Staying on the same page with your team isn’t something that just happens. If there is no effort and attention to detail in this aspect of your practice, your path to success will be slow and miserable.
Getting on the same page and staying there with your dental team is one of the most difficult challenges most new dentists face, especially when the practice is not his/her own practice. In some difficult situations, quite frankly, it might be impossible. In many situations, though, developing that teamwork and chemistry that makes everyone’s day more enjoyable can be achieved.
For starters, there are two big obstacles that need to be overcome, or at the very least discussed. One obstacle is that most new dentists have never had a “real job” before becoming a dentist. How to be a great coworker and teammate are skills that many of us did not bring to the table when we accepted our first associate position. The path to academic success for most of us was lonely at times, isolated in libraries and study centers, focusing only on ourselves and only our own performance. Thinking about team success and what others around us need might be new territory. In dental school, almost everyone you associate with is a doctor. In private practice settings, doctors are outnumbered by individuals who have much less education and training, yet are equally as vital to the success of the practice as the doctor (if not more). Accepting this, appreciating this, and learning how to work in this dynamic is not taught in school.
The second obstacle is the daily distraction of email, Facebook and text messaging that we millennial/Gen X dentists are addicted to. If every free moment not treating patients is spent on the phone or on the Internet, how will team building and staying on the same page ever happen? Spending too much time during the work day communicating outside of the practice can have a negative impact on the communication going on inside the practice.
There’s no one simple trick to keeping a team functioning like a team. Here are a few things that I do in my practice that help keep things in order.
Talk to Everyone
I make sure that I have a one-on-one personal interaction with everyone on the team every day, and it usually starts with making sure I personally say good morning to everyone and ends with saying good evening at the end of the day. I don’t have to have a heart to heart with everyone every day, but if you don’t even make the effort to say hello to someone that you work with, barriers can start forming.
Morning Huddles Are Essential
Reviewing the schedule, discussing financial situations (credits/balances), treatment opportunities, and discussing how the day should go and what requires special attention help the day run smoothly.
Use Chat and/or Radios
A team that’s on the same page has to talk to each other. Mind reading and wishing people just figured things out doesn’t cut it. Front office notifying assistants that patients are ready to be brought back, assistants notifying treatment coordinators of changes to treatment plans all involve speaking and chatting.
Monthly Meetings Are the Time for “Big Picture” Topics
If there’s a problem with a system in our practice, or we feel something needs more training and focus, we don’t discuss it at the morning meeting when everyone is just focused on getting through the day. Staff training, team development and introducing new ideas are saved for the monthly meeting. During the month, we jot down topics that we feel need attention and address them with everyone at a table, sharing a meal together.
Quickly Review Treatment Plans with Your Coordinator
On smaller cases I typically rely on my assistant to communicate critical information to my treatment coordinator (interested in same-day treatment, interested in financing, etc.), but for larger cases I do it myself. This gives me an opportunity to “pep talk” my treatment coordinator and set her up for success in getting a case accepted.
Scripts and Checklists
No one really knows what you expect out of them until you write it down. Having job descriptions and daily duties for all team members helps them stay focused and on track. When your expectations from a position in your office are on a sheet of paper, you can be on the same page with them, literally.
Celebrate Great Patient Experiences and Things that Bring Happiness
Use monthly meetings to celebrate positive online reviews. Give everyone a chance to speak about how they made a difference for a patient or even just something that happened in the past month that made them laugh or smile. This is a great way to make sure that everyone on your team understands how valuable they are and how everyone is a part of the practice’s success.