Increase production and reduce stress

June 1, 2009
Teamwork boils down to three factors — vision, goals, and communication.

by Cathy Jameson

For more on this topic, go to and search using the following key words: teamwork, reduce stress, leadership, find the right team member, attitude, skills, social utility networks, performance review, Cathy Jameson.

Teamwork boils down to three factors — vision, goals, and communication. When this foundation for team and practice development is carefully laid, you'll begin a successful journey of practice growth and enhancement. Start by redefining a team. A team is not just the group of people who show up to work with you, but a group of leaders working cohesively toward common goals.

Establish what's good to you and revisit your vision. You must be able to envision, articulate, and document the minimum standards for excellence in each position in the practice. You must be willing to stand behind your commitment to that excellence. Once you compromise, you'll find yourself on a fast downward trend.

Hire right

Before you start looking for a new team member, sit down individually or as a team and write a description of the person you would like to add to the team.

What characteristics will this person need? Describe the attitude you want. What skills are necessary? Hire characteristics and attitude first because you can always teach the skills.

Once you describe the ideal team member, write a job description. Be very specific about what you want this person to do. The position responsibility will be critical during hiring and training. Now you're ready to go to the world with your invitation for employment.

1 Ask people on your team if they know anyone who would fit into the practice's vision. Choosing a new team member from the people your existing team members know or even from within your own patient base may lead to success.

2 Contact your local dental society to see if people have submitted resumes there.

3 Contact local employment agencies. Sometimes people moving into town will place their information with an agency.

4 You may have friends or acquaintances from other businesses that would bring competent skills to your practice. These skills include banking, accounting, sales, teaching, art, and more. These people may be ready for a career challenge and have the character and attitude you want. You provide the training.

One of the best business administrators John and I ever had on our dental team was a legal secretary. She wanted to make a change and became a walking, talking superstar in our practice, even though she knew nothing about dentistry before working with us.

So, open your eyes. Is there a great waitress who can handle demands with ease? Is there an elite hotel with well-trained employees who are ready to multitask while offering outstanding customer service?

5 Dental assisting schools accept requests for personnel placement. Many of these schools have preceptorship programs where students are available for assistance.

6 Understand your market and know where people get their news and look for job listings. The Internet and social utility networks such as Facebook, Twitter, and Linked In are great ways to get the word out about your new opportunity. While we used to advise people to place a well-written ad in local newspapers, times have changed. Depending on your market, newspaper ads may still be effective. In other markets, your efforts are better spent in more high-tech, searchable listings such as

The greatest thing about craigslist is that it's free and still specific for every city. Since we know that, for many markets, fewer people read the newspaper every day, it's clear that candidates are going online to top ranked sites like craigslist to find employment.

Regardless of where you place an ad, it should be interesting, punchy, enticing, and authentic. Encourage the candidate to send a resume. If you go with craigslist, log on and review how the listing appears. When you're getting outdated or bumped down with other listings, post your job again so you can stay on top and visible to candidates.

Once you receive resumes and inquiries, call your top choices to schedule an interview and complete an application. The person making these calls should spend a few minutes on the phone with each candidate, taking notes about the person's telephone technique and vocal quality.

Have candidates visit the office for a brief interview with a qualified team member and with the doctor. They must also complete an application (one that follows all appropriate legal ramifications). You will want to see if people can think on their feet, write well, spell, punctuate, and more.

From these applicants, select your top two or three candidates, and ask them to return for a final interview. This interview will be a bit longer, more detailed, more specific about the position responsibility, salary, benefits, and all pertinent details. The interviewer should do about 30% of the talking, which leaves 70% to the interviewee. This is true in both interviews. Ask open-ended questions that put the person at ease and invite conversation.

Train, teach, and nurture

Once you've hired the right person, spend quality time orienting the new team member to your practice and the new job responsibilities. No matter how long someone may have been in dentistry, if they change practices, everything they are used to doing will change. This does not mean past experience is useless — not at all. However, every practice is unique, and the new person must understand what you do, how you do it, and why you do it a certain way.

In the first few days of a person's employment, go over personnel issues — how and when payroll will be distributed, specifics about the benefit package, the hours of work, attire, and more. In other words, cover your entire personnel policy manual. Have the new employee sign a form stating that he or she has read the manual and agrees to cooperate with the given protocols. Create a personnel file, and add it to the other files of all employees.

Now, begin the training. You already have a written description of the position responsibilities. Go through that description and prioritize each responsibility. Then design a training program. What will you study first, second, third, and so on. Schedule some non-patient time for instruction. On-the-job training will only go so far. If you have a busy practice and you do not schedule nonpatient training time, you're asking for trouble.

A new person should know what you expect, how you want each system to be managed, and acceptable time frames for the completion of certain tasks. The new person will work more confidently, make fewer mistakes, and be productive much more quickly with carefully orchestrated training. He or she will appreciate the orientation, training time, and effort to integrate gracefully into the team.

Don't wait until three months have passed to give a new employee a performance review. Review on a daily or weekly basis. Ask what things are going well, and which areas are creating confusion or uncertainty. Give further instruction, ask how you can help, and answer questions. It's critical for the new employee to understand that asking questions is encouraged. Otherwise, things will keep being done the same way, and that way may not be correct.

During this initial phase of employment, make a special effort to integrate your new person into the team. Go to lunch as a group. Have a cookout at someone's house and invite the families. Have a retreat where you go over the practice vision/mission, the practice goals, communication skills and avenues, and more. Orientation, training, and integration can make the difference whether or not a person stays on board with you. The bottom line is that people want to know what they are to do, how they are to do it, what you expect of them, what they can expect of you, and that they are accepted and valued.

Take charge

Sometimes the hiring process and keeping your team trained and challenged can be stressful. Stress cannot be eliminated even among the best teams. However, you can take charge of your life and control stress so it doesn't control you. This stress control builds unity and makes interaction with your colleagues even more positive.

Through the communication, training, and clarity of vision I have outlined, you can empower your team. The challenge lies in your ability to manage your response to stress and to attract the right team members. Those who choose to control stress by actively and constructively managing it can learn to turn its potentially harmful force into high-powered energy that benefits everyone.

In summary

Devote effort and infuse your ultimate vision into your team building. You'll not only attract quality individuals to your practice, but you'll keep them active and engaged. Stress is controlled and even harnessed into motivational power to propel you into your dream practice. By hiring and training right, you and your team can be happy and fulfilled, and can focus on serving the people in your care. This is, after all, why you are where you are in the first place.

Cathy Jameson is founder and CEO of Jameson Management, Inc., an international dental practice management coaching firm. Learn about “Enlightened Leadership“ with Cathy this October in Oklahoma City. See more about this event and other products and coaching services at or send an e-mail to [email protected].

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