Thursday Troubleshooter: How to introduce dental team meetings
This dental office manager has been tasked with starting and organizing regular team meetings—in a practice that has never held team meetings. How should she begin?
QUESTION: How should I organize a dental office meeting in a practice that has never done meetings? I am new as the office manager. The office has many problems regarding scheduling, payments, and employee motivation. The doctor said he is willing to make changes as soon as the practice sets down some ideas for change. He bought the practice about three months ago.
ANSWER FROM LAURA JAMISON,JamisonConsulting.com:
I wish to first compliment you and your employer on your willingness to start having staff meetings. There is so much that can be accomplished if you just commit to putting your heads together. As a consultant I have always believed that my job is to bring team members’ best ideas to fruition. I have the ability to teach systems and communication skills, and the best ideas are rooted in solving problems that team members already know exist.
There are four rules to follow to ensure a successful meeting. They are:
• Preappoint a day of the month or week and block that time off from the schedule. Ideally, meetings start and finish on time when they are scheduled first thing in the morning. Yet I’ve worked with teams that have to compromise due to already established schedules such as the hygienist’s. Ending your day with a meeting is the worst time because energy levels are at their lowest, so creativity suffers.
• Predetermine who will facilitate the meeting. Each team member can have an opportunity to guide the meeting. It helps take the onus off of one person, often the office manager or the doctor. Posting a schedule of your preappointed dates with the name of the facilitator gives everyone ample notice to prepare.
• Predetermine who will record your agreements throughout the meeting. This person should be keeping an action plan for what will be done, who will be responsible for the task, and what their target date is. The easiest way to conclude a meeting is to ask, “What have we decided to do differently today?” Then review the recorder’s list for completeness.
• Preassign the agenda content. There are several types of agendas, and they can stand alone or you can start by combining any of these topics. You and your doctor do not want to sit down in the meeting and then look at each other and ask, “So what would you like to talk about?”
a. Open agenda items can be posted on a form in the practice’s lounge so that anyone can add to it during the days prior to a meeting. These may be items that consistently present as problems, or simple decisions such as scheduling the annual holiday party. The role of the facilitator is to look at this list the day before the meeting and prioritize the order.
b. Business has a place in team meetings. Were the doctor’s and hygienist’s daily goals met? Was the collection goal met? Were new patient numbers and case acceptance met? If not, ask yourselves, “What can we do differently, and what did we decide?” Write it down on your action plan.
c. Training is always a good agenda item. A team member may have attended CE recently and this is a good time to share what was learned. Also, sales reps may wish to bring in lunch and introduce new products. Another thing that works well is for a business assistant to teach the clinical team how to enter treatment plans into the computer, or the hygienist to teach assistants how to sort and store films.
Using these four rules to get started will allow you to accomplish so much together. Remember: Together Everyone Achieves More!
ANSWER FROM ROBIN MORRISON, RLM Healthcare Marketing:
Monthly team meetings should include the entire team and should have a well-planned agenda with adequate time scheduled, at least two hours.
Some meeting suggestions include: 1) Reviewing and attainment of goals. If goals are unmet, explore opportunities to help achieve them. 2) Encouraging team participation so it is not always the dentist or practice manager speaking at the meeting. Getting the entire team on board will have a huge impact on the success of the practice. 3) Review the flow of the practice. Is there room for improvement? 4) Look for opportunities for cross training team members. 5) Developing effective team communication.
It is important to keep the meeting positive and upbeat. The goal is to have everyone excited and motivated at the conclusion of the meeting.
Breakout meetings by department are also very effective. It is ideal to have these meetings monthly. One hour should be adequate. In these meetings, people can look at their specific departments and explore opportunities for improvement, growth, and streamlining. These can include hygiene meetings, dental assistant meetings, and administrative meetings.
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