Daily coaching for success for your team: Moving forward

April 9, 2010

By Rhonda R. Savage, DDS

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

Approach the problem as an issue with a system or a “thing” rather than as a personal attack.

Begin by talking about how you feel. Use the feel, felt, found method. “I feel hesitant to talk with you about this because I was concerned about your reaction.” “When this happened, this is how I felt, and I’ve found if I can discuss it, we can work on the system to ensure this doesn’t happen again.”

An example: As a dentist, you have a systematic approach to quality control of your laboratory work. One dental assistant is in charge of checking in the lab cases and verifying the arrival of the case. You’ve asked your dental assistant to verify that the dental lab delivers your cases two days prior to the patient’s appointment. You then inspect the model work, check the contacts, and evaluate contours and occlusion. If there is an issue, the case can be returned and corrected, or the patient can be rescheduled without impacting his or her valuable time. This saves the patient time in the chair and improves the quality of the final restoration.

But instead of this scenario, the case arrives the day of the patient’s appointment and the seating takes more time than it should. You might become angry with the assistant in charge of lab cases and explode, or give her the silent treatment. Instead, take a few deep breaths and approach her at some point during the day when she is alone. Never correct another person in front of patients or other staff. The rule is praise publicly and correct privately.

Begin by saying, “Kathy, may I talk with you? I feel we need to discuss Mrs. Jones’ case. The seat didn’t go as well as it could have, and I know you and I always want the best for our patients. When the lab case for Mrs. Jones arrived late, I felt frustrated because the contacts weren’t right and the occlusion was off, so the seat time took twice as long as it should have. I’ve found that if the cases are here several days ahead, we can save the patient time as well as decrease the stress that occurs when we get behind. Kathy, I need your help. What can we do to ensure the lab gets the case to us two days prior to the seat?”

In this situation you’ve stated your motive: you always want the best for your patients, and you’ve said four very important words — I need your help. This empowers the staff. Even though the person has been corrected, he or she will know you still respect and like her. This approach attacks an issue, not the person. But what if you’ve been specific and patient, and the same problem continues?

Doctors or practice administrators, do you sometimes feel frustrated because you’ve said it over and over, and you feel like a nag or a babysitter? Your frustration is legitimate, but realize that most leaders undercommunicate by a ratio of 1:10. People hear and learn differently. Make sure you’ve given clear communication, which means you may need to say something repeatedly until it’s understood and becomes a habit.

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].