dental practice management Tag Archive

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The Price of a Collegial Atmosphere


In the U.S. we do not discuss politics at work. And if somebody expresses an opinionated position, we simply smile, nod and move on to the next topic. Why? Because politics polarizes people and we want to maintain a collegial atmosphere at work. I grew up in India and I have spent a fair amount of time in Europe and Asia. Political discussions are not considered to be as polarizing in those regions of the world; they are viewed simply as a healthy debate.

Does a collegial atmosphere require lack of disagreement?

In a collegial atmosphere, can people disagree, express their opinions with passion and conviction, and close the conversation agreeing to disagree? We tend to believe that discussions must end in agreement or some sort of resolution. This tendency results in inauthentic conclusions to discussions.

Diffuse speakers relax their convictions and specific speakers dig in their heels for an argument. (Read article: Are You Specific or Diffuse?) Do all disagreements have to be resolved one way or the other? Can people maintain healthy relationships knowing full well that they disagree on certain important matters?

Healthy relationships are not measured by the number of hugs, but rather by the number of fights that end in hugs.

It is the ending in hugs that is important, not the lack of fights. Healthy relationships should foster healthy debates. Lack of debates might well be an indicator to the relationship not being healthy.

In creating an intentional corporate culture, you might strive to create a collegial atmosphere. The shadow side of this strength is fear of conflict – where people are reluctant to express their opinion because it is not aligned with the opinion being otherwise aired.

Fear of conflict leads to the loud and obnoxious shouting out the quiet and thoughtful. It leads to the multitude of subordinate opinions deferring to the single opinion of the superior. It leads to the new and different ideas being overwhelmed by the status quo of tried and true practices. In a culture of collegial atmosphere, it is important that you empower, encourage and enable people to face conflict and have healthy debates.

How do you teach people to have a healthy debate?

We offer three common causes for debates to turn ugly, and from it, three ways you can turn debates healthy.

The first cause is Aristotle’s principle of the excluded middle. The belief that there is a right and wrong. Something is good or bad. It is either true or false. Either you are on my side or you are with the enemy. This polarization of thought causes debates to become personal. What is the solution? Try throwing in expressions like, “I believe…” The more you use the term “I believe,” the easier it is for the other person to receive your opinion. So, do you turn everything into a belief?

That naturally leads us to the next reason debates turn ugly – facts versus interpretations.

In a wonderful book called The Communications Catalyst, my good friends and colleagues Mickey Connelly and Richard Rianoshek explain how people co-mingle facts and interpretations. By separating facts (that can be observed and measured) from interpretations (that are your way of looking at the facts and drawing conclusions from them), they argue that you can have more “accurate” and more “authentic” conversations. Instead people pursue “sincere” conversations where, by co-mingling facts and interpretations, they pursue “their truth,” convinced that it is the truth. So separate facts and interpretations and preface your statements with those labels.

Finally, ignoring the old adage, people fail to seek to understand before they seek to be understood. In our opinion, the most important aspect of a healthy debate is the ability to understand and advocate the other person’s point of view. (See our January 2013 Food for Thought, Coaching through Advocacy.) Showing that you can argue the other point of view demonstrates mutual respect for the individual(s), concedes the existence of multiple points of views, acknowledges an appreciation of the strengths of the other side, and in the process, expresses a recognition that the parties at play are not good or bad, right or wrong, based on which position they hold. It leads to hugs at the end of fights.

Following the practice started last month, we will be holding a telecon on this topic.

On February 20, we will hold a complimentary webinar at 8 a.m. (PST) where we will discuss this article and the fear of conflict shadow side of a collegial, friendly work environment. We encourage you to sign up and attend; please visit our event registration page here for more details.

We welcome your comments and encourage you to explore the Food for Thought archive. We hope your business is doing well. We’re happy to chat about the content in this article or anything else with which you’d like assistance.

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Employee Performance is not just about Results


Happy New Year! I hope you had a relaxing holiday and are back to an exciting start for 2016. For some of you this might also be the start of a fiscal year and you might be considering employee performance appraisals.

This topic is a logical, structured way to approach performance appraisals.

In appraising an employee’s performance over a period of time, say over the past year, we tend to focus on what the individual accomplished – the results. Yes, results are important, but equally important is how much the employee has grown during the year, and how positioned the individual is to produce even better results the next year.

To drive home this point, let me recall the definition of stewardship, as framed by my friend, Glenn Mangurian.

Stewardship is the responsibility to protect, preserve and enhance assets that do not belong to you, but have been temporarily entrusted to you.

One of the biggest assets a company has is its human capital. You, as a manager, have been asked to be a steward of your employees. You have a stewardship responsibility to leave behind a richer set of assets at the end of the year than what you inherited at the beginning of the year. Your assessment of the employee’s performance over the past year should clearly reflect your collective success – the success of you and your employee – in accomplishing that.

With that as the backdrop, I offer the following model for writing performance appraisals:

1. Results: The employee’s accomplishments over the past year.

This is like the employee’s individual income statement. That is, the employee cost the company a certain amount and, in return, they produced certain results. It is the manager’s assessment of the balance between the benefit received and the cost incurred, in this period of time.

This assessment makes no claim about their past or future contributions or their ability to make such contributions. It only speaks to this period’s contributions. That is why I view this as an income statement.

Results should be assessed in both the “what” and “how” dimensions.

Not only should you comment on what the employee did, but also how the individual achieved those results. This is an opportunity to communicate to the employee the consequence of their conduct on others around them. So, compliment the employee who rallied the group to achieve that goal that the team had resigned to being impossible. Likewise, comment on the value destroyed by the employee that trampled on everybody in their path to achieve their individual goal.

Both the “what” and the “how” speak to what happened, not what the individual is capable of.

2. Skills: An assessment of the employee’s natural skills and abilities, as related to the employee’s assigned job or potential future assignments.

This is like the tangible items on the employee’s balance sheet, both the assets and liabilities – just the tangible items that can be seen and evidenced.

These would include assessments like being a good salesperson or having good analytical skills. It would also include liabilities like not being able to write well or have difficulty in public speaking. These skills are intrinsic to the individual and are unlikely to change overnight. They can be improved, but it takes time, work and a commitment to doing so.

These skills move with the individual and are likely to be present if the employee undertakes a different assignment – although how useful the skill is in the other assignment is a different matter.

This is where you should reflect on your stewardship of this individual. How much has this balance sheet grown in the last year?

Has the employee increased their assets or reduced their liabilities? Both the manager and the employee must take ownership for this assessment.

3. Style: An assessment of the employee’s interactions with the environment.

This is like the intangible items on the employee’s balance sheet. Unlike skills, which can be demonstrated, evidenced and clearly shown, style is a bit more amorphous and difficult to establish unequivocally.

Style can be broken up into Attributes, which are intrinsic, and Conduct, which is circumstantial.

Attributes would include such things as an employee’s integrity or compassion. A compassionate employee is likely to be so in the workplace, on the sports field and drinking beer with their friends. Attributes of an individual, like skills, move with the employee. They are a statement of the employee, not of the environment. Attributes, like skills, cannot be changed overnight. One might even argue that they are very difficult to change in mature individuals.

In contrast, conduct is the result of the interaction between the employee and the environment. Examples would include an employee’s attitude, their ability to get along with their co-workers, their commitment to the company’s goals, etc. An employee might be dismissive of another individual because of a relationship they have built with that individual. An employee might be a naysayer to all ideas because of their lack of confidence in management.

Whereas the skills and attributes are likely to transport with the employee to any other job, the conduct is a reflection of the employee’s connection to the environment. Neither the good nor the bad will move to another job they take. So a disengaged employee at your workplace could well become very engaged at the next job.

The conduct is a product of the individual employee and the surrounding environment. To change the conduct, one or both of those have to change.

The individual can choose to change. Or you can change the environment surrounding the individual. Unlike skills and qualities, conduct can change practically overnight. It is often a matter of an individual’s attitude and desire, or a matter of something in their environment that is eliciting that behavior. This part of the assessment should include the changes you plan to make for any conduct deficiencies identified.

So results, skills and style. An income statement view and a balance sheet view, with the balance sheet broken up into the tangible and intangible items.

employee performance

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Message from my mentor

Message from my mentor:
One of the greatest influences in my professional experience was way back in the day, in the early 1990’s. At that time my 3 children were young, under the ages of 7, and my mental state was mostly a blur. My husband and I had purchased a dental practice in Raleigh/Durham, North Carolina which began the journey of discovery regarding dental practice management methods.

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What are you waiting for?

Change: Realize Your Greatest Potential

It’s pretty clear the world is changing at a remarkable pace. And this pace, as overwhelming as it feels today, is poised to steadily increase – many say it will continue to double every five years. So if you thought the last 20 years were something, the next 20 will be something else.

For example, within three years there will 10 billion “things” connected to the internet, everything from your keys in case you lose them, to streetlights and garage doors so you can control them. Remote controlled air ambulances, cars that drive themselves and package-delivering drones were science fiction just a few years ago, but today they are real and tomorrow they will be commonplace.

The change is naturally spilling out everywhere, in culture, strategy, service, product development, communication, manufacturing and on and on. As evidenced by Kodak and Blockbuster and many more, those who fail to see to the change and course correct will find themselves at a distinct disadvantage – or even gone.

As Eric Shinseki said, “If you don’t like change, you are going to like irrelevance even less.”

Today’s world is often defined as VUCA – volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. Volatile because challenges are unexpected and situations are unstable; uncertain due the lack of predictability and the likelihood of surprise; complex because situations have so many interconnected issues that chaos and confusion are often the norm; ambiguous because we have not been here before – precedents don’t exist for many of the opportunities and challenges staring us down today.

Yet in the midst of this appears to be the greatest panacea of opportunity the world has ever seen.

We take for granted how much is available to us now. We know where population is distributed and where it’s growing, we have unprecedented access to capital, knowledge, innovation and technology, and we have the ability to combine them to create value. The question is: will we?

Will we push to find new ways to create value, to connect with people and share ideas? Will we move away from what worked yesterday if it looks like it won’t work tomorrow? Will we push ourselves past what is in pursuit of what could be? Will we realize the potential that comes with change – in ourselves and in the organizations we serve – or will we settle for the status quo?

I am convinced that most of us are missing out. That far too often we become lulled into a false sense of security and the belief we should wait, accept the role, status or result we have been assigned.

That we should let things work themselves out as opposed to getting out there and making them work. That we should wait for permission or approval before taking action. The question, as David Lazarenko put it, is, “Are you a waiter or a creator?”

So, while many accept the notion that we should stand in line and patiently wait while someone else decides the next opportunity or right move, we know that day has come and gone. And it is no longer up to anyone else.

We have an opportunity to think differently and go beyond what “is” today to find the potential in people and organizations, and be intentional about making it a reality. We combine intentionality and potential and call it “potentionality.” It’s what drives us, and it is at the heart of why we go to work every. It is a made up word, but it’s apropos to the idea of seizing opportunity in change.

If you don’t see an opportunity, just create one!

Shift in Thinking is a monthly article from chief storyteller David Baker with a call to action for organizations and individuals. Using engaging narratives and probing questions, he seeks to provoke a new way of thinking around brand, culture and leadership, and to help readers intentionally realize their potential – Potentionality!

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How Living Core Values Delivers Better Patient Experiences

Living Core Values  Deliver Better Patient Experiences

We live in an experience economy. People pay more for a great experience. Bad brand experiences are like a kiss of death. Not only do people enjoy talking about bad experiences, the Internet allows people to share them quickly and freely through their social networks.

Consistently delivering a positive experience in your practice begins with your employees. Face to face delivery of the brand experience is very powerful. You have the opportunity to make a strong first impression and demonstrate genuine interest in the patient’s well being.

For your staff to consistently deliver the experience you want your patient to have, it is important that practice values, training and performance evaluation system must be aligned with the brand proposition.

A good place to begin this alignment is by communicating your practice’s core values and ways those values should be expressed by your staff throughout the patient experience. Brand core values are the foundation principles that guide practice behavior. For example, one of your practice’s core values might be to always deliver care with empathy in order to create patient trust and piece of mind. How many opportunities might there be during a patient visit to deliver this value?

In a recent medical practice brand audit our firm identified 15 opportunities for the staff and physician to deliver core values during a patient visit. In the first five minutes, core values were delivered at the greeting, in the updating of patient records, and during the nurse’s interview to explore patient symptoms. All of these experience opportunities occurred before the doctor entered the room.

To ensure your practice delivers core values for a better customer experience map out the desired meaning that every point of contact communicates to patients as shown in the example below. Then make sure you train your employees on the subtle things that deliver the practice core values and the ideal customer experience. Your practice will fill the positive lift from this attention to detail.

First impressions are critical to delivering values of caring and trust.

Behavior and Appearance


Intended Brand Meaning

Upbeat tone of voice, friendly with concern about patient condition Interested in me. Someone who cares about me feeling better
Dental assistant and hygienist appear in smock or approved clothing A real professional I can count on to care for me
Polite & caring request for patient information Wants to know everything possible about me so the care provided will be successful.
Sincere tone when asking about symptoms and problems Doctor wants to make sure she gets the diagnosis right
Thoughtful delivery of diagnosis with use of brochures and posters to educate Cares about me feeling better immediately and avoiding same condition in the future

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