By: Trude Henderson
In yesterday’s blog, (“Engendering Employee Disengagement – Seven Dental Practice Management No-No’s”), we discussed Dr. Travis Bradberry’s list of demotivating behaviors. In this companion piece, we turn to those behaviors he says can be most useful to managers striving to motivate their teams and provide some recommendations specifically for dental practice leaders.
Bradberry suggests that once a manager has stopped the negative behaviors outlined in his article, he/she should do the following:
- Follow what he calls the “Platinum Rule,” namely “treat others as they want to be treated.” The psychologically astute manager should reward people in ways they like best. It is our experience that the best dental practice leaders pay attention to the individual employee’s preferences when it comes to recognition. The reason: when leaders fail to personalize recognition in a way that benefits the employee, it has little meaning or value. The idea is to “reward the behavior you want repeated,” but if the employee doesn’t see it as a reward, no one benefits. What’s the point of wrapping a gift and never giving it?
- Exercise strong, not domineering, leadership. Employees don’t want to be dominated; rather, they respect leaders who are firm in the face of adversity. Bradberry writes: “People need courage in their leaders. They need someone who can make difficult decisions and watch over the good of the group. They need a leader who will stay the course when things get tough”. We absolutely agree with the statement of Stanley Bergman, 2017 CEO of the Year, “The success of any organization hinges on its people,” and challenge dental practice leaders to first, ensure that they have chosen the right people with the right skills for leadership positions and second, to invest in their greatest asset, their people. One way to do this is to embrace a continuous learning journey that includes a curriculum on a variety of topics, such as leadership, conflict resolution, waste reduction and time management, in addition to the usual clinical and customer service training. A good continuous training program is one example of a system that helps drive desired behaviors (Shingo Institute, 2012). It is true that implementing such a program is easier said than done in a schedule-packed dental practice. The reward, however, is a practice filled with skilled leaders who are focused on the pursuit of excellence; one that transforms the dental office culture and grows the practice by placing its highest priority on its people.
- Competently use their communication skills. Managers must strive to be good listeners. On the other hand, they should make a point of ensuring that employees understand what they are being told to do, and are encouraged to provide feedback. The pilot study found that the dental practices failing to properly define, communicate and model values, functioned poorly because staff wasted a lot of time trying to figure out what they should be doing and how they should be doing it. The result: many formal and informal procedural inconsistencies that in turn led to shortcomings in the customer experience. A simple follow-up email, for example, that recaps a meeting, coaching session, huddle or lunch-n-learn serves not only as documentation that expectations were discussed, but can also help eliminate the possibility that dental team members either ignored assignments or misunderstood them. Be sure, however, that your approach is an open and inviting one, and to ask for a reply to confirm your email was received and understood.
- Exemplify desirable behavior. Says Bradberry: “Harping on people all day long about the behavior you want to see has a tiny fraction of the impact you achieve by demonstrating that behavior yourself.” Observations of the pilot practices revealed that dental teams felt more comfortable when their supervisors provided daily but friendly coaching that offered positive expectations, reinforcement and support. On the other hand, when supervisors displayed a poor attitude or bad mood, team members withheld important information, became reclusive and worse, sometimes modeled this poor behavior when interacting with patients. Practice leaders must understand that all their behavior, whether good or bad, can directly affect dental team engagement and the customer experience, as these two go hand-in-hand.
- Be candid regarding company objectives and actions. Bradberry maintains that “When managers try to sugarcoat, mask or euphemize in order to make things seem better than they are, employees see right through it.” Our three-year pilot study confirmed the importance of transparency in a dental practice. The most successful practice leaders not only believe in sharing information, good or bad, but they encourage and expect transparency among team members. They understand the importance of accurate and timely information gleaned from observations, surveys and other objective metrics when formulating a more informed decision-making approach. The more precise the feedback, the better. Moreover, we have found that when practice leaders genuinely listen to the people, regardless of their official title, who have the most knowledge and experience of the task or feedback in question, the whole organization benefits from better problem-solving and an improved customer experience.
- Be humble. Managers shouldn’t convey that they feel superior to employees, but rather that their superior status brings with it added responsibility. Leadership experts and authors of The Leadership Challenge Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner remind us, “It’s fun to be a leader, gratifying to have influence, and exhilarating to have scores of people cheering your every word, but it’s easy to be seduced by power and importance.” They add that as a leader, you can, “avoid excessive pride only if you recognize that you’re human and need the help of others.”
- Acknowledge that employees have a life outside the office. Top performers find overwork baffling; they wonder whether they are being penalized for their good work. Furthermore, the author contends that overwork can have a boomerang effect, citing a Stanford study showing “that productivity per hour declines sharply when the workweek exceeds 50 hours, and productivity drops off so much after 55 hours that you don’t get anything out of the extra work.” We are mindful of the skills shortage in the dental industry, as well as the negative affects stress can have on team engagement and the customer experience. Our advice is to closely monitor overtime, and adjust schedules (for both patients and employees) and job descriptions, as necessary, which could mean re-training current employees to take on new or additional responsibilities. Bottom line— get creative when you are unable to increase headcount due to budget constraints or the lack of qualified candidates.
Bradberry concludes his article with the assurance that managers who eschew the demotivating behaviors and embrace the positive ones can count on being remembered by subordinates as the kind of employer most people only dream about.
We hope you find these tips useful in managing and motivating your dental team. To read the original article, please go to https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/286055
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