Tough Times Call for Tough Strategies

Nov. 23, 2009
Tough times call for tough strategies. Acknowledge your strengths, congratulate the team on what they do well, and focus energy where you might do better.

by Rhonda R. Savage, DDS

“I haven’t had a raise in two years!” Have you heard this from your team members?“I hate doing performance reviews!” Have you caught yourself saying this?Some doctors avoid performance reviews because they worry, “I wonder how much she’ll want?” At the same time, team members are thinking, “I wonder how much he’ll give me?” Dentists also worry there might be conflict. They would rather run miles around their building than do performance reviews! Team members, however, really need them. What are some strategies for pay raises and performance reviews? In this economy, you need to consider your ability to increase pay, yet keep good staff and invest in the team. What if your practice is flat or declining? What if the overhead is high and you cannot see any room for increases?Begin by acknowledging that these are tough times, and tough times call for tough strategies. • The first strategy is to hold effective team meetings so your team members know how well the practice is doing. They will also learn where you might be struggling. Well-run team meetings are goal oriented, productive, and motivational. Team meetings should not be held only when something is wrong. Different team members facilitate team meetings on a rotational basis. Effective team meetings have an agenda. Team meetings should be held regularly and should review the health of the practice as well as provide necessary training. Team meetings are not the time to address the entire team about something only one team member is doing; this is best discussed privately with the one team member.Team meetings need to have boundaries and should clearly define expectations of behavior. This is not a time to roll your eyes, sigh heavily, cry, or fall asleep. Team members and the doctors should be held to the same level of accountability. The members of the team must be professional, respectful, and present in the moment. The same boundaries apply to performance reviews.• The second strategy is to schedule performance reviews during the anniversary month of the team member’s hiring. Think and prepare ahead of the review. Prior to a review, ask the team member to list three or four goals he or she would like to personally accomplish over the next year. Also ask the team member to identify the goal that will be tackled during the next 90 days. Come to a mutual agreement regarding the goal. Is it in the best interest of the practice? Is it a reasonable 90-day goal? Sit down in 90 days and discuss the progress. If the goal was not attained, why not? What tools does the person need? Does he or she need more time? How can you help the person accomplish the goal?Performance reviews should focus on the team member’s goals. Is the person happy, challenged? Ask, “What skills, ability, or training can I give you that will better enable you to do your job? A well-done performance review should be motivational and not a time to discuss something your team member did two months ago. Issues should be discussed the day they occur. That’s called daily coaching!• The third strategy is to have a merit review session separate from the performance review. Based on accomplishment of the goal, the team member may be due for a merit increase. The next goal should be discussed during this review. The team member then knows why he or she received the increase and how to earn the next one. That’s motivational! The merit increase should be based on:
  1. Attitude
  2. Contributions to the practice
  3. The health of the practice
If the practice is flat or declining, the team members know this. You may need to freeze salary increases until the practice does better. Ask team members for their thoughts. “If this were your practice, what would you do to increase our production and decrease our overhead?” Especially in these tough times, it’s important that your team understand their true pay. They should know the value of their benefits and their true wage. Annually, with the W-2, I recommend you attach a breakdown of the true dollar per hour that team members earn with a total pay statement. For a copy of this form, e-mail me at [email protected] everyone know that this is the time to dig deep into the practice! Focus on customer service as well as recall and reactivation. There’s always behind-the-scenes work to do. Make the most of down time by “digging deep” into developing systems. Tiger Woods said, “No matter how good you get, there’s always room to be better. And that’s the exciting part about it!” Tough times call for tough strategies … and tough times don’t last, but tough people do! Acknowledge your strengths, congratulate the team on what they do well, and focus energy where you might do better. Rhonda R. Savage, DDS, graduated from the University of Washington School of Dentistry in 1989 with multiple honors. Dr. Savage was in private practice for 16 years, has authored many published peer-reviewed articles, and has lectured internationally. She is a past president of the Washington State Dental Association. Dr. Savage is a noted speaker on women’s health issues and practice management. She is currently the CEO of Linda L. Miles and Associates.