Daily coaching for success for your team: sandwich technique

April 22, 2010
Dr. Rhonda Savage gives you two more techniques to implement that will allow you to give your team the kind of feedback they not only want, but also deserve.

By Rhonda R. Savage, DDS

Here are the third and fourth of five techniques to implement that will allow you to give your team the kind of feedback they not only want, but also deserve.

3. Another approach is the “sandwich” technique. Approach the person and ask, “Is this a good time?” If not, set aside time later in the day. Let the person know that something has been bothering you. Start with something good the person has been doing, not flattery or artificial praise, but specific, genuine praise. Then let the person know what’s bothering you. If possible, tackle it as a problem with a system or a “thing” that can be fixed. Finish with something that demonstrates positive, specific praise. This layered approach makes the person you’re talking to feel valued and respected.

One doctor was having difficulty with his hygienist’s behavior. She was continually going up to the front desk to complain and creating chaos. He had addressed her behavior, but as the problems continued, his frustration built. One day, he let the frustration get the better of him, and rather than using the sandwich technique and the feel-felt-found method, he exploded! The doctor called me right away, embarrassed by his reaction.

He said, “Rhonda, I feel so bad. I gave her the sandwich technique, but I forgot the bread!” He called her quickly and apologized for his behavior and then sat down with her the next day to clear the air. An apology can go a long way toward softening the other person and opening the channels for meaningful discussion. Because he took time to communicate with her the next day, her behavior changed and their relationship improved significantly.

Practices that grow and thrive have an atmosphere where it’s OK to talk not only about what’s right, but what’s wrong. In an article titled “Why Teammates Surrender” by Paul Mulvey, two of the major reasons cited for giving up included a dysfunctional decision-making climate and a lack of confidence in one’s ability to contribute.

4. Another technique for coaching is regular performance reviews. Many dentists hate doing and avoid performance reviews, but your team members need and want them. They want to know where they stand. I often hear, “I guess I’m doing a good job. Our doctor never tells us and we don’t have performance reviews!” A well-done performance review is positive and motivating. It should not be focused on past bad performance. Performance reviews build the team members’ confidence if the focus is on three things:

  • What the employee is doing well
  • Personal goal setting for the employee
  • The needs of the practice

Set office goals to do a formal review on an annual basis, ideally during the anniversary month of the employee. New employees should have a formal review monthly for the first 90 days. If you’d like a copy of our performance review handout, e-mail me at [email protected]. New employees need even more daily coaching and formal review with clearly defined expectations to succeed in their new position. You should know within the first 90 days if the new employee is the right choice for your office. However, we cannot have this expectation if the training, coaching, and review process is inadequate!

Rhonda Savage, DDS, has been in private practice for 16 years and is the CEO for Linda L. Miles and Associates, an internationally known practice management and consulting business. Dr. Savage is a noted speaker who lectures on practice management, esthetic dentistry, women's health issues, periodontal disease, communication and marketing, and zoo dentistry. You may reach Dr. Savage at [email protected].