Oct. 1, 2001
Imagine a day in your practice when everything is going right.

by Mark E. Hyman, DDS

Imagine a day in your practice when everything is going right. Now imagine that a key teammate sheepishly approaches you and says, "Doc, can I have five minutes of your time after work?" Oh no! Our dental colleagues would rather hear from the IRS or the State Board of Dental Examiners than imagine where this conversation may lead. At best, we may anticipate a request for time off. At worst, it may turn out to be a staffing crisis or the opening line of a resignation!

Who among us wouldn't love to have seen this coming? Isn't it hard enough to be CEO/ CFO/personnel director and head cheerleader? Fortunately, there is a simple questionnaire that can give you and your team a thumbnail sketch of the practice at any moment. It allows you to focus on areas of concern, study the causes, brainstorm all possible solutions, and institute real change.

In their book, First, Break All the Rules, Buckingham and Coffman of the Gallup Organi-zation completed an incredible survey of one million employees and 80,000 managers. Contrary to conventional wisdom, they discovered 12 key questions that can predict success and happiness in the workplace. For your next staff meeting, consider handing out the survey! In a safe and professional fashion, ask the entire team to thoughtfully answer the following questions by rating them from 1 to 5 — strongly disagree to strongly agree:

Do I know what is expected of me at work? Are job descriptions written, understood, and owned by the entire team? What type of follow-up occurs when we "drop the ball"?

Do I have the materials and equipment to do the job right? Does the doctor want a cutting-edge periodontal program, but fails to provide modern ultrasonics? Do you want higher case acceptance, but do not have intraoral cameras or educational DVD programs?

At work, do I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day? Does the doctor delegate duties along with the appropriate training? Depending on your state laws, is the clinical team taking alginate impressions, placing sealants, and crafting exquisite provisional restorations?

In the past seven days, have I received recognition or praise for good work? Does the doctor constantly "catch the team doing things right" instead of criticizing? Do you celebrate small victories daily? Do you feel there is enough appreciation?

Does my supervisor, or someone at work, seem to care about me as a person? Do we ask and listen with the intention of understanding? Do we encourage time off for special family events such as All-Star games, awards ceremonies, or the first day of school? Do we celebrate happy occasions together such as birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, and holidays?

Is there someone at work who encourages my development? Do we encourage and pay for quality continuing education — even outside dentistry — such as Dale Carnegie or Toastmasters? Do we share nondental self-improvement books and tapes?

At work, do my opinions seem to count? Does the doctor ask for and receive advice? Or is it, as I heard once, "We keep talking about all these things and nothing ever changes!"

Does the mission/purpose of the office make me feel like my work is important? Are all teammates a valued piece of the puzzle?

Are my co-workers committed to doing quality work? Is excellence the standard in our offices? What may be going on that we are not privy to? These may include OSHA rules, quality of provisional restorations, and other duties.

Do I have a best friend at work? Let's face it — we spend more time with each other than with our spouse/kids/significant others. Maybe the best friend just moved or a new teammate feels left out. We need to be sensitive to changes in the office dynamics.

In the past six months, have I talked with someone about my progress? Do we have consistent, scheduled, written performance reviews, or is this critical growth opportunity relegated to an impromptu five minutes after work one day?

At work, have I had opportunities to learn and grow? Does the team share ideas with each other after continuing-education courses? Do our teammates support our dreams?

Total the answers to these 12 questions. Each teammate will have a score ranging from 12 to 60. If we are serious about improving our practices and the opportunity to quickly identify and solve practice-management issues, we'll share the results with the team. We can celebrate the positives and write out action plans to address those issues that need immediate attention. If this survey is taken seriously, great things can happen.

Then, when your teammates ask for those potentially unsettling "five minutes of your time," you can eagerly agree. Most likely, you'll like what you hear.

Dr. Mark Hyman practices general dentistry in Greensboro, N.C. He has practiced since 1986, including a two-year residency in Jerusalem, Israel. He has a special interest in cosmetic and family dentistry, and is an adjunct associate professor at the University of N.C. School of Dentistry. He also is an instructor at the Pankey Institute for Advanced Dental Education and lectures internationally. Dr. Hyman may be reached at (336) 852-8540.

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