Celebrate, Celebrate, Dance to the Music!

Aug. 1, 2005
We dentists are so ingrained with finding what is wrong that we often forget to look for what is right.

We dentists are so ingrained with finding what is wrong that we often forget to look for what is right. It shows in our lack of compliments and rare positive reinforcement for our team members. The payback from a simple “great job” or “thank you” is huge. Without positive reinforcement, staff members feel like we take them for granted and don’t appreciate them. Everyone wants to feel special.

We constantly need to look for reasons to celebrate. It doesn’t need to take a lot of time. Delegation can make you look good.

Have birthdays become ho-hum? Try appointing a two-person birthday committee to serve in that capacity for one year, then rotate the position. Let your committee plan something fun for each staff member’s birthday. Encourage them to personalize the events according to each person’s circumstances, objectives, and temperament (C, O, and T) - a lesson borrowed from the Pankey philosophy. My staff knows we treat each patient appropriately according to his or her C, O, and T. For example, one person might enjoy the black crepe paper, over-the-hill-type party, and another might prefer a gift certificate for a dinner with her husband. We treated one of our staff members with a January birthday to a picnic - complete with checkered tablecloth, hot dogs, potato salad, and root beer floats. By the way, this was indoors (hey, we’re in Minnesota). And who doesn’t appreciate a carefully selected card signed with best wishes by each team member? Of course, your birthday committee will need a budget for this. In my experience, they can make $100 go a lot further than I can.

Another important day to acknowledge is the anniversary of employment. Recognize this achievement with patients; it demonstrates longevity of employment and value to the practice. A pin - possibly a gold star - for the employee to wear on his or her anniversary date generates conversation with patients regarding the employee’s history with the practice.

We recently celebrated my 25th anniversary in practice. We surveyed our records and identified those folks who had been patients since my first year in practice. We sent those patients invitations and tickets to attend the summer play production at our local theater. We submitted an article to our daily newspaper, and an insert in the play program that evening recognized our patients. It provided local exposure for the theater, too, because many people bought more tickets for friends and family.

We also celebrate our patients who are 80 or older and who have 20 of their natural teeth with an 80/20 award. We invite those who qualify to a luncheon hosted by our team. We provide transportation to anyone who needs it, and fresh flowers on tables greet our patients. We take a picture of each patient with our two dentists. By the time lunch is finished, we’ve made a certificate of achievement with the picture. (Ah, the magic of our digital world.) This has been the talk of all the assisted-living facilities and senior center for weeks. It’s another opportunity for exposure if you enjoy treating this demographic.

Yes, we do serious business, but that does not mean we need to take ourselves seriously.

There is no scientific evidence that life is serious.

Dr. Yvonne Hanley practices dentistry in Fergus Falls, Minn. She has been on the visiting faculty of The Pankey Institute since 1989, and active in the Heartland Study Club (a Seattle study club) for 12 years. She is active in the Minnesota Dental Association, and leads a regional Pankey Institute Affiliated Learning Group that she organized in 2002. Reach her at (218) 739-3245.

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