21st Century Management for Dental Practice
Building Your #1 Asset
You’ve heard it before: “people are your number one asset.” In the corporate world, the ability to lead an engaged team is a key indicator of profitability. Corporations invest a lot of resources in training their teams. Small offices should too.
What does it take to create engaged, well-coordinated teams? I thought Seth Josephs would be the person to ask. As Director of Operations at Dental Purchasing Group, Seth helps dental practices with filling gaps in management knowledge about team building. With experience in pharmacy and dental practice management, Seth has many years of experience with getting the “people part” right.
Communication is key. When Seth starts to work with a new practice, he uses DiSC® a tool that helps assess behavioral differences. DiSC® workshops identify where each team member is located in a “quadrant” of personal styles. After the DiSC® exercise, each member of the team knows more about their own personality and where they fit into the spectrum of communication styles. For example, a “D” (Dominant) person learns that they may need to use a different style to get through to a “C” (Conscientiousness) person.
Inspired Teams with Shared Goals
Communication is just one part of the solution. A truly engaged team must be motivated to pursue the shared goal of practice success. This can be a daunting goal for practice owners without management experience.
“The key is for the owner/leader to create inspired teams by leading, not just managing,” says Seth. “We try to steer owners away from the “old school” management to more of a “new school” leadership. There is a difference between leadership and management. We work with practices to help them understand how they can engage their teams by leading, not just managing.”
Does this work? Seth worked with one small practice that increased their collections from $450,000 to $850,000 in three years. “The one thing I would attribute to their success”, says Seth, “is engaged leadership. Engaged leaders focus on their people. When the practice put a lot of resources into developing their teams, collections improved.”
The one thing I would attribute to success, says Seth, is engaged leadership. Engaged leaders focus on their people.
In workgroups, particularly small ones, shared knowledge is essential to success. For this reason, Seth recommends cross-training and sharing meetings from time to time so that everyone is aware of other’s roles in the business.
At CVS pharmacies, Seth noticed an advantage to training the front office staff on the procedures in the back office, and vice versa. “We realized how crucial it was to train the front office staff in the pharmacy,” he says. “The pharmacy technician was so important to the business that we didn’t just want to bring somebody in off the street in a technician role.”
Seth continues, “Say someone who is trained in skills at the front desk leaves. If the hygienists have a “hands off” approach, you lose that expertise. I’ve seen many offices where they just hire the first person that comes to the door, so they have to just hire somebody who may not always be the right person. The lack of shared knowledge forces dentists to make poor hiring decisions.”
The “Good” Kind of Accountability
With shared knowledge comes the positive kind of accountability that you want in your teams. “So often, “accountability” has a negative connotation,” says Seth. “It’s a word you use when you discipline someone. Accountability has another meaning; it’s that personal ownership of your role, what you do, and how you can affect a certain scenario. This kind of accountability provides a kind of power.” When employees feel that their knowledge matters, behaviors change from excuses to acknowledging reality, owning it, finding solutions, and getting on with the shared goals of the practice.
“This accountability ladder puts you in a place of being powerful or powerless, says Seth. “If I’m not accountable for anything, that means I don’t own anything. That means I don’t have the ability to receive praise for anything. If I’m accountable for something it makes my job more special.”
“Also, the right kind of accountability gives employees purpose and something to be rewarded for. Too often we see the accountability side in a negative light, versus the ability to turn it into something positive and more powerful,” he says.
Accountability is not just for employees. Seth says that old school “managing” can allow someone in a management role to take less personal accountability for the weak areas in the practice. This “old” approach puts more emphasis on delegating and “holding accountable” (the negative kind of accountability). A much better “new school” approach is to think about your role. For example, think about whether there is something about your communication style or instructions that prevented an employee from meeting your expectations.
“Using your knowledge about the employee’s communication style, think about how you could have communicated more clearly to that individual so that they would have better success at being successful,” says Seth. “When managers know how to hold themselves accountable, they can lead more effectively.”
Engaged Leaders and Teams = Practice Success
“The businesses that understand how to focus, develop, communicate, and lead their teams are the most successful practices”, says Seth. “This is the key to a thriving practice.”
If you would like to talk with Seth about team building in dental practices you can reach him at SAJ@DentalPurchasingGroup.com.
Mark J. McGaunn, CPA/PFS, CFP® leads the veterinary/financial planning divisions at McGaunn & Schwadron, CPA’s, LLC and can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org or (781) 489-6651.