The most valuable practice asset

I opened my practice from scratch four years ago, and I have to confess that my greatest challenge is hiring and keeping good staff members. In talking with some of my friends at the local dental meetings, some of them are having similar problems. Do you have any quick and easy advice on how to build a solid, cohesive team?

BY Dianne Glasscoe Watterson, MBA

Dear Dianne,

I opened my practice from scratch four years ago, and I have to confess that my greatest challenge is hiring and keeping good staff members. In talking with some of my friends at the local dental meetings, some of them are having similar problems. Do you have any quick and easy advice on how to build a solid, cohesive team?

- Dr. Dave

Dear Dr. Dave,

I'm glad you've asked this question, because I can tell you exactly how to build the kind of team you want. The quick answer is you have to prepare the soil and create the right environment. Wait - that sounds like I'm talking about gardening, not growing a team. The fact is there are some amazing similarities.

To be successful growing plants, you first have to make sure the ground is prepared and fertile. Otherwise, your plants won't thrive. Your office "soil" must be a place where a staff member can have an opportunity to grow and thrive. Some hires are doomed from the outset because the office environment is toxic due to unrealistic expectations, lack of proper training, lack of acceptance from coworkers, or lack of encouragement.

New plants need water, proper fertilizer, and sunshine in the right proportions to come to maturity. Too much of any of the growing elements is just as bad as not enough. The same is true for staff members. They need direction without undue criticism, feedback aimed toward improvement, and encouragement. We all know that plants cannot grow without sunshine, and staff members will not grow without praise. A good word from the boss is like sunshine on a cloudy day.

New hires are like tender bedding plants in a garden. If they are planted carefully, watered, and weeded, the expectation is a bountiful harvest. Nobody would be so unwise as to go stomping through their garden with heavy boots, because that would crush the plants. Unfortunately, that's exactly what happens to some new hires. They get crushed under the weight of criticism and heavy scrutiny with little chance of survival.

As a practice owner, your most valuable asset is your team. The order of priority should be team first, then patients. After all, you can't take care of your patients without the assistance of your team. What do you need to do to nurture your most valuable asset? Beautiful gardens do not happen by coincidence, and neither do cohesive, superstar teams. It all starts with you, the boss.

So, what are the keys to having a great team?

1. Hire high-quality people.

2. Pay them well.

3. Commend in public; criticize in private.

4. Create opportunities for continual learning and growth.

5. Terminate the employment of those who cause division.

6. Show appreciation in ways other than the paycheck.

7. Have a well-written policies-and-procedures manual that clarifies your employment expectations and policies.

The premise is similar with gardening. First, plant the right kind of plants in good soil, and then take care of them. Make sure they get plenty of moisture, sunshine, and the right amount of fertilizer. Pull the weeds, and keep insects from destroying the plants.

When staff members feel respect and a sense of appreciation from the doctor, it builds loyalty and dedication. You can't fake caring - your team members will see right through it. When you understand how important your team is to your overall practice success, the nurturing will come naturally.

Happy gardening!

Dianne


Dianne Glasscoe Watterson, MBA, is a consultant, speaker, and author. She helps good practices become better through practical on-site consulting. Her book, "Manage Your Practice Well," is available at www.professionaldentalmgmt.com. For consulting or speaking inquiries, contact Dianne at dglasscoe@northstate.net or call her at (301) 874-5240.

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