Set the right expectations with your dental staff, and you will see dramatic improvement in their performance.
In a recent article, I gave a few things for you to consider that could help you get your new staff off to a better start. In this article, my main focus is on setting the right expectations with both new, and seasoned staff.
You are the leader of your dental practice. As the leader, it is your job to make sure that you set the proper expectations. Everyone must know what their role is, and what is expected of them.
Setting the right expectations with your staff is absolutely mandatory if you want to:
- Out perform your competition
- Eliminate as many of the “headaches” you encounter on a weekly basis, that stop you from enjoying your practice.
- Reach your goals.
What Does Excellent Performance Look Like?
Before you can do anything, marketing related or otherwise, you have to establish what your expectations are, generally and specifically. A dental practice is a business, and needs to be treated as such. Business objectives need to be mapped out, considered carefully and aligned with the operational side of your practice.
Financial metrics are a good place to start, but they are not the only things you should measure. Yes, your overall payroll to gross production is an important consideration. So is patient satisfaction. You can measure both. Since you can measure these things, you can also set expectations with your staff to make a contribution to achieving the benchmarks you set.
Step One – Set the Expectations
When you hire someone new, or even when you are trying to get better performance out of your current staff, you need to sit down with each of them, and clearly explain what they are expected to do. Make sure that in doing so, you very clearly map out what is expected of them in terms of the results you want to produce.
A word of caution here. When you are looking at the big picture of your practice, there should be things you want to focus on, like patient care, patient satisfaction etc etc. For each staff member, don’t just focus on the direct outcomes of the job. Focus too on the indirect impact each role has on the high level goals of your practice.
A front desk person’s job is to answer the phones, greet the patients and schedule appointments. That is easy enough. The results that you expect though, could be a high patient satisfaction rating. You need to make it clear to the front desk person that you expect them to contribute to that result as well.
Step Two- Make it Measurable
Whenever you can define it to be measured, you should define it to be measured. People tend to do what get’s measured. If you have a way to measure patient satisfaction, show your staff how it’s done. If you have practice operational metrics, like total cost of materials, show them what your goal is.
Everyone should be on board with what your practice should look like from a performance metrics perspective. Each will have some direct, and indirect impact on the overall metrics. If they share in the knowledge of your expected performance benchmarks, they are likely to strive harder to achieve them.
Step Three – Confirm Understanding
Whenever you have an exchange with your staff, or individual members, you should always confirm their understanding of your objective by stating them back to you. Don’t assume a nodding head is confirmation that you are being understood.
Have your staff communicate back to you, either directly or via email, what they think you are asking them to do. This way, everyone is on the same page.
Step Four – Give Regular Feedback
Feedback is going to show up in a lot of the articles I write regarding improving your leadership skills. As the leader of the practice, and the team, it is mandatory that you give regular feedback to be sure that people are always aware of what they are doing well, and what needs improvement.
At some point, if things are done properly, everyone falls into a rhythm, where feedback does not have to be so frequent. This is not the case with a new hire. Regular and consistent feedback is a must of a new hire is going to make a positive contribution to the health of your practice.
Step 5 – Stay On Top of Things
I know you want more time to enjoy the fruits of your labor. It makes perfect sense that you would want the ability to delegate responsibility to your staff. Delegation is a good thing, but it does not correlate to abdication.
You must stay on top of performance against defined benchmarks. It is your practice and therefore your responsibility to ensure things get done right, and that everyone is moving in the same direction. You have goals for your practice that you will struggle to achieve if you have a team of people doing their own thing.
When Problems Arise
Where there are people, there will be problems. No matter how well you lead, you can expect problems to occur. Your job is to resolve the problems as soon as possible, in the right way, to make sure you don’t damage the moral you boosted using the 5 steps above. Some things to consider, to help with your state of mind as problems arise include:
- Always assume that your staff is doing their best, or has the best intentions. Even if they are not, or don’t, your state of mind will improve the odds of getting to the bottom of things
- When an issue comes to your attention, always call the person or confront the issue in private. It is never a good idea to embarrass someone.
- Always be specific about the problem or misunderstanding. Give examples of what you see going wrong, and why it matters a great deal.
- Listen. Ask questions, and listen. Make sure you seek to understand before you seek to be understood.
- Make sure your staff member takes responsibility for things they are doing wrong. Go into any confrontation with the mindset of ensuring that excuses are not going to be made.
- Be prepared to stay on top of the issue, and monitor for performance against things you agree on in the meeting.