Motivation methods: Move your team to the next level

March 8, 2011
Dr. Rhonda Savage discusses the four key principles to teamwork and how to hold effective team meetings.
By Rhonda R. Savage, DDSCreativity is the new courage in dentistry, but without focus, you might be flailing about.How do we creatively continue to motivate our team to do more and be more? I believe a combination of creativity plus focus is the key to successful motivation. In this short article, you’ll get four key steps to motivation, and some interesting bonus suggestions. Did you know that Dental Assistant Recognition Week is held every year in March? Did you know that I used to be a dental assistant? I started in dentistry in 1976, right out of high school. I grew up in a family of six kids, which meant little money. I never envisioned going to college. A dentist in my hometown of Ketchikan, Alaska, offered to train me on the job. It was a privilege to be his assistant for four years, and front office person for another two years before I set off for college. While this one week in March is called Dental Assistant Recognition Week, I consider this a week where we should honor all of our employees because they all assist our patients. My boss honored me when he took me on a CE trip from Alaska to Portland, Oregon. We learned about CPR. It was my first trip as an employee and I was thrilled! I was 18 years old and hadn’t been to Portland or any kind of training. My teammates and I learned about each other on a more personal level. My boss believed, as I do, that investing in your team is very important. Why take a trip with your team? Because it builds relationships and they’ll learn, both of which will build your practice. When morale goes up, production goes up! Anything you can do outside the office increases their ability to develop their relationships. If your team knows each other on a more personal basis, respect goes up. We’re a bit more tolerant if we know why someone is struggling. We coach more, are more empathetic, and are clearer with our communication. To increase communication and build up your team, consider these four key steps to motivate them:Vision: Talk about your vision for your practice. Define the type of dentistry you would like to do and don’t let the economy hold you back. Write this down and share it with your team. You can list five reasons why you might not succeed, and then talk about them, because the only real reason you get held back is yourself. The success of any business is based on enthusiasm, energy, willingness to change, and great business systems.Diversity: Your team brings a wealth of backgrounds, strengths, and weaknesses. Make sure your team isn’t bland — a collection of people who are too similar. Encourage and develop complimentary attributes.Support: No one wins unless the entire team wins. Encourage and promote the willingness to help. Use the words “certainly” and “absolutely” if someone asks for your help. Collaboration: You need everyone to share their thoughts and ideas. Here are some questions the team can ask themselves and each other:1. If this were your practice, what would you do to increase the production and decrease the overhead?2. What do you enjoy about your job and what do you hate about your job?3. If we were to add another person, what strengths or skills would they need to add to the team?4. What do we do on a daily basis, personally or as a team, that wastes patients’ time?5. What skills, ability, or training would enable you to do a better job?These are four key principles of teamwork. Talk about them at your upcoming team meeting. Speaking of team meetings, are your meetings motivational, fun, productive, and all about goal setting? Effective team meetings: First, you need an agenda. Then each person should take a turn facilitating the meeting (or co-facilitating if someone is shy). One goal could be attending a continuing education class together outside of the office. If this is your goal, you need to begin by breaking it down into steps.
The steps:
Clearly define your vision regarding the upcoming meeting. Vision: I recommend the entire team go to CE with the mission of writing down two to three ideas and sharing them at the team meeting. In addition, be clear about attire at the meeting, attendance requirements, timeliness, and attention (for example, going out late the night before can affect attention). As a team, select a topic or type of meeting to attend. The larger meetings have more course selection. I also recommend the entire team, including the doctor, attend a practice management meeting together. It’s difficult when the staff attends the CE and the leader isn’t present. Or at times we see the doctor attend without the team. The phrase I hear when I’m presenting is, “I wish our whole team was here!” Linda Miles and I will be presenting a practice management team appreciation course on a Caribbean cruise, sailing from Fort Lauderdale to Cozumel, March 22-26. We’d love to have you join us and learn, have fun, and grow as a team. Also, there is a way to earn a cruise or a trip through our incentivize bonus structure.Let’s go back to goal setting. Most women love to plan, and looking forward to a trip is motivational! But we need to go above and beyond in most practices to afford this type of continuing education. Here are some steps to achieve your team trip:1. You need a trip planning team. Several team members should volunteer and do the research, calculate the investment, present options, and organize a team discussion. What do you all need to do to obtain this goal?2. Clearly define your goals and break them down into understandable parts.3. Make the goals reasonable and attainable.4. Post and discuss the goals and how you’re doing. One office staff that came on our cruise put a palm tree up on the hygiene operatory wall. The palm tree was in the upper right hand corner, and on the lower left was a jet flying toward the palm tree. As the team got closer to their goal, the jet flew higher toward the palm tree. Patients were excited about the team trip. A marketing secret — patients love knowing a little bit about you. They come to you for a relationship, and they know that you know how to do the dentistry. Share in your excitement with the patients and they’ll feel like they’re part of your practice. They’ll refer their friends, family, and colleagues if they feel that you’re THEIR dental practice.5. If someone doesn’t want to go, they do not receive money in lieu of the trip. The trip is a team-building event. 6. Be clear about whether or not the team will receive pay during the CE classes. If you are paying for the team member’s time, you can pay an alternate training rate, but this rate must be at least as much as your minimum state wage.Bonus structure can be set up in many ways. I recommend considering the following formula: Adjusted production plus collections, add together and divide by two for the average. Then divide by doctor days in the month. This will give you a daily rate. Look at the average daily rate for the last three months. Add those three-month average rates together and divide by three. To create a fair bonus, raise the daily rate to a new goal level of $200 per day per doctor. If the team members reach this rate during the upcoming month, a certain portion of the increase goes into a CE trip kitty fund. This is one way to give a bonus to the team. For a copy of our trip kitty bonus plan and different bonus structures, e-mail me at [email protected].A well-done bonus plan is motivational, exciting, and rewarding. A bonus should not be expected rather, it should be earned. A bonus is about “extra pay for extra effort!” Bonuses should not be considered, however, if the practice is not healthy. To understand the health of your practice, contact me for a complimentary 30-minute call and we can discuss your practice.A bonus plan and effective team meetings are just two ways to motivate your team, with a focused plan that is creative! Use the foundation of motivation to take your practice to the next level of vision, diversity, support, and collaboration. The boat of opportunity is leaving the dock. Are you all on board?
Dr. Savage graduated from the University of Washington, School of Dentistry in 1989 with multiple honors. She was in private practice for 16 years, has authored many published peer reviewed articles, and has lectured internationally. She is a past president of the Washington State Dental Association. Dr. Savage is a noted speaker on women’s health issues and practice management. She is currently the CEO of Linda L. Miles and Associates. She can be contacted at [email protected] or