You couldn't be happier that 2014 is finally over. It just wasn't your year, and you know 2015 is going to be better.
But as you've worked through this first month or so of the year, nothing has changed. Your practice productivity is still low, communication is virtually nonexistent, and your team is nowhere as efficient as it should be. You know that if you want to achieve success in 2015, you need to make some changes -- you're just not sure where to start.
To help send you down the path toward practice success and profitability, I've put together a list of the top three practice weaknesses that stifled growth in 2014, and how you can turn those weaknesses into strengths.
1. Lack of leadership
You are the CEO of your practice, and your team members look to you for guidance. If you're not providing that guidance, it's leading to nothing but frustration and extra stress for everyone involved.
Effective leadership starts with consistent, clear communication. Make sure every team member understands your practice vision and what they can do to help the practice succeed. Never assume that team members know how to succeed in their role because they worked at another dental practice for five years or because you briefly mentioned your expectations during the job interview.
Instead of making your team members guess, provide detailed job descriptions and outline your expectations so there's no confusion. Hold team members accountable, and don't be afraid to address difficult situations, whether it's finding a resolution to staff conflict or talking with an employee who can't seem to make it to work on time. Ask yourself the tough questions about practice performance, and never settle for the status quo.
Once you embrace your role as leader and provide your team members with the guidance they need to succeed, you'll soon notice the difference it makes in staff morale. You'll have less turnover, and team members will start to take ownership of the systems they're accountable for and take pride in their contribution to the practice's success. This will lead to improved efficiencies, increased productivity, and a healthier bottom line.
2. Poor team communication
While communication is key to your practice's success, how you communicate is just as important. You need to provide your team members with clear guidance and consistent feedback. When you see team members going above and beyond, publically praise their efforts. When staff members do something wrong, take them aside and address the situation right away, and let them know how they can improve.
Remember, when talking with team members tone, attitude and body language matter. If you're abrasive and put employees on the defensive right away, you're going to make them uncomfortable and maybe even a little afraid of you -- and that won't help you keep happy employees on your payroll.
On the other hand, if you're hesitant to give negative feedback and only throw out subtle hints when employees aren't meeting expectations, you'll have a practice full of employees who think they're dental rock stars, when in reality they're hurting practice productivity. The keys are to be direct and continually offer feedback whenever the opportunity arises.
Encouraging team members to offer each other feedback also is important. Many employees are hesitant to do this, because they don't want to create conflict, but, the fact is, ignoring problems won't make them go away -- it will only make them worse. If team members get problems or small irritations out in the open early, they can work together to find a solution rather than letting the negative feelings fester, leading to a blow up down the road.
Properly communicating and offering ongoing feedback will strengthen your team and improve their efficiencies -- and that of course will only mean good things for your practice.
3. Lackluster staff performance
If you're frustrated with staff productivity, it's likely because there's a disconnect between your expectations and what your staff thinks you want -- and that's usually because you haven't properly communicated your expectations.
To fix this, you must clearly establish performance measurements. Choose a model that encourages excellence rather than basing the measurements on areas that are easily quantifiable, such as collections ratio, accounts receivable, or number of new patients. Also, don't establish group bonus plans based on combined efforts to reach certain practice goals.
Instead, sit down with each employee to determine performance measurements. Focus on specific job-related goals and how they relate to improving the practice. And be specific -- don't just task your patient coordinator with improving recall. Provide specific recall-related goals, such as making a certain number of patient calls per day, scheduling a specific number of appointments, ensuring a certain number of patients complete treatment, and scheduling to ensure hygienists produce three times their daily wages.
But don't stop there. Set up performance reviews that look more like coaching encounters. Structure them as positive interactions that are part of an ongoing performance measurement system that includes regular employer/employee feedback and system monitoring. Make sure employees understand you'll only give out raises based on these reviews and their ability to achieve the outlined goals. This will help employees excel in their roles and contribute to your practice's increased productivity and success.
Many struggling practices suffer from one or more of these three weaknesses, and it keeps them from meeting their full potential. Make 2015 the year you turn these weaknesses into strengths, and you'll finally be the proud owner of a successful dental practice.
The comments and observations expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the opinions of DrBicuspid.com, nor should they be construed as an endorsement or admonishment of any particular idea, vendor, or organization.