Marcia was the Pride Institute Management hygienist for 10 years. She left the practice to get married, and parent her two sons, now seven and nine. After being recently rehired, she said to us, “I want to say thank you for all the years of making us practice our verbal skills at the office. I really didn’t like roleplaying! But now I see the total value in all that practice. In addition to using the verbal skills in dental practices, I constantly use them at home to influence my sons, and sometimes my husband. Those years of practice and learning the skills are invaluable in my life.”
But like most things in life, if it’s of value, it requires stepping out of our comfort zone and doing something we don’t necessarily like. I, too, felt uncomfortable practicing the influencing cycle and asking for referrals in front of others. But, being the doctor and having to set an example, I had no choice. We decided on roleplaying with partners instead of as a whole group. The anxiety dropped. The team relaxed into the process. It was even more realistic and comfortable practicing and roleplaying in our areas of the office — doctors and dental assistants in our operatories, the hygienists in theirs, and the front office team at the front desk.
Next, it was on to practicing for real, in front of patients. I remember the time I was paid a compliment by a patient, and I knew that my dental assistant was waiting for me to turn it into an “ask for a referral” moment. I began, “Thank you for saying that. I know that not feeling the injection is important to everyone. So…” I then froze because I couldn’t remember the rest of the script. After the patient was debriefed by the assistant and handed off to the front desk, the assistant came back to me and said, “Dr. Marsha, you did such a good job getting through part of the verbal skill. Great try. The patient didn’t know that you forgot the rest.” I realized that I was not a failure for only getting through half of the verbal skill, but I was a success for having tried. The assistant bragged on me at the next morning huddle.
It took a moment for me to realize that another thing had happened. A leadership moment had occurred. As the leader, my vulnerability in front of the team had a great impact. If the doctor can try and mess up, and still live to tell about it, then they had permission to try and mess up, too. From that time on, we all practiced our verbal skills on our patients, celebrating the good times and encouraging each other when it wasn’t ideal. Practice makes perfect, and hence the verbal skills became part of our lives. When the assistant said, “Dr. Marsha, so that you can leave the office and go home without any worries, please finish the charts on your desk,” I just smiled, and did just as she asked.
Verbal skills are a very important aspect of every system. When was the last time you led a practice session in a staff meeting? Is everyone on the team trained? Ask your Pride Institute consultant to choose just the right “Building Blox” to help you in your continuous growth. Remember, you can’t stand still. If you’re not growing, you’re withering. Grow!
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