There’s a huge difference between having a “team” and having “employees who work for you.” I define employees as people who work for an organization. They may have goals, but they don’t understand how their roles and responsibilities are related to the rest of the company. Employees complete tasks that are assigned to them but don’t care how they relate to anything else in the organization.
Contrast that with what a dental team should be. A team is a group working cohesively toward the clearly defined goals of the doctor. There is a high level of patient satisfaction that comes with knowing that all members of the team are accountable to each other. Teams sacrifice for each other. The doctor does not have to ask anyone to do something; it will already be done. Teams take responsibility for their individual actions and are accountable to one another and the doctor.
During this pandemic, the difference between these two groups has never been more evident. True teams appreciate the ability to foresee what will happen. They like to be organized and able to predict what to do in certain situations. Trust is an important part of being a true team. This does not automatically happen.
Away from the dental world, I coach girls Amateur Athletic Union basketball. In the dental world, I’m passionate about teaching others how to be coaches of their teams. As the coach, you must have a plan for your practice time as well as for game time. Practice time is the time away from patients and game time is when you see patients. Both are important to your success, and both take preparation.
The importance of preparation
It’s all about being prepared. If you prepare properly, adjustments are not difficult. We could not have foreseen a pandemic. But we can prepare our teams with foundational items so they’re ready for any situation. Some of those items are your mission and vision statements. Hopefully, you and your team created these together before COVID-19 hit. When I work with clients, I make sure their vision statements are so thorough that they can be used as part of their business plans.
Create your practice plan by understanding how each role in your office relates to the success of the practice. Drill down to understand all systems, processes, and how to use them to achieve your goals. The agenda for your daily huddle should be created with this in mind. The huddle is for the team to communicate and prepare for the day. If items need to be discussed in more detail, write those down and include them in your next team meeting, which should be monthly or every other month so you can discuss major items.
In my experience, poor communication can lead to problems. I’ve never heard anyone tell me that their team overcommunicates. With that in mind, strive for clarity. Then there’s no confusion, and the team understands what’s expected of them. The same thing can be said about communicating with your patients. Make clarity the goal so no one is confused. Every patient should clearly understand what they will experience in your office at each visit.
I know this sounds basic but let me explain clear expectations. When someone is under stress, they react differently than they normally would. You may have experienced team members or patients who do not behave like they have in the past. It’s been more than a year since we began lockdown. Our patients are weary and some of them are still concerned about their health and COVID-19. I’ve seen this in patients during the last several months and in the communication between team members. Please be aware of this and prepare for it.
Doing the work and preparing your team for change is paramount to your practice success. Managing a happy team will be much easier when everyone is clear with their roles and responsibilities. Make sure the preparation has taken place and that you have a written game plan for all situations.