Good Day

How to make every day a good day in your dental office

June 14, 2019
It's up to the dental team whether they have a good or bad day when things go wrong. This dental office manager says it's all in the attitude, and she and her team keep their outlooks bright.
I love the profession of dentistry, and my role in dentistry and in the dental practice has evolved to a place I never imagined. I started my career as a dental assistant, and after moving back to my home state of Washington, I began working for Dr. Michael Kondo. During my 14-year tenure with this terrific clinician and human, I moved from assisting to practice administrator.

I get to work with great people, many of whom have been coming to this practice for more than 40 years. Every day I get the opportunity to change a person’s day, a person’s smile, and maybe even a person’s life.

Are there bad days when things go wrong? Of course. But my team has decided that it’s OK to acknowledge when things go a little sideways. We say, “Wow, that was a rough one.” While we acknowledge it, we don’t allow it to become our focus. 

There are a lot of things that make a day great—a day that goes smoothly, a schedule with no changes, patients who don’t cancel last minute, and patients who leave the office praising the dentistry, dentist, and team. These great days allow us to go home, be present with our families, and feel fulfilled by what we professionally accomplished that day. We love those days. They’re what give us perspective for the days when nothing seems to go right. 

Start your day on the right foot 

As a leader, others on the team will look to you to see how you react to situations. It’s important to start every day prepared, for both the expected and the unexpected. You should realize that there are some things you can control and a lot you just can’t. You can’t control if Mr. Brown gets in a fender bender on the way to his appointment and is a no-show. But you can control how you react to the unexpected hole in the schedule. It’s up to you whether it ruins your day or not. You can take a breath and look at it as an opportunity to do a little impromptu team training, or to reach out to patients with incomplete dentistry. 

Another way I start my day off on the right foot is by listening to podcasts on my way to work. Not only do I learn and expand my skills, but I’m also encouraged and inspired. There are so many terrific podcasts available that can lift you up during that 30-minute drive and give you a positive foundation for the day. A few I would recommend are AADOM Radio, Nobody Told Me That by Teresa Duncan, Growing Your Dental Business by Penny Reed, and the Best Practices Show by Kirk Behrendt. 

Shift your team’s focus 

If you’re lucky, you work with amazing team members who encourage and support each other. As the leader, I’m constantly looking for cues. We all have lives and responsibilities outside of work. When one of our team members seems “off,” I know there is always a backstory—tough morning with the kids, water leak, or bad traffic. 

Instead of asking, “What’s wrong?” or “Are you alright?” which is usually met with a rushed answer of “Nothing” or “Fine,” I try to help them shift the focus from their problem to something that can help them reset their day. I may bring up something that we recently laughed about. Or I might ask about something I know makes them happy, such as their pet, boyfriend, or child. I find shifting the focus can make someone more open to discussing whatever is affecting their day.                                   

Celebrate the small victories 

When there’s a lot going on (and honestly, I feel like that’s all the time), it’s often difficult to take a minute as you move from one task to another to celebrate the victories, especially the small ones. Celebrating the small victories—winning that insurance appeal, filling a last-minute hole in the schedule, helping a patient get healthy by working together to find a financing solution with the CareCredit credit card—is important because these are what we do every day. 

That big case should be celebrated, as should hitting those monthly and yearly goals, but it’s the small victories that lead to the big wins. So, how do you celebrate small victories? It can be so simple. A smile that communicates to a team member “You did good!” or an afternoon latte as a pick-me-up. I even have a bowl full of $5 and $10 gift cards that can be pulled out when the team has made it through a particularly tough day. The point is to take a moment to acknowledge what’s going right, because that minimizes what’s going not-so-right. 

It’s easy to look at the wrong and let it affect your attitude and the attitude of those around you. That’s why I take a moment every day to be thankful for something good that happened at work. We have to remind ourselves that what we do matters. We do make a difference every day. Knowing that should make every day a good day. 

Aubrey Gralapp has been a dental practice administrator for nine years at an established and well-loved community family practice in Spokane, Washington. She is an avid learner, constantly seeking new ideas and inspiration from inside and outside dentistry. She is a member as well as a fellow of the American Association of Dental Office Managers. She collaborates with CareCredit to develop educational materials for the dental industry.

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