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Front Office

Tactics to encourage change in your dental office

March 11, 2020
Change is often not easy. But it doesn't have to be a battle with the team every time you suggest changes in your dental practice. As front office manager, you can lead the positive attitudes by adopting these tactics suggested by Heather Colicchio.

When you work with people long enough, you learn their idiosyncrasies. That can be great, but sometimes bad work habits can be adopted by others on the team. As dental office manager, it’s your job to lead the team and create an environment where everyone is encouraged and energized to give their best. So, how can you facilitate change in not-so-great behaviors before they lead to a kink in your office environment? Here are some thoughts. 

Don’t worry about being the “bad guy.” 

If you’re worried that offering advice to team members will make you look like you’re out to get them, you need to reassess your thinking. Yes, you’re obviously concerned with the way other people think, but you can communicate suggestions without making people feel threatened or judged. When in doubt, keep a concerned tone in your voice and lead by asking them questions.

Listen to people’s emotions. 

Most of us usually have reasons for why we do things certain ways. Everyone wants to be heard. If it’s difficult to understand why someone is doing something a certain way, ask them why they don’t do it differently. Then, to kill two birds with one stone and use the conversation as a teaching moment. 

Also, practice active listening. This means you soak up everything someone has to say—even their body language and tone of voice—to understand what they’re really saying. Don’t spend time thinking about how you’re going to respond. After a person is through talking, then offer your reply. 

Have a written plan. 

Sometimes managers need to lay down the law, with no ifs, ands, or buts. It could be a situation where there’s a repeat offender in your office, yet everyone else in the office is doing things properly. A written, step-by-step guide on the procedure at hand will make it clear as to what is expected from every staff member. When in doubt, go back to point number two, listen to people’s emotions.  

Eliminate the opportunity for failure. 

As dentistry evolves, we’re always learning new concepts and technology. Make it clear that everyone is in it together to help the team unit succeed as a whole. Encourage your staff to come to you if they’re having problems with a particular skill. It could be that they need more training, need a mentor, or that something simply doesn’t work for your practice and needs to be adjusted. Don’t pin the success on the employee. 

Show and do. 

Many dental office managers got their start in a position at a front desk or in the back as an assistant. Yes, you’re busy managing the big picture now, but occasionally your team needs to see that you remember where you came from. Never be afraid to get your hands dirty, throw on a pair of gloves, or check on a patient when another staff member is on the phone with an emergency. Plus, this serves as a good reminder and refresher for you when you train new staff members. After all, staff turnover is something that happens. 

Emphasize the benefits. 

There should always be reasons why things are done certain ways. If you’re trying to incorporate change, give your team a reason why. When people don’t understand the results or reasons behind change, they’re often more resistant to it. By walking them through the thought processes of why there are new ways of doing things, everyone can know the long-term goals. 

If you can’t do it, then rethink it. 

Are you asking your team members to do something that you can’t do? If you were in their shoes, would you be capable of doing what’s you’re asking? If something is such a stretch that it wears down the team mentally or physically, then you might need to reassess the situation. Yes, this includes things such as time limits, budgets, approving repairs, or meeting certain goals. If it’s something you wouldn’t ask yourself to do, then you might be pushing too hard. 

Wear a smile. 

The friendlier you seem, the more approachable you’ll be. Your team isn’t going to be as open with you if they feel like they’re under constant scrutiny. A lot can be said for keeping a positive attitude and wearing a smile at the office. Even if this doesn’t change other attitudes in the office, your patients will notice! 

Change is constant, but so are attitude and work ethic. Use these tactics, and you should be able to keep your dental team on track.

Heather Colicchio is the founder and president of the American Association of Dental Office Management (AADOM), the nation’s largest professional organization for dental office managers and practice administrators. AADOM teaches business management skills for the dental practice. One of Heather's strengths is connecting people to achieve their goals. She appreciates quality collaboration and thrives working with a talented team of professionals in her organization and within the dental industry. Learn more about AADOM and Heather’s efforts and advocacy for dental management professionals at dentalmanagers.com.