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December 1, 2016

O.R.A.N.G.E. Power!

December 2016

The color Orange has great power! We get happier when are surrounded with the color orange. My husband Steve, teases me about living in an orange bubble of happiness and positive energy. Those of you who know me know that the color orange plays a big part in my life and my business brand.  So what is O.R.A.N.G.E. power?

Different colors generate different energy and emotions. The color orange creates feelings of happiness and positive energy! I surround myself with orange to inspire happiness and positive energy within. It also inspires happiness and positive energy in others. I travel almost weekly flying to coaching and speaking venues and spend a lot of time in airports. Whenever I wear an orange scarf or for that matter anything orange people seem to smile at me more often and even go out of their way to compliment on the color Orange. Recently when I was standing in line waiting to board, five different people walking by stopped and walked over to me in line to comment on my orange scarf. The man standing behind me asked if people always went out of their way to compliment me. I told him it only happens when I wear the color orange. A car service driver last week commented within the first couple minutes of our drive how happy he was to have an upbeat person in his car. I had not said a word other than hello but I was wearing an orange scarf. The color orange just makes people feel happier and more positive.

I also am mindful of the energy I am radiating out. A happy and positive attitude is one of my core values that defines how I choose to live my life. You may have heard our attitude determines our altitude in life. Our attitude affects our altitude by creating positive or negative energy in the environment around us. The energy we create can generate either our success or our failure, based on the Law of Attraction.

“Everything affecting you is a reflection of the energy that you are radiating.”

I am an acronym addict and wanted one for O.R.A.N.G.E to reflect the Law of Attraction! My husband Steve and I came up with it on a seven hour drive to visit my family home in North Dakota. So are you ready? O.R.A.N.G.E. stands for Optimistic Radiant Attitudes Nurture Great Energy! O.R.A.N.G.E. is simply about radiating a positive attitude to create great energy in our lives. In other words, if you radiate an optimistic attitude, you will nurture great energy in your environment. It’s the Law of Attraction in action! Positive circulation in motion!

“Life is a gift. Our attitude determines how we live it!”

The Law of Attraction is like seeks like based on the frequency of energy emitted. All energy has different vibration frequencies. Positive energy seeks other positive energy with the same frequency, and negative energy seeks other negative energy with the same frequency. The energy we radiate out there always resonates back to us. We do create our environment whether it is positive or negative! So if your environment is always negative there is only one common denominator. YOU! You may want to take time to reflect on the energy you are radiating out.

I would like you to think about a day when your world seemed friendlier. Maybe the birds sang louder, the sun shined brighter, and people even let you merge into traffic. We have all had one of those days when we think wow, if everyday could be like today, it would be awesome. Maybe they can be. I wonder what your role was in that day. I wonder what mood you were in when it started. I wonder what you wearing, (maybe orange) how it made you feel, and were you smiling? When we feel good about ourselves, we radiate positive energy!   The energy we put out there always resonates back to us. We do create our environment whether it is positive or negative!

Action Plan – O.R.A.N.G.E. Power

* Surround yourself with what makes you feel happy and positive – like the color ORANGE.

* Be mindful of the energy you are radiating.

* Choose to radiate positive energy.

Choose to Radiate O.R.A.N.G.E. Power and nurture happy and positive energy in your life!

November 1, 2016

Cultivating Accountability in Others!

Let’s face it cultivating accountability in others can seem like a daunting task. Just hearing the word accountability can give the majority of us an ugh feeling.  What usually pops into mind are the words babysitter or micro-manager from past failed attempts at trying to get others to be accountable.

Cultivating accountability in others is worth the effort! – Individual, team and practice performance all dwindle when there is a lack of accountability.  Without accountability, execution suffers.  Our performance deteriorates when we don’t hold ourselves accountable to getting work done well and on time. The more we let things slip the more acceptable it becomes to let them slip again.  A day becomes a week, a week a month and finally not at all.

For example exercising.  We start out committed and then make an excuse that we are to tired, to busy or to something to fit it in that day.  It becomes easier and easier to make excuses until finally we no longer need excuses we just stop exercising.

When we aren’t accountable, we not only impact our performance we also impact the performance of others. Our delay becomes our team’s delay. Their work gets derailed which then affects patient experience and practice performance.  Lack of accountability is contagious in a team, a department and a practice.  One excuse begets another. Tolerating missed deadlines, running over and unfinished work have the tendency to make the lack of accountability acceptable.  People learn that the real deadline is a week from the requested one; patients come late because they know that running 15 minutes late is the norm; sub-par work is acceptable in the interest of “getting it done”!

The awesome news is we don’t have to be a babysitter or a micro-manager to cultivate accountability in others when we practice the following methods.

 

Model the Waddle – In other words, lead by example.  If you want others around you to be accountable you need to be accountable.  Do what you said, when you said and how you said you would do it.  Be transparent with those who you have made a commitment.  Keep them informed if an obstacle prevents you from achieving your commitment.  It builds trust when we are honest and transparent.  In high-trust cultures, people focus on the solution instead of blaming others. Always own your results instead of blaming circumstances or other people.

 

Give praise and show appreciation to build confidence. – A person with low self-confidence from bad past experiences may fear accountability.  Their fears sabotages accountability. Fear of failure, fear of not being good enough, fear of not being liked or accepted, fear of judgement and criticism, fear of not being able to handle the situation; in essence, simply fear of “What if “!  A confident person has the perseverance to get up and try again if things go wrong. So give praise and show appreciation, to build up confidence in your staff, so your team isn’t afraid to be accountable for things.

 

Delegation – Clear and concise delegation is key in cultivating accountability in others. Which means slowing down enough to take the time to clearly explain what you want to achieve.

  • Define who, what, when, where, why, and how.  We get so busy and in a hurry…we want to dump the information and run.  It’s what I call a flyby.  Avoid flybys!  If you don’t have time to delegate clearly wait until you do.
  • Ask the receiver of the task what they already have on their plate.  It may be necessary to re-prioritize the task list if timing is an issue.  Be realistic to avoid over promising and under delivering.
  • Ask the receiver of the task if they have any questions about how to complete the task.  Answer any questions they may have.
  • If it is more than one step, write it down in bullet point objectives.
  • If it is a longer project, schedule check in times (no this does not mean you do not trust them…it allows you to assist with feedback if necessary).
  • Discuss and agree on a realistic time or date to complete the task.  If you don’t set a date, it will create unclear performance expectations and very difficult to cultivate accountability.

 

Job Descriptions – Detailed job descriptions are important as they create clarity in training and performance expectations.  It is difficult to be accountable if I am uncertain about what is expected.  Have you ever asked someone for help only to hear, “it’s not my job”?  That is a huge pet peeve of mine.  You can avoid the phrase, “it’s not my job”, by adding the following statement to all job descriptions.  Everyone is accountable for helping where ever necessary…Your job from the moment you clock in to the moment you clock out is whatever is Legal, Ethical & within your Licensure to help the practice thrive!  I suggest reviewing the phrase whenever you are hiring someone new, performing a performance review, or whenever behavior or attitude deems it necessary.

 

Priority Hierarchy – Prioritizing what and when to do something helps to cultivate accountability. We may have the best intent to be accountable for our responsibilities. However, busyness can get in the way.  We are a society of over-committers and over achievers.  I utilize the rocks, pebbles and sand analogy to help teams prioritize their responsibilities.  A rock is anything that is important and urgent (needs to be done that day) or there will be negative consequences for the practice.  The biggest rock is always the patient right in front of us.  Everyone helps everyone with their rocks (as long as it is legal, ethical and within their licensure) before going on to their own pebbles and sand.  Once all rocks are completed, the team member may move on to their pebbles.

Pebbles are also very important but not urgent.  Pebbles are never delegated because they can be done another day without affecting the practice negatively.  Everyone is responsible for their own pebbles.  A pebble can eventually become a rock if left undone based on change in urgency.  For example ordering supplies might become a rock if you must order that day or you will run out of necessary supplies before they arrive.  Even washing uniforms may become a rock if there are none available for the next day and it is close to closing.

Sand is the filler to fill in open time with cleaning and organizing.  Sand is also never delegated.  Everyone is responsible for their own sand.  This helps to prevent delegating the things that are less desirable.

 

Cross Training – Cultivate accountability in others by empowering team members to know how to support each other better.  The more we can help each other the greater the potential we have to get the job done…even on those days when the wheels fall off.  I have found having clinical and non-clinical team members observe each other doing their daily tasks goes a long way in raising job awareness and understanding.  The team will feel more empowered to help their co-workers get the job done!  It’s a win for the patients, the practice and the team!

 

End Results – Accountability simply is about follow through!  Doing what you said, when and how you said you would do it. Its understanding that other team members are dependent on you and being unwilling to let them down. It’s about keeping others in the loop with clear, honest and open communication by informing them on the status of your commitments even when you drop the ball.  It’s realizing that trust and respect are the benefits and byproducts of accountability. It’s knowing that a high-performing culture is the end result of total team accountability!

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 JudyKay@PracticeSolutionsInc.net 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:

Achievement

Recognition

The work itself

Responsibility

Advancement

Growth

 

Factors of Dissatisfaction:

Company policies

Supervision

Relationship with supervisor and peers

Work conditions

Salary

Status

Security

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 JudyKay@PracticeSolutionsInc.net 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 JudyKay@PracticeSolutionsInc.net 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 JudyKay@PracticeSolutionsInc.net 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 JudyKay@PracticeSolutionsInc.net 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!

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