Increase doctor production through your team

Can you build a solid, cohesive dental team? Can you make a good team even better?

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by Roger P. Levin, DDS

For more on this topic, go to www.dentaleconomics.com and search using the following key words: micromanaging, teamwork, leadership, staff training, staff meetings, communications, team-building.

Can you build a solid, cohesive DENTAL TEAM? Can you make a good team even better? Can you increase doctor production by 30% to 50% as a result? Absolutely!

Let us explore four ways that dentists can immediately improve their qualities as CEOs and begin to build incredible teams:

1. Stop micromanaging

To be blunt, many dentists are micromanagers and suffer from perfectionism. As a third-generation dentist, I absolutely understand how perfectionism was beaten into us in dental school. We have all heard stories about faculty who have destroyed wax patterns, thrown away provisionals, and failed students for being off by 0.1 millimeter.

While these "horror" stories are not occurring in most dental schools today, there is nevertheless a belief by many dentists that if they do not achieve absolute perfection, they are failures and bad dentists. Someday, all dentists will recognize that there is no such thing as absolute perfection. Then they will realize that they must strive to be the very best dentists they can possibly be by always meeting or exceeding the standard of care.

This sense of extreme perfectionism gets carried far beyond clinical dentistry. It typically infiltrates dentists' lives. We hold our staff, and often our friends and families, to these same standards. Everything has to be perfect and no one can do it better than we can as dentists.

This way of thinking causes dentists to become micromanagers for everything — especially in the practice. If we are not doing it, we feel compelled to check that the staff member does it the way we would have done it. Such behavior eats up enormous amounts of doctor time. The obvious question presents itself — why do this?

The whole point of having staff members is to have them carry out their own independent jobs. Most employees will perform wonderfully if the right systems are in place and each individual is properly trained. However, if you continue to micromanage on a daily basis, you will inevitably train staff members that you are in charge and that you are more than happy to use lots of your time making them live up to the same impossibly high standard to which you aspire. If that's not a morale breaker for staff members, I don't know what is!

The message is clear — train … and then trust others to do great work.

2. Develop a culture that encourage teamwork

Dental practices are not about individual star performances. One Michael Jordan on your team will not solve all practice problems and allow you to grow. Superstars are good to have. However, your first objective should be to create a true team.

Teamwork is about a group of people who have a common goal. It is not about who didn't do their job, who sat in the staff room too long, or who didn't come in today. It is about everyone pulling together with individual and group talents to make the practice run better and achieve current and future goals. This atmosphere can be created by the doctor being the leader and sponsoring a number of different activities, including quarterly off-site meetings, occasional dinners for the entire team to spend time together, morning staff meetings with complete written agendas, and a host of other activities.

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The key is for the doctor to learn to be an excellent leader so he or she can remain chairside to provide excellent clinical care. Recognition, appreciation, compliments, and feedback can all occur in the course of a normal day, which contributes to a culture of teamwork. Levin Group Method™ has a goal of dentists spending 98% of their time in direct patient care.

3. Create a more open environment

Many dentists believe that they are personally very close to their teams when, in fact, team members are not comfortable having open communication with the doctor. Levin Group consultants witness this on a regular basis when the teams of new clients join the program and feel — for the first time — that the consultant offers them an opportunity to express themselves in a way that will be understood by the doctor. Is the issue that doctors are not open to team members providing discussion and feedback? No. Frequently, it’s more about team members not knowing how to properly voice opinions and insights ... or not being asked at all!

One of the most important factors in building an outstanding team is open communication. People should feel very comfortable talking about anything related to the practice. In order for this to occur, several things must happen:

1) Time must be set aside for conversation. At least twice a year, the doctor or office manager should have a one-on-one meeting with each team member. This meeting can be at lunch, and it should have an open agenda.

2) Ask questions such as:
How do you think the last six months have gone?
What areas do you believe could use improvement?
How can I do my job better?

These are questions that create conversation among doctors, office managers, and staff members. Take in the information and allow the person to speak without defensiveness, fear, or concern. In these conversations, doctors often learn things that allow them to make the practice far better.

4. Create excitement

One way to begin to change the culture of the practice into a true team environment is to create excitement. You can start with a bonus system. Levin Group uses a bonus system based on two-month cycles and a combination of production and collection. There are several protocols for the bonus system, including posting results daily and hosting some type of celebration when a bonus is achieved. What most doctors don’t realize is that they have to be the cheerleader of the bonus system for it to work properly. It should be reviewed in morning meetings and staff meetings, and it should be posted daily in the staff room.

Another approach is to have regular exciting activities. When is the last time you sent your staff flowers for a particularly challenging or successful day? Have you taken them out to dinner lately? Have you written a note and mailed it to their homes to thank them for everything they do for you? All of these activities stimulate people to move beyond their normal behavior. True team-building is as much about building an exciting environment as having the right people.

Accept the team-building challenge

Team-building is one of the biggest challenges you face today and will continue to face for the rest of your career. Something as simple as adding the wrong team member can completely upset the balance of the team and waste a great deal of doctor time. The addition of the right person can bring a much-needed spark that helps take the practice to the next level. We recently worked with a practice that added a treatment coordinator, which led to an immediate increase in doctor production time of 20%!

Team-building is one of the biggest challenges you face today and will continue to face for the rest of your career. Something as simple as adding the wrong team member can completely upset the balance of the team and waste a great deal of doctor time. The addition of the right person can bring a much-needed spark that helps take the practice to the next level. We recently worked with a practice that added a treatment coordinator, which led to an immediate increase in doctor production time of 20%!

he next level should always be your goal, and the right team can make that happen. Once a solid team is in place, the doctor can reduce the number of activities in which he or she is involved and concentrate more on patient care and having fun with dentistry. Ultimately, this will lead to a multimillion dollar return.

DE® readers are entitled to receive a 20% courtesy on the Practice Success seminar for general dentists to be held May 15-16, 2009, in Las Vegas. To receive this courtesy, call (888) 973-0000 and mention "Dental Economics" or e-mail customerservice@levingroup.com with "Dental Economics" in the subject line.

Roger P. Levin, DDS, is founder and CEO of Levin Group, a leading dental management consulting firm that is dedicated to improving the lives of dentists through a diverse portfolio of lifetime services and solutions. Since the company's inception in 1985, Dr. Levin has worked to bring the business world to dentistry. Levin Group may be reached at (888) 973-0000, or at www.levingroup.com.

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