10 steps to a great team in 2015

Consider these 10 steps to elevate your practice management in 2015.

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How much would your outlook on work, management, and life improve if you knew you could soon be managing your “ultimate team” – a team that works together effortlessly to provide top-quality patient care, support you in your work, and run the practice smoothly? Sound more than a little too good to be true? Well, we can sense it: 2015 is going to be your year!

No matter what your starting level – or whether your team consists of two employees or twenty – upping your game by incorporating a few simple practices into your management routine will bring you closer to those goals each day. Here are ten areas where you can fine-tune your focus this coming year, all of which will rapidly make an impact in any practice and improve any team:

2015 Goals1. Identify current strengths and weaknesses in your practice. Does your team have trouble staying on schedule? Why? Are patients thrilled with the level of service they’re receiving? Does the office run smoothly? Pinpoint the causes of any current issues so you can start to address and solve them, and bring attention to the positives you’ve discovered in order to thank and encourage that continued effort.

2. Hire stronger from here on out. This starts with a well-written job listing and an intentional interview process. Behavioral interview techniques can help show how candidates dealt with key situations in the past, and how well-suited they are to the position and practice. After hiring, use a “getting acquainted” period to make sure you were right about this person being a great fit.

3. Build upon a firm foundation. The dental employee handbook and policies that underpin your management must be sound: up-to-date, compliant with all state and federal employment laws, and tailored to the needs of your practice so they can make your job easier.

4. Be quick to provide positive feedback. Don’t wait for evaluations or use positive feedback only to soften criticism. Instead, let employees know that their hard work and skills are noticed and appreciated as often as is appropriate – this will help them care about their own performance and feel a part of the larger goals of the practice.

5. Know what employees want. What do team members love and hate about their jobs? What do they think can be improved? This gives you better employee insight, and may uncover situations that can be improved right away. (Note: Ask employees to suggest solutions, at least one of which does not cost money, not simply to point out problems – and pay special attention to what great employees love and hate about their office environment.)

6. Retain great employees. Do strong employees stay with the practice, or do they tend to become unhappy and leave? Are you seeing a common need for more positive feedback, educational opportunities, flexible schedules, or other issues? Providing good employees with a positive environment and room for growth is critical to retaining them.

7. Set a good example yourself. You expect team members to arrive on time, stay on top of duties, document work as needed, and display a positive attitude – make sure you’re doing the same on a daily basis.

8. Document employee issues one day at a time. A quick note (time/date/issue/your efforts to coach the employee) each time something happens is better than paragraphs of vague complaints put together just before an evaluation. It’s hard to take the right management steps at the right times unless you have a record of what’s going on and how often.

9. Strengthen your coaching. Wrap up any discussions about problematic behavior by expressing belief in employees’ capabilities and making a measurable request for improvement. (“I know you don’t mean to throw our schedule off by being late, and that you share our commitment to a smoothly run practice and excellent patient care. Going forward, I expect you to be here 5 minutes early to set up your station for the day.”)

10. Don’t keep “bad apples” around indefinitely. Some employees are simply not willing or able to correct problematic behavior. Recognizing when it is time to let them go is far easier when you’ve been documenting problems all along! Consult an expert if there are protected-class factors involved, but do not indefinitely avoid terminations that need to occur.

Whether you’re hiring, coordinating, coaching, or firing – or just putting out those day-to-day fires that come with running a practice – your hard work and tough decisions throughout the year are some of the strongest forces that keep your team cohesive, your doctor supported, and your patients and practice well cared-for and thriving. We hope these ideas will inspire you throughout the year. And as always, happy managing!

Paul EdwardsPaul Edwards is the CEO and Co-Founder of CEDR Solutions. Since 2006, CEDR has been the nation’s leading provider of individually customized dental office policy manuals and HR solutions, helping dentists successfully handle employee issues and safely navigate the complex and ever-changing employment law landscape. For more information or a free employee handbook evaluation, visit www.cedrsolutions.com.

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