How do you motivate employees?

Sept. 1, 2005
Do you lie awake at night thinking about staff issues? Performance problems, motivational gaps, and conflicts with staff are the number one stress-producers for dentists.

Do you lie awake at night thinking about staff issues? Performance problems, motivational gaps, and conflicts with staff are the number one stress-producers for dentists.

How do you get employees to enthusiastically want to do what you want them to do - and do it that way every time? The answer lies in leadership. You must learn to influence your team to become self-motivated.

Where does a culture of self-motivation start? It begins with team members receiving feedback from their leader on how well their individual efforts support the practice’s expectations and goals. Too often, the only significant feedback they get is on what is wrong and what needs correcting. It is vital for employees to know what they are doing right and why it is of value to the practice. What gets acknowledged gets repeated. In addition, your feedback needs to be timely, accurate, and appropriate - much more specific than “That was good,” or “What were you thinking?”

Here are specific actions you can take to lead your team to self-motivation.

Step No. 1 - Help your employees discover their individual needs and wants and tie them to the practice’s goals. Believe it or not, many people haven’t really thought about what stirs them to action. Some questions you can ask to guide your staff in discovering their motivators include:

“What was the best part of yesterday’s work activities for you?”

“Why is doing a good job important to you?”

“What would you like to do more or less of?”

Test your assumptions about your employees’ wants by asking questions such as: “I notice that you get excited when we hit our production goals. Is this important to you, and if so, why?”

Once you know what your team’s needs and wants are, you can tie your practice’s goals to meeting those needs. That’s called synergistic collaboration - and it works!

Step No. 2 - Use staff meetings, morning huddles, and formal one-on-one meetings with employees to inspect what you expect. Use statistical analyses and problem-solving not only to convince your staff that the outcomes you expect are possible, but also to detect and prevent potential failures along the way. Co-analyze practice results with your team. If you had a terrific day, ask at the next morning’s huddle: “Why do you think everything worked well yesterday?”

If production is below goal, ask at a staff meeting: “What are the possible causes, and what should we do differently?” This loosens the staff members’ dependency on the leader for statistical interpretation, problem-solving, and feedback, and it builds their own abilities. By enhancing your staff’s self-awareness, you increase personal responsibility, confidence, and competence so that true delegation can take place.

Step No. 3 - Create an environment that acknowledges success and rewards results. The leader’s job is to provide continuous feedback to the team and to create a dynamic compensation model tied to the practice’s financial health. Acknowledge each individual’s contribution to the growth of the practice.

This process will result in a team that feels recognized, valued, and motivated to do more. Leadership is your responsibility and obligation. As Dr. Jim Pride, our founder, used to say: “Each morning, when you open the door to your practice, it’s showtime!”

Amy Morgan is CEO and lead trainer of Pride Institute, the practice-management firm helping dentists better their lives by mastering the business side of their practices. For more information on staff motivation, order Pride’s workbook/CD training resource, “Take Pride in What You Pay.” For information on Pride’s seminars, training materials, transition services, and management programs, or to ask Amy a question for this column, call (800) 925-2600 or see

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