© Ian Allenden | Dreamstime.com

Setting realistic goals for your dental team members

Feb. 10, 2020
Setting and meeting practice goals is a team effort. AADOM founder Heather Colicchio says dental office managers often lead these efforts in motivating team members and providing mentors for those who are learning.

Are you off to a good start toward meeting your goals for 2020? Whether those goals are time, finances, fitness, or self-improvement, the newness of a fresh calendar on the wall is something that often motivates the team to learn new skills and work toward unmet achievements.

When it comes to your dental team, it’s crucial for a healthy work environment and productive practice that everyone have their eyes on new goals. By setting goals—whether as an individual employee or as the office manager—your team can take strides that: 

●  Facilitate cross-training,
●  Improve communication,
●  Enhance the quality of care provided to patients,
●  Promote better time management,
●  Improve clinical skills, capabilities, and certifications, and
●  Make employees invaluable to the team.

You need a properly trained team that’s always willing to accept new challenges. When this happens, the world won’t end if someone calls in sick, has an emergency, or is out on vacation.

Here’s how to get started.

 Ask employees what they want to learn

 One of the best ways to start skill building is to ask employees if there are any skills, certifications, or other tasks that they would like to master. From there, add your own recommendations, especially if you see potential in certain individuals. This should feel exciting and not like you’re forcing a new task on someone.

Even if you think a skill that an employee suggests will not be beneficial for the person, it’s important to keep an open mind. Your team likely has great ideas they haven’t shared, so now is the time to think outside the box. You never know what’s possible.

Ask employees where they want to be in a certain number of months or years

Don’t fool yourself. If your assistant wants to become lead chairside assistant or go to hygiene school, there’s not a lot you can do to squash the person’s dream. Instead, feed that dream. No matter what role your team members play, ask them where they want to be in the future. Not only does this show you care about them as employees, it gives insight into what skills to train them in, and it gives you a warning if, for example, someone plans to move out of town when their kids graduate.

Set measurable goals

Now that you know what employees want to accomplish or learn, it’s time to put it in writing. List the steps necessary to make the goal a reality. How much time will it take to meet those steps? Once everyone agrees, put the steps on the calendar. This process should be a team affair, and a large calendar in your breakroom works perfectly and adds accountability for everyone involved.

Pair employees with mentors

Most offices have team members who are good at certain tasks. Setting up a mentor relationship will help the team work together to share and learn skills in a way that’s curated to your specific practice. If you don’t have a particular mentor already in your office, reach out to fellow AADOM (American Association of Dental Office Management) members or attend local AADOM meetings to network with other managers. You may even have a type of mentor they’re looking for in return!

Set your next meeting or evaluation

Sure, employee evaluations can be nerve wracking. But everyone will know what to expect if you make sure they know that evaluations are meant to evaluate their professional development and see how far they’ve come. Having evaluations more frequently than annually—even if they’re a short 15-minute consult or a group lunch and learn—can help keep everyone on track when it comes to working toward their goals. Peer pressure can be a good thing.

Don’t forget about your own growth

Managers also need to keep growing. Whether it’s fine tuning leadership skills, taking on a new team leader to mentor, or staying abreast of the most recent insurance changes, leaders need to keep their careers in check. Remember that part of looking in a mirror isn’t just to see what looks good about our appearance; it’s also about noticing what we need to change.

Get ideas from fellow managers

If you’re not sure where to start when it comes to proposing team goals, talk with your mentor and fellow AADOM members to learn what they’ve done. You’ll get an inside look at what might work best for practices like yours. 

Heather Colicchio is the founder and president of the nation’s largest professional organization for dental office managers and practice administrators: AADOM, the American Association of Dental Office Management at dentalmanagers.com. AADOM also produces the annual Dental Management Conference. For information visit aadomconference.com