Reprinted with permission from Sally McKenzie and McKenzie Management.
How many minutes did you lose today? Thirty? Sixty? Ninety? Most likely, you don’t keep track. If you did, it would be entirely too depressing. Consider for a moment what you are doing when you are most productive. I bet it’s what you enjoy doing the most — the dentistry. When you are least productive, you are likely dealing with all of the issues that come with running a practice — e.g., hiring employees, explaining procedures, managing conflict, responding to concerns with patients, paying bills, explaining fees, answering the common everyday questions, and the list goes on. Certainly, all of the aforementioned duties are part of daily life in a busy dental practice. The problem is that these routine distractions can quickly become time wasters. The challenge is minimizing these so that you can focus your energy on the one area you likely enjoy the most and delivers the greatest financial return — the dentistry.
Consider “Dr. Walter’s” situation. To put it nicely, he is a “work-hoarder.” The team needs job descriptions; he plans to write them, each of them...himself...someday. The office has a website but it’s been “under construction” for three years. The doctor is trying to figure out what he wants to include on it. He wants to write the content. He wants to design it. None of which he has the time or expertise to do. When patients inquire about treatment financing, Dr. Walter feels compelled to explain the practice options himself. Oftentimes, he gives incorrect information.
He is a strong believer in having written office policies. In fact, he’s been working on the office policies manual for 18 months. While he may believe in the need for them, because he, and only he, can write them, no office policies manual exists.
He loves to chat with patients. He’s interested in their families, their pets, their hobbies, their jobs. He is known to run at least 30 minutes behind routinely. And he cannot understand why his scheduling coordinator has such difficulty scheduling to meet production. Staff have been trained — not to perform their responsibilities independently and effectively — but to be sure to consult with Dr. Walter on virtually everything.
Dr. Walter is “hoarding” a multitude of staff responsibilities that should be delegated. He cannot possibly focus on one area that will have the greatest economic benefit on his practice, namely treatment, because he is consumed with minutiae. You would think that given the eagerness with which Dr. Walter swoops in to perform any and every task that he must enjoy it. Just the opposite is true. He goes home exhausted every night. He’s frustrated, stressed, and not making nearly the income he believes he should be. Yet he has created an environment of learned helplessness among his staff. They are powerless to take responsibility for their areas because at any given moment Dr. Walter will swoop in, take over, and undo their efforts.
Your time is your most valuable asset, yet it is so quickly and easily squandered. Many dentists begin their careers doing various jobs and wearing several hats. Over time, the majority of these responsibilities need to be delegated and managed more effectively. Work hoarding is a problem for many practitioners. But there are several ways in which dentists fritter away the minutes and hours in their days:
Poor hiring: The wrong or weak employees waste countless hours. In some cases doctors must micromanage because they hastily hired an employee merely to fill a vacancy.
Team trainer: The doctor takes it upon him/herself to “train” new hires. Establish protocols for hiring and training new employees that do not consume the doctor’s valuable production time. Consider outside professional training for new employees to get them up-to-speed quickly.
In-office IT expert: The doctor loves to “tinker with technology.” S/he selected all of the hardware and software in the office. S/he installed much of the wiring and installation as well. When there is a problem with the computers, the doctor is the information technology expert in the office.
Firefighter: S/he is continually putting out fires; i.e., dealing with the daily problems, situations, and crises that arise. And because management systems are weak, problems are common. Priorities are unclear, consequently insignificant matters take center stage, and entirely too much of the doctor’s attention is spent either soaking the smoldering embers or, as the case may be, fanning the flames.
Sally McKenzie is CEO of McKenzie Management, a full-service consulting/coaching dental management company, providing proven management solutions since 1980. She can be reached at (877) 777-6151 or [email protected].