Dentistry leadership Tag Archive

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Living and Leading with Intention

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When we choose our intentions and are mindful, we achieve clarity of purpose. We are clear on what matters most to us, on what we value.

Do you have a written vision statement or intention for:

  • Your practice?
  • Your role in your practice?
  • Your relationship with your staff?
  • Your relationships with your clients, suppliers, investors, colleagues?
  • Your life? Your career? Yourself?
  • Your relationship with your family? Your role in your family?
  • Your marriage, education, livelihood, well-being, success?
  • Your vacation, the home or car you hope to buy, a conversation, an activity, a sales call, an acquisition, or a meeting?

We can set vision statements and choose our intentions and purpose for any aspect of our being. You can intend:

  • Fulfilling my dreams.
  • Helping my staff fulfill their dreams.
  • How I market, how I sell.
  • How I train, how I evaluate performance.
  • How I lead
  • The example I wish to set
  • The culture I wish to create
  • Being of highest and best service to my clients, staff, investors, suppliers, children, parents, and humanity.
  • Being richly rewarded
  •  Making a difference
  • Being a loving partner to my spouse.
  • Being a guide and mentor to my children or my direct reports.
  • Being open, receptive, and kind in a conversation
  • Using interactions as a source of learning about myself and others.

And then, before you say or do anything, ask yourself, “What can I say or do in this moment to BE my highest vision of myself?” Before you make a phone call or respond to a comment, before you join a meeting or have a conversation, or before you open the door when you come home from work, exhale and inhale deeply. Remind yourself of your intention, your vision and wonder “What can I say or do that moves me another step toward creating my highest vision of me?”

With practice, taking the breath becomes natural for you. With practice, reminding yourself of your intention and asking yourself how you can think and behave in a manner consistent with your intention also becomes natural for you. With practice, you are able to think these powerful thoughts just as quickly and naturally as your old thoughts.

When we choose our intentions and are mindful, we achieve clarity of purpose. We are clear on what matters most to us, on what we value. We stop “re-acting” to colleagues, clients, family members, staff, and situations and start creating what we wish to create. Our thoughts, strategies, goals, plans, actions, and reactions are focused on what is truly significant. We become inspired. We achieve significant results. We transform our relationships, our families, and our organizations.

How could you live with intention? How could you lead with intention?

For more on information on conscious, meaningful living and leading with purpose:

mary_lore_book

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Coaching Through Advocacy

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This topic is motivated by some polarized political conversations underway in the US, although our topic itself is not political. Even though many of our readers outside the US might have had little interest in US politics, they no doubt were aware of some of these conversations. Over the last few months in the US, we have seen polarized debates leading up to the presidential elections in November, stalemate conversations leading up to the fiscal cliff in December, and a horrific tragedy in Sandy Hook that has rekindled an ideological conversation on gun rights/control. What is common about these conversations is that many people have entrenched positions and they know they are right.

These conversations remind me of many business issues I have faced in my career where technically competent individuals have strongly held views about a major business issue at hand and the less technically competent executive or CEO has to make the call. The technical nature of the issue might be understanding a piece of machinery that might need to be purchased, or familiarity with a vendor that might need to be selected, or a technology or financial issue that requires technical understanding. In many of these business issues there are entrenched positions with ardent supporters that advocate each of those positions. In most of those cases the CEO is technically least competent. Yet, the CEO has to make the call.

This month’s topic is a tool, called Coaching through Advocacy, that the CEO (or the decision making executive) can use in these situations. The idea of this tool is to force the ardent advocate to live in the other world. When they do, they will find that the other world is not as dark as they thought it to be. The CEO identifies an outspoken, articulate, ardent supporter from each of two polarized schools of thought. Let’s call these individuals Alice and Bob. Alice is tasked with making a 10 minute speech, in front of a large audience, advocating Bob’s position with gusto and fervor, and solely in favor of that position.

Likewise, Bob is tasked with making a 10 minute speech advocating Alice’s position. The CEO convenes a somber and ceremonial meeting to which all concerned are invited. Ceremony demands that the CEO occupy a central seat flanked on either side by all the influencers of the decision. Make sure that the influencers are NOT physically partitioned by their respective position on the issue. All other invitees, including all of the people that are affected by the decision are asked to sit in the peanut-gallery as observers. The CEO then explains the tasks assigned to Alice and Bob, and lays out the ground rules of interaction:

  • Alice and Bob speak for 10 minutes advocating the side assigned to each and during those 10 minutes no questions will be entertained
  • At the end of the 20 minutes the panel of influencers flanking the CEO may ask questions of either Alice or Bob. During this period, Alice and Bob must continue to play the role assigned to them.
  • At the end of the questioning, Alice and Bob will be relieved of their advocacy roles and may join the influencers in a collective conversation.

What are the advantages of this process? First of all, Alice and Bob are forced to not only understand the other person’s point of view, but are forced to communicate it to their cohorts who might be more willing to listen to them. During the question and answer period, the other influencers can force Alice and Bob to fill out the arguments that they might have conveniently omitted. All of this makes everybody more comfortable with imagining a world in which their feared choice ends up winning.

They realize that that world is not so bad after all. In fact, they begin to appreciate some of the good things about that world. That feared world becomes more palatable. Most importantly, those that are more in the middle, who heretofore had abstained from taking sides, begin to form an opinion. Their voice is often the most reasoned voice for the CEO to hear.

The advantage of a business environment – compared to the political environment of Washington – is that in a business the CEO can make a unilateral decision. However, the CEO needs to understand and appreciate the nuanced technical issues. Coaching through Advocacy provides a process to do just that. In a democratic environment like political conversations, this process might not work. But, even there, imagine if the Speaker of the House and the Senate Majority Leader – John Boehner and Harry Reid – had to each give a nationally televised speech for 10 minutes arguing the other side!

That would certainly be a riot.

*Artwork created for LogiStyle by David Rappoccio

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Firing Strategy…

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Do you have employees you’re not proud of? Then deal with it!

The “how” of firing is typically not the problem. It’s the “who” and “when” that gets in the way. Business decision makers will tell me about a problem employee and how he/she is a poison to the operation and not living up to minimum performance or behavior standards. They will remind me that they are in an “at-will” state and can fire anyone they want, whenever they want. My response is “OK, what’s stopping you? No, seriously just terminate. Montana is the only state that limits the “at-will” rights of a private, non-union employer, so go ahead.” Apparently the decision maker is taken aback when the HR guy doesn’t start screaming about morale or citing a violation of some regulation that will insure costly litigation. In fact, the numbers show the odds of an employer getting involved in a discrimination case over a firing are pretty slim. Last year EEOC handled 99,412 charges, dropped 67.9% and only filed 122 merit suits.

I can hear a decision maker’s rant on an employee’s poor behavior or read a bad performance evaluation and determine that this employee should be gone. It’s easy for me, or any outsider, because we are not emotionally involved. I did not hire this guy. My kids don’t go to school with this woman’s kids. I don’t go to church with this employee. I’m not going to have to explain the whereabouts of this employee to patients. The problem is not legal…it is emotional. Decision makers do not want to fire.

Firing is something all business decision makers should be good at, but not comfortable with. Good people know who the bad ones are. They know we know and expect us to do something about it. Firing for bad behavior or performance rewards good behavior and performance.

You can feel it. When I meet miserable, grumpy, disengaged employees I don’t blame them. I blame their bosses. I come away determined not to go back and thankful that I don’t have to work around those people every day.

Strategically the “who” is any employee who has fallen below minimum performance or behavior expectations. The “when” is as soon as possible. You may decide that you want to salvage and give the employee a reasonable chance to improve. Just don’t count on the problem to go away by  itself. You’ll know it’s time when your good employees and patients start leaving because they think you don’t care.

It’s not always about performance. The problem may be behavior. You do not have to wait until their behavior affects their performance. Adopt a behavior standard as part of your corporate culture.

Now, do not go back to work and start firing people today. I have a Master’s Degree in Employment Law and I have trained thousands of managers but I am NOT an attorney and do NOT give out legal advice. Part of your decision making process should be to review the situation and any documentation with HR and local legal counsel. You can contact me at HRHunterLott@gmail.com and check out my website PleaseSueMe.com.

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Don’t Confuse Indecision with No Decision

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Food for Thought is our way of sharing interesting concepts on corporate leadership and management with others who might find it useful. The thoughts offered are intended to be controversial and thought provoking. They always follow our motto of helping develop logical leadership.

Do you or your organization find yourself wanting to make a decision and not being able to do so? Do you find that you have gathered all the data you can get, considered the options but can’t decide which way to go? Is that indecision or lack of a decision? We offer a distinction. Indecision is an individual’s inability to make a decision. “No decision” is the organization’s confusion as to how a decision is going to be made. Both are harmful to the organization.

Decisions that have a deadline force a conclusion. Should we extend the lease or find new space? Should we make a tax-efficient investment for this tax year? Should we hold a Holiday party? These questions have deadlines and a decision is put off until, and made by, the deadline. In contrast, decisions that have no deadlines often lead to indecision. Should we open a branch in that other town? Should we hire an additional marketing professional? Should we invest in the development of myself or my people? In most of these situations you are convinced you should do so eventually, but wonder if now is the right time. Leaders sometimes spend considerable time thinking through the issue, often spending more in the cost of their time than the cost of any risk they might undertake in the decision.

Indecision is usually the result of an individual’s unwillingness to take risk. Usually they have considered all the options but are unable to predict how the future will unfold in order to evaluate which option is best. Decisions are actions taken today whose validity will only be realized when the future unfolds. In fact, if the best option for a difficult decision becomes self-evident, you might well be accused of procrastination! The best way to deal with indecision is to have a self-imposed deadline, preferably declared publicly. Also useful is to recognize that you can make an overt decision not to make a decision until a future deadline. Again, such a deadline should be established and declared publicly. These techniques force you to minimize wasted time and yet bring closure.

A lack of a decision is often a bigger organizational problem. You often find people in the organization claiming, “No decision has been made on that issue.” What it really means is that they have no clue as to who, how and when a decision is going to be made. Whereas indecision is usually a characteristic of questions without a deadline, a lack of decision can be found in both questions with and without a deadline. A lack of decision is really an implicit decision to let the default status quo prevail. Lack of decisions maintain status quo and inhibit change in the organization. Organizations become stagnant and slow to move.

Arguably, decision making is the most common activity of management. Organizations must have a clear decision making process. The leader of the organization should establish the process and promote its deployment throughout the organization. While we have our opinions on the various decision making processes (see Consensus is a Road to Mediocrity), any process is better than no process. For a full discussion on four styles of decision making (Consensus, Democracy, Authority and Command) contact us for a full length article.

Both indecision and lack of decision is harmful to the organization. Much time is wasted discussing issues that yield no conclusion. The leader is responsible in both cases: for their own indecisions and the organization’s lack of decisions.

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Anti-Buzz: You Can Stop the Signal

What is at stake when you set policy for Internet access and use in your office? There are no perfect solutions. Internet use at work, and the rules governing it, are really a matter of office culture, and every office is different; you are trying to balance safety, privacy, professionalism, practicality and morale. Here are things to consider.

Should you have Internet in the office at all?
Yes. And I probably don’t need to work very hard to convince you. Not having Internet access in your office today would be like not having a telephone number in days gone by. If you don’t allow general Internet use in your office, you will find yourself in the 20th century, with phonebooks and business cards and written memos and take-out menus and bulletin boards. Of course, if you do allow it, you find yourself in the 21st century where your employees kill time on Facebook when they should be working. The Internet can be a big distraction, sure, but we should enumerate some of the basic practical benefits of providing access in your office so that we don’t forget why we’re here:

  1. E-mail communication, both among employees and from customers.
  2. Information for troubleshooting issues around the office. “Could you look up how to fix a paper jam?”
  3. Answering customer questions about other local businesses. “Where’s the nearest post office?” “Do you have the number for that book store down the road?”  This is huge if you want to refashion your front desk as more of a concierge and less of a paper pusher – because hopefully you have less and less paper these days.
  4. Managing your website or other online presences. “While I’m thinking about it, update our webpage to say we’ll be closed next Monday.”
  5. Communicating with the other businesses you work with, (Bank, Insurance, Plumber, Collection Agency, etc.)
  6. Figuring out where you’re going for lunch.

How should I limit Internet use?
So the other side of the coin is that while the Internet is sort of like the phone of yesteryear, it’s also sort of like television, and you don’t want your employees entranced by it all day when there is real work to get done. It is of course reasonable and expected that you should have some policy governing legitimate use, and you can back this up with content filters or other technology, (more on those in a moment). However, don’t think that a good policy is as simple as “professional use only”, though that is a good standard to tell your employees to aim for.

“Professional use only” breaks down pretty quickly in the face of human employees, especially considering that your dental practice is by nature a small business and expected to have a more personable office culture. A rigid policy might be appropriate if you have an epidemic of unprofessional Internet use however. How flexible should you be? Is it inappropriate for an employee to spend 15 minutes on personal matters during a break? There might come a morning where an employee will have more peace of mind and be more focused if they can just get some light banking out of the way. Maybe an employee is about to pick up their kids after work but needs to look up directions. Maybe you want to compare menus of various Chinese take-out restaurants. Maybe one morning somebody is just dying to show off the latest funny cat video – in the name of employee morale, is that so wrong? Of course, policy can be flexible, and can allow for reasonable exceptions to the standard, but the technology you want to use might not be so understanding.

Can I block certain kinds of websites?
Yes. A content filter in your office is advisable, but be aware that it can be too aggressive and is not a substitute for good policy and culture. A filter does offer some ground floor advantages, though. First, it serves as malware protection, which is important given the risk of general-use Internet in the hands of many employees. Second, you can filter out the more egregious content of the Internet without flinching; this isn’t so much out of fear that your employees would actively seek out offensive content while at work, but in an age of pop-ups and fishy links, it might seek them.

Many filters offer categorical filtering, so you can narrow down what you consider professional and what you don’t, but be careful. First, any of the reasonable, human exceptions above need to be accounted for by your filter. Also, categorical filters can be capricious. A terrific example is the content aggregator reddit, which is very much the sort of site you would like to block in your office, but it is owned by Conde Nast and frequently finds itself categorized as “news and information” or similar, thus defeating many content filters. On the other side, you might find the legitimate-use websites might be, for whatever reason, blocked by your filter. Also, you might want to block social media – but if you have a facebook or twitter profile that you use to interact with the public, it seems silly to lock yourself out of it at your office. It is better to err on the side of permissiveness and instead let your own rules and discipline do the filtering for you.

How can I monitor what my employees are doing?
Aside from looking over their shoulder? You can do quite a bit. You can examine browser histories, but a savvy employee might delete theirs. You can probably arrange with either your service provider or your IT staff to obtain a full history of Internet use, but it makes for dull reading and does not connect websites to the employees that use them. If you want to track individuals, you will need to have your network set up to require logins, and for each employee to have their own username – then details of their sessions can be tracked. This might not be feasible for your office, or it might be easily done, depending on your current set up and your access to quality IT. If you have mechanisms in place to track Internet use, treat it like you would a drug test: you aren’t going to use it everyday, but you have it ready in case someone makes you suspicious. If employees are concerned about privacy in the face of such monitoring, remind them that if they stick to professional use only, they won’t have anything to worry about; in other words, having a mechanism in place to monitor use will deter inappropriate use without losing the flexibility of frequent reasonable exceptions.

At the end of the day, you have tools at your disposal, but there is no magic technology solution to the problem of monitoring Internet use in your office. It needs to be a matter of office policy. Communicate expectations, and keep the matter an open dialog.

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