The empowered dental team

Today`s changes in health care demand that you and your staff work together as a synergistic team or you will suffer the consequences and, ultimately, fall behind in your market place. For most doctors, teamwork actually begins with a shift in perspective: Either a shift from asserting power over others, or having others overpower you, to one of empowering others.

Are you spending too much time managing your staff?

Brenda Barbour

Today`s changes in health care demand that you and your staff work together as a synergistic team or you will suffer the consequences and, ultimately, fall behind in your market place. For most doctors, teamwork actually begins with a shift in perspective: Either a shift from asserting power over others, or having others overpower you, to one of empowering others.

If you feel as though you spend a large portion of your time putting out fires and not really accomplishing your goals, you are spending too much time managing your staff. When your staff brings you a problem, first ask them what they think could/should be done to solve it.

In your dental training, you most likely received very little instruction on how to most effectively interact with your team. Over the years of practicing dentistry, you may have learned some basic management skills. To thrive in the `90s and beyond, you must retrain yourself in interpersonal skills. Management skills alone will not propel your practice to peak levels. Manage- ment skills alone may not even help you survive. However, by developing coaching skills, you can greatly enhance your long-term success.

Do you presently have a realistic understanding of your and your staff`s strengths and limitations? You must have a clear, objective assessment before you can fully utilize your team`s variety of talents and skills. Coaches utilize Benchmark to evaluate team performance.

Empowered teams hire, evaluate and discipline their own members. Empowered teams set their own standards of excellence, set their own goals, divide up the tasks, monitor their outcomes, coach each other on the results and take responsibility for the results. Does your team need development to reach peak performance levels? If so, begin with the following action plan:

Create a team mission or purpose. You must have a sense of purpose. Build a reason, a "why" you are associating with one another. To design a team mission statement ask: Who are we? What do we stand for? What will we accomplish? How will we go about it?

Set and continually monitor goals. Provide your staff with the "big picture" information they need to be involved in the goals of the practice. Create team goals that are written, vivid, specific and come up with strategies for attainment, using preset monitoring dates. Utilize team interaction and select one person to be accountable for each result. Coach the results.

Encourage creativity and masterminding. Ask for your team`s input. Focus on problem solving. Show them how to turn a problem into a challenge and an opportunity. Have the team identify a problem; focus on all possible solutions; evaluate the best solution; design strategies; take action; monitor results and coach results.

Acknowledge their contributions and accomplishments. Catch someone doing something right and acknowledge it! Give them praise for any accomplishment, no matter how "small."

Display confidence in your team. Give your team members the opportunity to display their talents. Work with each team member to facilitate development of specific duties for which they are accountable. Discuss, clarify and mutually agree to any expectations.

Encourage and demonstrate quality communication. Create an environment in which relationships are strong and communication is open, honest and constructive.

Listen. Practice active listening. Do not make judgments about what is being said; focus on the conversation and do not become distracted. Acknowl- edge what was said and give feedback. Team members who feel listened to and accepted will contribute more.

Be a role model or emotional management. Show them how to "leave problems at home." Demonstrate an even temperament, regardless of how upsetting a situation may be. Never communicate with each other until it can be done rationally.

Criticize behavior or performance, but never the person. A behavior is not the person. Reject the action, not the person. Remember that we all have values, beliefs, attitudes, feelings, emotions, prejudges and biases, which influence our behavior. Focus on the relationship and coach correction strategies of performance.

Focus and speak to the team only on what you desire. Always talk positively about what you want, rather than talking about what you don`t want.

Commit to CANI!™ -Constant And Never-ending Improvement. Support your staff and contribute to their effectiveness by providing ongoing training in all areas. Continually raise your standards in all areas of your practice and your relationships.

Your long-term success depends upon your relationships with your team and your team`s performance. Success will only come by accomplishing results together, not by yourself. You ultimately must accept the responsibility for shaping your relationships and thus, your destiny. Create an empowered team that will actively pursue your goals and dreams with perseverance and tenacity. At all times, be aware of your impact and influence on others. Interact with your team as if your life depended on it. It does!

Figure 1 Are You A Manager Or A Coach?

Managers:

Focus on sytems

Issue statement of authority

Train on the specifics

Set standards/goals

Delegate

Coaches:

Focus on people

Ask questions to create outcomes

Refocus you on goals/desires

Facilitate teams that set s/g

Influence

Figure 2 Key Benchmark Questions

1. Where do you rate your success compared to those in your field?

2. Where do you rate your success compared to where you desire to be?

3. What are your long-term, desired outcomes?

4. How will you achieve those outcomes?

5. Does each person know what`s expected of him/her as an individual?

6. Does each person understand how he/she is interdependent on others?

7. Is patient satisfactions measured regularly?

8. Is the team`s performance measured regularly?

9. What do you need to improve on?

10. Are formal training programs utilized to continually upgrade skills?

The author is a consultant for Fortune Practice Management in San Diego, CA.

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