifiers to ask yourself are:

  • Is what I am about to say true?
  • Is it harmful or hurtful?
  • How would I feel if someone said something similar about me?
  • How am I going to feel later if I say this? (or listen to this)
  • Would it affect their level of trust and respect for me?
  • Does gossiping honor my own personal values?

Clearly define the giver and receiver roles in gossip. The receiver (listener) of gossip is just as responsible as the gossiper (giver). They play a fifty-fifty role. The receiver has the power to stop the gossiper from gossiping to them. In fact the receiver may even play a bigger role. The receiver is usually not at a heightened emotional state and therefore capable of thinking more clearly. Whereas the giver is usually at a heightened emotional state; the fight or flight zone, resulting in the cognitive part of the brain shutting down.

The second step is for the entire team to verbally commit to each other to support a no-gossip culture in words, attitude and actions. Which means they commit to stop gossiping and stop gossipers. Have the team agree on a word or a phrase that they will say if someone starts gossiping to them.   Some of my clients use the word peace (in other words keep the peace) or stop or please go to the source or even remember we said we weren’t going to gossip. It can be anything as long as everyone knows the specific words or phrases.

The third step is to actually take action! If you have a suggestion, question or concern go directly to the source instead of going to others. Say the word or phrase immediately when someone starts gossiping. It is also our responsibility to try to stop gossip even if we just happen to be in a location where several other people are gossiping. In a respectful manner ask them to stop by using the word or phrase and if necessary reinforce how toxic gossip is to the team and the practice. Old habits die hard so it will be necessary for the team to support each other with reminders that they committed to honor a no-gossip culture.

The fourth step is create clear consequences for gossip. I want to be very clear here regarding consequences. Consequences aren’t necessary if a simple reminder from a co-worker stops the gossip. It is only when the gossiper refuses to stop gossiping when they have been asked to stop that it leads to any consequences. It is important to have defined consequences for gossip just like any other culture standard. Spell out specific step-by-step process for number of verbal and written warnings before termination. Yes, gossip is a big enough reason to terminate! The bottom line is that when we support a no-gossip culture we raise the level of communication, team performance and relationships, patient experience and even the bottom line!

Contact Judy Kay at today if you would like to learn how she can help you build a cohesive team that support each other and the practice, become better leaders, and deliver service with more passion!

May 1, 2016

Breaking Up Is Hard to Do! 10 Decisions to Make before Transitioning into a Partnership

Breaking Up Is Hard to Do! 10 Decisions to Make before Transitioning into a Partnership

The divorce rate of dental partnerships is equal to or higher than marital divorce rates, and filled with similar emotions such as anger, resentment, loss, blame and financial pain. Breaking up is hard to do!

Whether you are the new dentist joining the practice or the established dentist the transition process is often extremely emotional. The retiring dentist often feels unappreciated and pushed out. The new dentist feels like they are on hold or in limbo just waiting to enact their plans.

A transition expert can help make the process flow much smoother. However, some experts focus primarily on the money side of the transition. There is more to a transition than just the money. Very seldom is money the cause for breakup. It is the disagreements on the day to day operations that lead to most breakups.

I have found partnerships to be a lot like a marriage. You have your dating phase where everything is just awesome. Then you become partners (marriage or work) you start to notice little things that you differ on that you just assumed you would be on the same page. In other words that they would agree with you and do it your way. The little things don’t stay little; they go from just bugging you to driving you crazy. Anger, stress, resentment and frustration build until someone blows up and eventually decides to break up. When I ask dentists what was their deal breaker…it is almost always different expectations pertaining to the day to day operations.

It’s important for partners to have a clear and united vision for how the practice will operate from the start in order to nurture a successful partnership. It starts by both partners clarifying their expectations during negotiations and being open and willing to compromise. We can no longer expect it to be done only our way. If partners have different visions and goals for the practice they will confuse and frustrate the team and each other. Creating a clear and united partnership will be an ongoing decision making process.

Discuss and agree on how you will actually work together and run the day to day operations during negotiations. Here are 10 key decisions to make prior to becoming partners and signing on the dotted line.

  1. Equipment
  • What is the budget and overhead percentages
  • Who decides what to purchase
  • Who pays for it
  • Who decides when to purchase
  • What happens if you don’t agree


  1. Team
  • Who makes decisions on recruitment and termination
  • Who decides which team member works with each doctor
  • Who trains the new employees
  • Who makes ongoing decisions relating to the team
  • Who is the go to person for the team (I suggest the practice administrator is the go to person who then meets with the doctors to discuss and make decisions.)
  • What happens if you don’t agree


  1. Leadership
  • Who sets systems and protocols
  • Who handles conflict resolution
  • What happens if it is the doctor’s attitude, communication or behavior that creates concerns with the team and or patients
  • What happens if you don’t agree


  1. Patient Care/Treatment
  • Will the services you offer be the same or different
  • What special amenities will you offer
  • What happens if you don’t agree


  1. Schedule
  • How are new patients distributed
  • Who sets procedure times and protocols
  • Who does hygiene exams and on which patients
  • What happens if you don’t agree


  1. Production/Performance
  • What is the expectation for working hours and time for each partner
  • What is expectation for PPH
  • How much time off
  • How far in advance is notice needed to request time off
  • How are emergencies handled and who covers them
  • How are hygiene exams compensated
  • Will you be fee for service provider or an insurance provider (if so which)
  • Will you offer 3rd party financing
  • What happens if you don’t agree


  1. Working Elsewhere
  • Non-compete expectations
  • Non-solicitation expectations
  • Teaching and CE engagement expectations
  • What happens if you don’t agree


  1. CE
  • Who pays for CE
  • Is there a cap on CE per partner
  • Who decides what CE is pertinent to the team
  • What happens if you don’t agree


  1. Unforeseen Circumstances
  • Disability
  • Death
  • Breach of partnership
  • Bankruptcy


  1. Exit Strategy
  • Establish a clear and specific exit strategy to avoid a negative/emotional ending
  • Clearly define the wind down process
  • Specify schedule (hours and days per week)
  • Agree on and set the final working date
  • What happens if you don’t agree


Prevent the breakdowns that lead to breakups by discussing and agreeing on the 10 key decisions before signing on the dotted line!

(If you would like to receive the white pages for United Leadership please email me at and write United Leadership in the subject line.)

April 1, 2016

They Don’t Care How Much You Know …4 Fundamentals To Show How Much You Care!

They Don’t Care How Much You Know …4 Fundamentals To Show How Much You Care!

You may have heard the phrase, “They don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care!” I am blessed to work with dental teams nationwide to help them cultivate a happier, healthier and higher performing culture while delivering care with more passion and fun! The care part can often be vague and confusing. I send teams surveys for feedback on where they feel they excel and where they would like to grow to assist me in customizing their workshop. Most team members score themselves high at delivering excellent care. Yet when I observe the team I often find the opposite to be true. I have found it often stems from a difference of opinion or understanding about the meaning of care! Which is why it is important for leadership (Doctor/Practice Administrator/Team Leads) to be on the same page and clearly define and model the waddle of what it means to deliver exceptional care in their office.

Here are four fundamentals to show our patients how much we care!

Know Them! It is necessary to get to know your patients on a meaningful level to deliver exceptional care. It starts with being aware of the patient’s needs and desires and being willing to do something to help them meet them. Caring is more than just being considerate, courteous or polite. It’s an entirely different level. It means being truly concerned for the wellbeing of other. It means taking time to have a conversation with our patient. Here are some examples of questions that can help us get to know our patients better.

  • How do you feel about coming to see a dentist?
  • What has been your past experience?
  • What are your goals and desires for your oral health?
  • What do you like most about your smile?
  • What would you change if you could change your smile by simply waving a magic wand?
  • What questions do you have about today’s appointment?
  • What can I do to make today’s experience better?

We can show we truly care when presenting treatment by:

  • Speaking slowly and clearly
  • Presenting in bite size pieces
  • Stopping data dumping
  • Comforting them if they have concerns or fears
  • Communicating on their level
  • Being and advocate instead of a sales person
  • Thanking them for being a patient

Don’t Judge! It is human nature to have our favorite patients that we go above and beyond in delivering care. We pick and choose who will be our favorites based on their worthiness defined by their behavior. We are in essence judging our patients! Sure, we will be courteous and polite, but before we go all out we judge their worthiness first. It’s as if they need to meet some kind of external standard we have set in our mind. Here are a few examples of external standards, we set: being tardy, quirky personality, uptight, anxious or upset. We treat them different and deliver a lower level of care than we do for the patients we consider our favorites…our V.I.P’s!

If we are truly going to care for someone we will look past the outward and go right to the heart. Instead of prejudging people before we get to know them; show genuine interest, regardless of circumstances and personality. When we sincerely care for people, we will always be a person with whom others feel comfortable. They will feel confident that we don’t have a hidden agenda and they will trust that we will listen to them without judging them.

Active listening is often the biggest validation to show that we care! Be an active listener by:

  • Making eye contact
  • Smiling at them
  • Being polite
  • Hearing them by focusing on what they are saying

Show Empathy! Empathy is essential if we want to show our patients we care. Sometimes it may seem hard to show empathy to patients who are displaying less than desirable behaviors. I am not suggesting we just fake it. Instead come from a real place by entering their world. Imagine what it feels like to walk in their shoes by asking yourself the following questions:

  • What would it take for me to act like that
  • Would I feel differently if it where my mom or dad (a family member) behaving this way
  • How would I feel if this was happening to me or I was in their circumstances

Any time we can imagine the situation from the other person’s point of view, we lower our own defenses and, in the process, defuse their anger. Imagination influences feelings and feelings are the source of desire. It makes our actions easy and natural and real when we desire to do something. Compassion, caring, comforting, and kindness – make up the bulk of adjectives linked to patient loyalty and rooted in one’s capacity for empathy. According to the Dictionary, “empathy” is “the ability to share in another’s emotions or feelings.” It is composed of two Greek words that mean “affection” and “feeling.” When our patents receive empathy, they feel loved and cared about.

Resolve Complications! Occasionally even the best teams have patient complications arise. It is important to address complications ASAP. Be mindful of the energy and attitude you are bringing to the conversation. Focus on coming from a place or mindset of curiosity, care and concern. It is never about proving you are right and they are wrong. We never win by making a patient wrong. Regardless of what the concern is start out by asking the patient, “How can I help you?” Then stop and listen to what they have to say. Please don’t try to feel in the blanks or be defensive. Once they have stopped speaking ask the next question. “May I have your permission to give you feedback?” This does several things. If the patient has not finished sharing their concerns they have the opportunity to let you know they have more. This stops us from stepping on their words. It also gets the patient ready to listen to our response. Regardless of what you are going to suggest respond by saying, “I can help you and this is how…!” Avoid responses starting with, “I can’t” or “I won’t” as they often generate an immediate defensive reaction from the patient. Our patients will feel we care when we utilize positive verbiage sharing what we can do versus what we can’t!

(If you would like to receive the white pages for Patient Communication Standards   please email me at and write Patient Communication Standards in the subject line.)

The awesome part is that when we take the time to show our patients we truly care about them…they will trust and respect us enough to say YES to accept our care!

March 1, 2016

How to Prevent 3 Communication Pitfalls!

Our level of success in life is in direct relationship to how successfully we communicate. Communication can often be difficult and sometimes very frustrating. When we don’t say anything, an assumption is made – and in most cases, it’s negative. If we do say something, it may be perceived incorrectly. If that is not enough, there are all the “shoulds” from others – their comparison expectations on how we should do something, or be something or live our life a certain way. In other words, their way!

Because of assumptions, perceptions and comparison expectations we often make commitments to either do things we don’t want to do or don’t have time to do. Just writing this makes me feel exhausted! Wouldn’t it be nice if we didn’t have to worry about communicating? But that is not reality.

Our success in life depends on our ability to communicate. Therefore, it is necessary to learn how to communicate and overcome these pitfalls regardless of how frustrating or difficult they may be. I have found from years of coaching dental teams nationwide that the best way to get good at something is to remove or overcome the obstacles.

Let’s start with assumptions. This one is a biggy! We make assumptions every minute of every day. Something happens and we instantly assign meaning to it. It may be correct or it may be incorrect. We won’t know unless we take the next step. That step is asking. Sounds easy but it’s not. We often fear that if we ask, we may open ourselves up to an emotional reaction. We can’t let fear stop us from asking. We don’t know what someone meant by their actions or words or the way they said something. Sometimes even what they say or the words they use can mean something different than what we believe them to mean. Ask with care, concern and respect. Continue to respectfully ask questions until you understand the other person’s true intent. If you are still thinking “I think they meant…”, you are assuming and it is important ask more questions to achieve a clear understanding.

Perceptions are just as dangerous as assumptions. Both the person speaking and the person listening play a role in perceptions. I often hear team members say, “I didn’t mean it that way! They just took it wrong! So it’s not my fault!” If you are always being misunderstood, it is important to reflect on how you are communicating. It is not just what you say that counts in communication. It is also how the message is being perceived. The listener often bases their perception on their past experiences they had with you as well as your words, body language and tone of voice. They often assign meaning based on what it would mean if they said or did that same thing, which in many cases does not accurately reflect the other person’s intent. Inaccurate perceptions also happen when we don’t hear the entire story or all the reasons or steps. It is important to take the time to clearly explain your intent to avoid false perceptions.

Comparison Expectations create negative expectations! They are the “shoulds” that guilt us into doing things we aren’t comfortable doing or feeling terrible about ourselves when we don’t. We have all heard and even said, “You should….!” Comparison Expectations happen when we compare ourselves to others…or when others compare us to them. The comparison is what creates the expectations for who, what, when where, why and how we should do something based on what others do. Comparing is toxic; someone always loses. We may even believe that others are wrong when they don’t do something our way. Comparison expectations can make us feel or do something out of guilt. Guilt creates shame and shame inhibits communication because if we feel shameful about something, we are less likely to communicate openly and honestly. Stop the comparison noise! Quit allowing the “shoulds” from yourself and others to dictate your actions AND quit expecting others to do things your way. Instead together as a team create clear standards and support them!

(If you would like to receive the white pages for Team Communication Guidelines please email me at and write Team Communication Guidelines in the subject line.)

Our success in life will depend greatly on how well we communicate in our personal and professional lives. Communicate clearly, ask questions to avoid false assumptions and perceptions and for goodness sake…stop “shouldng” on each other!

February 1, 2016

The ABC’s of Working Together Better!

The ABC’s of Working Together Better!

Many dental teams struggle with drama, conflict, gossip, negative attitudes, low morale and poor communication. In most cases, it is not because they are a bad team. They have just become confused and lost their way resulting from having different expectations. All of us come from such different backgrounds with unique and individual experiences. Therefore, what we believe is appropriate or inappropriate, and right or wrong, is skewed by our personal experiences. Our personal experiences create our personal truths. I refer to it as the acronym B.O.A.T. – beliefs, opinions and assumptions equal our truths. Our B.O.A.T. determines how we act, respond, view and judge each other.

I still have my report card from when I was in the second grade. We actually had a section where we were graded on our conduct. It was broken down into the following sections; observes school regulations, works and plays well with others, respect for property, respect for authority, is courteous in speech and manner. S was for satisfactory U was for unsatisfactory. Thankfully I received all S’s!

It seems as if conduct is no longer a part of the discussion when it comes to expectations for employee performance. In fact, employees often believe that it is the Doctor or Practice Administrator’s responsibility to make everyone get along and behave. When the truth of it is it is each team member’s responsibility to work and play well with their coworkers.
I love to help dental teams nationwide work together better! After years of working with many teams, I have found the best way get everyone to working together better is to create clear expectations for Attitude, Behavior and Communication! What I refer to as the ABC Standards.

Creating ABC Standards will help cultivate a culture that is happier, healthier and higher performing! ABC Standards increase clarity, unity, congruency, level of service, and your business reputation; while preventing the chafing and disagreements from assumptions and opinions of who is right and wrong.

I have often asked my audiences to raise their hand if they have established standards or guidelines for their team’s performance regarding attitude, behavior and communication. Two hands were the most I have ever seen raised in any audience at any one time and some of my audiences have been 800 plus people. We just expect that everyone should know what is appropriate and what is not and what is the right way or wrong way. Without realizing it we set ourselves up for failure when we don’t have clear standards.

Have a team meeting with the entire team to discuss ABC Standards for your practice. Ask each team member to share what they feel they need from each other to be able to work together better. I find using a big easel pad with markers to write down the responses helps to generate more participation. Be specific and define what it means in words, actions, body language and tone of voice. Some examples might be:

Be Likeable
Be courteous
Be nice
Be happy
Believe in Positive Intent
Be Honest
Be Compassionate
Be Trustworthy
Have an Ownership Mentality
Be helpful
No gossip
Lead by Example
Be Reliable
Be Appreciative
Be Fun

(If you would like to receive my ABC’s Sample Standards please email me at and write ABC’s Sample in the subject line.)
Take your team’s responses and put them together to create your ABC’s Standards Document. Print it out, frame it and put it on display wherever one can see it daily. A lunch room or locker room often works well. Your daily huddle is a great opportunity to create accountability. Ask each team member to share at the huddle how they did the previous day as an individual and as a team supporting the standards. Where did they rock it and where did they fall short and need to grow? The more you discuss your standards on a daily basis the more real and alive they become.

It is important for the entire team to know that there will be consequences and what they will be for not supporting your ABC Standards. The consequences are to be across the board for entire team. No exclusions and no exceptions regardless of a team member’s longevity, skillsets, etc. or you sabotage the culture and divide the team.

Establishing clear and consistent consequences will clarify to the team what they can expect if they choose not to support the ABC Standards. Doctors and Practice Administrators may feel bad or stressed when they have to follow thru with the consequences. Here is the bottom line; the team member chose their consequences when they chose their behavior.
I ask the teams I coach to come up with what they feel are fair consequences for not supporting the ABC Standards. The following four-step process is suggested by most teams.

1. Conversation between team member and source.
2. Verbal warning from Practice Administrator to source (documented in employee file).
3. Written warning from Practice Administrator to source (documented in employee file).
4. Termination from Practice Administrator to source (documented in employee file).

The refreshing part is that in most cases it will not be necessary to enact any consequences when the team sees how awesome it is to work together better!
TA-DAH! And they all worked happily ever after! Thee End!

January 1, 2016

HAPPY New Year! 5 Habits to a Happier Life!

HAPPY New Year! 5 Habits to a Happier Life!

January 2016

It’s that time of year when we wish each other a Happy New Year! I love learning about what helps us succeed at being happy and the effects is has on our life. This month is dedicated to learning 5 habits to help us live a happier life!

The first habit is to practice staying present in the moment. Yesterday is over and gone and tomorrow is just a prediction of the future. Stop dwelling on the past. Our past does not define our future. Instead we can learn from our mistakes and the mistakes of others and move on. Stop worrying about the future. Instead have a plan than let it go and get back to the present moment. Be mindful and savor the present moment.

The second habit is to practice focusing on the positive instead of the negative in life. Look for three potential positives in any situation or any person. When you find yourself sliding to the negative ask yourself the following questions:

  • What are three potential positives?
  • What lessons can I learn from this?
  • What changes can I make to make it more positive?

The third habit is to practice showing gratitude daily. When we focus on what we already have in life and give thanks and praise we feel grateful. The more grateful we feel the happier we feel and the happier we feel the more we have to give thanks and praise. It is a very fulfilling cycle of positive circulation.

The fourth habit is to practice using our signature strengths. A signature strength is a moral trait that is innate to us that we know we kick butt at! Some examples of signature strengths are: curiosity, love of learning, perseverance, ingenuity, kindness, hope, forgiveness, social intelligence, team player, loving, humor, appreciation or gratitude. When we use our signature strength we are filled with a sense of joy and well-being. We are in the flow of life. Have you ever felt like pumping your fist and shouting to the world…YES…this is what I am meant to do! Chances are you were utilizing one or several of your signature strengths for the greater good.

The fifth habit is to practice recrafting. Recrafting is taking something and remaking it into something better. We can Recraft a job we do just for a paycheck into a Calling that engages our signature strengths and serves the greater good! We have a choice about what work we do, and about how we go about doing our work. A dentist who views the work as a job and is simply interested in making a good income does not have a Calling. A garbage collector who sees his work as making the world a cleaner and healthier place could have a Calling. The key is not finding the right job, it is finding a job we can make right through recrafting and engaging our signature strengths.

We can achieve a happier life when we practice being present, focus on the positive, show gratitude and live our signature strengths every day in our work and our play for the greater good of all!  The choice is always ours!

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Judy Kay Mausolf
Practice Solutions
18051 Jay Court
Lakeville, MN 55044