What Team Members want

Nov. 1, 1999
The emergence of a global economy has dramatically changed not only the way everyone does business, but the work habits of the world as well. In the face of shifting markets meeting myriad technological advancements, everything is up for grabs, including job security. Outsourcing, downsizing, computerization, and the flattening out of much of middle management have all contributed to the fear that no one?s job is safe. The message is everywhere and on everyone?s mind in every industry. So it sh

The authors? survey reveals that greater team loyalty ensures greater patient loyalty.

Walter B. Hailey and

Steven J. Anderson

The emergence of a global economy has dramatically changed not only the way everyone does business, but the work habits of the world as well. In the face of shifting markets meeting myriad technological advancements, everything is up for grabs, including job security. Outsourcing, downsizing, computerization, and the flattening out of much of middle management have all contributed to the fear that no one?s job is safe. The message is everywhere and on everyone?s mind in every industry. So it should come as no surprise that employer/employee loyalty is one-tenth what it was 20 years ago!

To make matters even more daunting to owners, unemployment in North America is the lowest it?s been in 20 years. Anyone who can fog a mirror can get a job right now! New and exciting opportunities open up in the job market every day.

The impact on dentistry

We?ve been on the road for over 10 years, meeting with thousands of dentists at our Dental Boot Kamps. We consistently hear how hard it is to find good people, but we have never heard it so often as we have this year. Building and retaining a quality and loyal team is now a number-one priority.

We know you realize how important your team is to your success. After all, your first and most important market is the market that serves your market.

We can walk into any dental office, and even if the dentist is in the back, tell you within one minute exactly how the leader is treating his or her team. We have seen expert dentists who have simply terrible teams and whose practice is a disaster. Conversely, we have seen less-talented dentists with great teams enjoying a highly successful practice.

That?s why, if you?re looking to have more patients accept all the treatment they really need, you must make sure your team is happy about the treatment they are getting from you. If you are not providing reasons for them to stay onboard and help you build your practice, you might lose the good people you have. And we don?t just mean team members, but patients as well. We guarantee you that how you treat your team becomes exactly how your team treats your patients.

The value of your team in case acceptance

Unlike buying a car, or a house, or an education for your children, the decision to purchase dental services is built almost exclusively on a relationship of trust. Patients are not technically informed enough to really judge the quality of the work. So when asked if they have a good dentist, they don?t mention occlusal harmony, the latest continuing-education course you attended, or even your degrees. They respond by judging the quality of their relationship with you and your team.

We ask dental-team members if they have patients who drive 45 minutes or more to get to their dental office. They all say they do. It obviously isn?t just location that makes them choose your practice ? it?s how they feel when they are in your care. The quality of your dental team determines the quality of your patient base.

Patients come to your office because of the relationship they have developed with you and your team. After all, having someone set up shop in your mouth is an intimate situation. It makes sense that patients want to see consistent, caring, and familiar faces they have come to depend on over time. And time plays a critical role in keeping your patient base together. People in their twenties and thirties often change jobs and move around a lot, but the older and more established your patient base, the more value they place on their relationship with you.

So when you lose a key member of your dental team, you lose part of that case-acceptance muscle you have been building with that patient. A new team member has to start all over again with every one of your patients. Nothing builds patient loyalty like team loyalty.

The value of asking

To keep staff members loyal, you have to give them what they want. So, to help dentists find out what their team members really want, we surveyed hundreds of Crown Council practices in the United States and Canada.

We asked those dental-team members:

> What makes you happiest or most appreciated?

> What would make you want to work here forever?

> If you could tell the dentist anything, what would it be that would keep you a member of this team?

> What drives you crazy about working in the office?

We knew that getting your own team members ? the ones you work side-by-side and elbow-to-elbow with every day ? to give you open and honest answers to these questions might be difficult, because of their fear of your possible reaction if they really told you how they felt. We knew the results of a large survey would give us a gut check about what we?ve been sharing in our seminars, and would cause you to think more carefully about your own leadership when compared with industry trends.

We?re action-oriented and we?re happy to offer you an action plan for each of the four major issues. Here are the survey questions and team members? answers.

1. The happiness question

Of all the things that have happened to you in the last 30 days, what made you the happiest or made you feel most appreciated?

x Expressions of appreciation by patients

x Expressions of appreciation by the doctor and team

x Being included in decisions made in the office

x Public expressions of confidence by the doctor or team

Why create mediocrity when you can copy genius? We ask dentists to use only ideas and principles that already have proven to be tried, true, and replicable. So you?ll pardon us if we are overly astounded with the answers. Nothing could be easier and less expensive than adopting an attitude of appreciation. You will notice that team members did not say, OA raise, a check, a bonus, a paid vacation to Hawaii, free dental care for my family.O

We?re not saying that financial security is not important, because we know it is. But compared to what leaders in other industries face where money talks and everything else walks, team members in the dental profession are only asking for a little recognition. Every dentist reading this should make sure to acknowledge the value of each team member in front of patients and in front of the rest of the team on a regular basis. Moreover, the desire to be included in decision-making is what most small business owners pray for, and dental-team members are already there. Are you?

Dentists simply have no idea how good they?ve got it! Make sure that arrogance, vanity, stubbornness, competition, or a superiority complex do not get in the way of your expressing to your team members their value to you and the mission of the practice. It?s the least a servant leader should do.

2. The stay-forever question

What is one thing that has happened in your dental office that makes you want to stay forever?

x Appreciation by the doctor

x Appreciation by patients

x A kind and understanding boss who makes the office feel like a second home

x Respect for one?s opinion and trust to complete assignments

x The doctor standing behind the team 100 percent

x Encouragement from the doctor and team for continuing education

x Feeling respected and valued

x The doctor is a friend

The only question we want to ask you is a serious and soul-searching one: What will it take for you to become the doctor, the friend, the supporter, the appreciator, the leader, and the communicator who these team members value?

The Carnegie Institute conducted an even larger survey some years ago, interviewing successful people in all walks of life. That survey discovered that only 15 percent of anyone?s success is the result of the clinical or technical expertise necessary to do one?s particular occupation or career. The other 85 percent of success is due to people skills. We know dentists to be very committed to clinical proficiency, but we hope that the percentages the Carnegie Institute discovered un-derline the need for a better balance.

3. The speak-out question

If you could say one thing to dentists in North America about what they could do to keep you as a team member, what would it be?

x Appreciate your team: not only tell them in words, but show them in action

x If I am good, tell me; if I need help, guide me

x Keep lines of communication open

x Empower team members by giving them responsibility and then let them do it

x Include the team in the decision-making process

x Listen

x Hire for attitude, not because of experience

Every one of these recommendations are skills in thinking, feeling, and interacting that can be learned. Enlightened management includes the delegation of duties and inspecting ? not just expecting ? excellence in the performance of daily tasks.

Communication savvy includes empathizing, active listening, and mirroring people?s responses to help them verbalize their issues. These ? along with believability, likeability, and trust ? are the major ingredients for building a great team and developing patient rapport, which is the foundation for case acceptance. The entire dental team, not just the doctor, is responsible for creating patient rapport, which once established, makes it 80 percent easier to get patients to agree with what you want them to do for their complete oral health.

Just because these people skills are not measured by the millimeter like a clinical procedure doesn?t make them any less valuable or less crucial to your overall success.

4. The drive-?em-crazy question

What is one thing that has happened in your dental office that drives you crazy ... and that you?d like to change?

x Inconsistency and lack of communication between doctor and team

x Inconsistency and lack of communication between team members

x Lack of follow-through on team decisions

x Lack of appreciation for jobs well done

x Lack of leadership from the doctor

Team members want four things from you:

1) recognition,

2) stimulating challenges,

3) opportunities for personal and professional growth,

4) and financial reward.

Communication breakdowns, blame-laying, back-biting, finger pointing, jealousy, gossip, rivalry, a lack of clarity about responsibilities ? none of these things has any place in a professional setting.

Unlike the other industries out there, dentistry offers the greatest possible opportunities for a member of a dental team. Proportional to the level of education necessary to do the job, each dental team member enjoys better pay, better benefits, better hours, and a better opportunity for growth than almost any other occupation. Because you are the most educated, the owner of the practice, and its leader, the team necessarily looks to you. You set the tone that drives everyone to glory ... or to the nut house!

An additional question

Not everyone we surveyed has been employed for five years or more at their present job. Those who have recently joined a Crown Council dental team afforded us a great opportunity. We just had to ask:

What caused you to leave your last dental job?

x Taken for granted and not appreciated

x Lack of loyalty and leadership from the doctor

x Lack of respect no quality care philosophy

x Lack of personal and professional growth

x General unhappiness

We think this last one speaks for itself.

Your personal wake-up call

Wherever you are on the continuum of technical excellence, there is no clearer indication than the results of this survey that it?s time to learn more about the people-skills side of dentistry.

From our survey, we find that the overwhelming entreaty of team members is for respect, acknowledgment, and appreciation.They want guidance and a greater chance to learn and grow in an environment that?s not so bereft of humor and fun. To boil down the results to a single phrase for the dentist: be a leader and a communicator.

We?ve been advocating and teaching skills to get happy patients into your practaice who pay more than it costs to serve them. You want patients who repeat and who refer other highly qualified people to your practice. We now ask you to take those same marketing and case-acceptance skills and reapply them to your dental team, so that you recruit and retain happy, loyal team members.

If, in building a loyal and capable team, you run into a situation you can?t solve, give us a call. We?ve found that the OLaw of 80/20O holds true for team members, as well as patients: 80 percent of your trouble will come from 20 percent of the people on board. It?s never the actual problem, but how we solve the problem that matters.