Harmony by Design: How Dental Champions Forge Team Success

My husband and I finished assembling a particularly challenging family puzzle created from our 2023 holiday photos. The puzzle was difficult due to the duplication of images featuring everyone in identical positions, clothing, and colors. However, the real challenge arose when we discovered a missing piece in the upper left photo! Unwilling to accept an incomplete puzzle, we took matters into our own hands. Using cardboard from the puzzle box, we fashioned a replacement piece and meticulously recreated the image using colored sharpies. Finally, with the addition of our makeshift piece, the family “portrait” was complete, and harmony restored.

Harmony in dentistry is by design. Within the bustling environment of dental practices, there exists a team of unsung heroes whose collective efforts are the backbone of every successful practice. Each person plays a crucial role in the puzzle to deliver exceptional care to patients while ensuring the smooth functioning of the practice.

Dentists

The leaders of the dental team, responsible for diagnosing and treating dental conditions while ensuring the overall health of patients. They perform complex procedures ranging from routine check-ups to intricate restorative work, surgeries, and beyond. Their leadership extends beyond the operatory. Dentists contribute to cultivating a supportive team environment, fostering collaboration and professional growth among their colleagues.

Dental Assistants

Dental assistants are the silent superheroes, providing invaluable balance and support to team members throughout the day. They do it all, from preparing treatment rooms, sterilizing instruments, assisting chairside and ensuring patient comfort. Their meticulous attention to detail and swift actions are essential for efficient days. Beyond their multi-tasking technical skills, they serve as a comforting presence for patients and team members.

Dental Hygienists

Dental hygienists are the guardians of oral health, performing vital preventive and therapeutic procedures. From thorough screenings to patient education, they ensure optimal oral and systemic health. Their expertise in identifying early signs of diseases empowers patients to prioritize dental wellness. In the practice building department, their contributions are invaluable.

Office Managers and Administrators

Office administrators are the behind-the-scenes maestros, managing the day-to-day tasks that keep the practice running smoothly. From scheduling appointments and coordinating patient records to managing billing and insurance claims, their organizational prowess ensures efficient practice operations.
Their friendly demeanor and adept communication skills contribute to a positive patient experience, from booking to departure.

Harmony by Design

In the face of emergencies, this collective effort shines even brighter. Whether it’s a dental emergency or a team member missing for the day, the quick thinking and coordinated actions are essential for effective resolution. Their ability to remain calm under pressure and work together seamlessly ensures the best possible experience for patients and the practice alike.

Conclusion

Dental practices are powered by the collective efforts of the team. Their collaboration and dedication are the driving force behind every successful patient interaction and practice operation. As we celebrate the silent superheroes of dentistry, let’s recognize and appreciate the invaluable contributions of each member forging practice success.

It’s time to shine a spotlight on these unseen champions and acknowledge the invaluable role they play in harmonizing the world of dentistry.

Connect with me if you’re interested in scheduling or discussing:

Securing Dental Talent in Turbulent Times: Strategies from Leaders

Position Your Practice for Long-term Success

In today’s competitive job market, attracting and retaining top talent in the dental industry has become more challenging than ever. As we navigate the “Great Resignation,” it’s crucial for dental practices to rethink their approach to talent management. Drawing inspiration from industry leaders like Chick-fil-A, we can uncover valuable strategies to create a positive workplace culture, hire the right team members, invest in employee growth, and provide exceptional customer service.

Your Employee Experience Is Your Employment Brand

In 2018, Gallup’s workplace analytics team emphasized the importance of the employee experience as the cornerstone of your employment brand. While many companies prioritize business strategy and financial aspects, it’s essential to remember that culture often outranks strategy in shaping your organization’s success. Culture encompasses the tangible actions and beliefs of your team, serving as the pulse of your practice. It’s what happens when the leader (not just the boss) leaves the room, and it continues to gain momentum by inspiring your people to conform to it. A strong culture unites everyone across different departments.

Empower Your Team with Problem-Solving Skills

Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs): Encourage team members to develop SOPs as guides for handling specific situations such as team member conflicts, difficult patients, HIPAA compliance, and OSHA requirements. Assign a leader responsible for updating these guidelines to ensure everyone stays informed.

  1. Diverse Problem-Solving Skills: While it’s impossible to anticipate every issue, you can prepare your team with diverse problem-solving skills. These skills are invaluable when facing unexpected situations, fostering adaptability and resilience.

Build a Team-Centric Culture

  1. Continuous Education: Prioritize team attendance at Continuing Education (CE) courses, whether live or virtual, throughout the year. Set goals for attending conferences and encourage knowledge sharing in team meetings.
  2. Software Updates and Training: Stay up-to-date with software and technology advancements relevant to your practice. Ensure that your team receives the necessary training to maximize their efficiency and effectiveness.
  3. Wellness Officer: Appoint a volunteer “wellness officer” responsible for checking in on employee health and monitoring the practice’s overall well-being. This role helps maintain a healthy work environment and strengthens team bonds.

Be Empathetic, Flexible, and Transparent

Times are stressful, impacting morale, health, wellness, and performance. Being empathetic, flexible, and practicing active listening can alleviate these challenges and strengthen team cohesion.
Transparency is crucial in maintaining trust and fostering a positive work environment. Keep your team informed about the state of the business, the COVID-19 situation, and emotional well-being.

Borrowing Ideas from Chick-fil-A

Chick-fil-A consistently ranks as a top-rated company for customer service. Their success is built on four strategic pillars that dentistry can adapt:

  1. Positive Culture
    • Your leadership should embody your practice’s core values and mission statement.
    • Ensure that your values influence your hiring decisions.
  2. Hiring Team Members That Fit Your Culture
    • During the hiring process, emphasize your practice’s core values to potential candidates.
    • Avoid hiring just to fill a void, as one negative team member can affect the entire office.
  3. Invest in Growing Team Member’s Skills
    • Provide comprehensive training for new team members, which pays off when they handle their responsibilities confidently.
    • Show your team members that they are valued, offer opportunities for growth, and invest in their development.
  4. Employees Comprehensively Trained in Customer Service
    • Focus on creating a positive work environment and nurturing relationships within your team.
    • Trust and empower your employees to handle customer service situations effectively.

Conclusion

By implementing these strategies, dental practices can not only attract but also retain exceptional talent during the challenging times of the “Great Resignation.” Building a positive culture, hiring the right fit, investing in growth, and prioritizing customer service will not only help you navigate the current talent shortage but also position your practice for long-term success. Your leadership will be the key determinant in achieving a better and more satisfying outcome for your team and your patients alike.

Resources

Bonus

Seeking ways to enhance team communication while enjoying a winter retreat? It’s time to kick off your preparations for the CE In The Mountains all-team event, scheduled for February 23-24, 2024, in the picturesque Park City, UT.

This event will center around improving communication and boosting productivity through engaging activities in the stunning mountain setting.

Watch the short video below for more details.

Principles of Building Team Wellness and Patient Relationships

Relationships are the bridges that lead us to success, build trust, and loyalty. Practice high-quality communication first, followed by our technical excellence for patients to understand their needs. Communication consistency is the key.

Unclear communication impacts relationships among team members, referring doctors, and vendors that we interact with regularly. By building communication bridges we grow our practice.  If we customize our language, and how we speak to our patients and each other, we will encounter fewer misunderstandings, less stress, and improve productivity. Customizing our language is achieved by standardizing and practicing scripts and guidelines collaboratively developed by the team.

One Size Does Not Fit All

Many practices deliver information the same way to every patient. This can lead to confusion and/or resistance. I frequently challenge teams to customize their language to meet the patients’ expectations. 99% of the time they have never thought of changing their delivery style.

Clarify with each patient their communication preferences.

Consider adding questions to your health history template, such as:

  • “What is your preferred method of communication?  
  • “Would you like me to text, email, or call you?”

A more senior generational patient will want a phone call because they enjoy speaking to people and they may not have advanced knowledge of technology. Gen X is all about efficiency and generally prefer texting. Gen Y/Millennials and Gen Z demand texting. They do not look at their email or check their voicemail. If you’re sending appointment reminders via email, you’re probably not getting a good response from younger generations. Nor is it creating a positive experience for them. For more generational guidelines click here.

Putting It All Into Practice

Building relationships is step one in educating and training the entire team.

When referring to the entire team, that includes the dentist. Too often, dentists send their team to an educational event, and they don’t participate. “The entire team” is all-inclusive.

All-team collaboration and learning builds a stable foundation that leads to increased engagement, productivity, and team wellness.

Each team member is responsible for understanding all of the procedures that your practice provides. We should be comfortable explaining and supporting every treatment opportunity we offer to our patients. Each department typically learns its own processes and procedures but doesn’t have an overall view of the practice menu of services. By developing guidelines for speaking the same language to patients, in reference to procedures, we will maximize the treatment case acceptance.

At your Morning Stand-up or Huddle, before you start seeing patients for the day, recognize specific needs of the scheduled patients. For example, “ Mr. Rogers is coming in at 11 am. We will need room #3 for treatment because he uses a wheelchair. He usually requires one or two bathroom breaks and has some special needs which are highlighted in his chart” Meeting the patient where they are and speaking the right generational language will positively impact their dental journey experience. Remember, relationships are the bridges that lead us to success.

Communication Consistency Is Key

Everybody should answer questions the same way all day, every day. That goes back to having guidelines. We know most of the questions the patients are going to ask:

  • How much is it going to cost?
  • How much does my insurance cover?
  • What are my other options?
  • Do you have payment options?
  • Is this treatment really necessary?
  • Can I wait to start the treatment?

As a team, we can come up with many different communications that we use regularly. Add onto this list at an all-team meeting and fabricate team answers for each question to guide the conversation. These scripts allow us to provide consistent information to our patients.  They are less likely to misunderstand or ‘test’ the team. If they ask a hygienist the same question that they ask an administrative assistant and get different answers, you’ve lost the patient’s trust. They probably will not schedule their next appointment until they understand the treatment better.

My Concern for You

If we don’t establish a relationship with the patient, they will not move forward with accepting the treatment plan. They may not refer patients because they aren’t as comfortable as they’d like to be in your practice. They don’t market your practice. They don’t contribute to your business growth or production.

If the patient says “NO”, the team should investigate why they are hesitant to commit to our practice and procedure recommendations.

  • What went wrong?
  • What was the first impression this patient had of us?
  • Did the patient have a negative experience?

Ask intentional questions and practice active listening to move the patient from “NO” to “YES”.

Want more communication tips?

Watch the short video below.

What Do Eating Pancakes and Shoveling Snow Have in Common?

If you had done either of these activities with my father, you would know the answer is “Systems”.

Growing up in a small suburb of Scranton PA, with a Pennsylvanian Dutch dad, we learned about systems and processes to be more effective and efficient in all of life’s tasks.

That included eating pancakes and shoveling snow.

In my opinion, the proper way to eat pancakes is to stack them up and cut a hole, my preference is square, in the center through the stack. Remove the pancake pieces from the hole and set them alongside the stack. Here’s the fun part, fill the hole with overflow syrup so it oozes down the stack. Start eating by dipping the pieces into the well of syrup. As you cut into the stack, leave the ‘syrup well’ in tack and work your way around the stack. Finally, break the syrup dam and enjoy several bites of pancake sponge! The last bite is always the best!

Snow shoveling followed a similar step-by-step process, in an organizational pattern, to finish quickly so we could play in the huge snowbanks!

Dentistry without systems is chaotic.

A successful practice is a product of the quality of your systems and the team’s ability to implement them.

Structuring systems is not an easy task. But the investment you make upfront will show in your practice productivity.

Systems should be non-negotiable, yet fluid, to allow for continual monitoring and updates. 

Get started by investigating some of your systems:

  • Practice Software:
    • Scheduling, communication tools, confirmation variety – customized to the patients preference
  • Telecommunications: 
    • Calibrated, consistent conversations
  • Lab Case Tracing
  • Referral Tracking
  • Marketing Strategies
  • Ongoing Team Communication / Systems Training
    • Consistent daily, weekly, monthly, and annual department/team meetings
    • Measure what is working, or not, and adapt accordingly

Now is the time to get more productive by revving up your systems.

This blog is dedicated to my father, who passed away recently at age 96!  

Guess all those systems paid off for a long, productive, happy life! 

Thanks for teaching me in so many ways dad. (1925-2021)

Disruption Offers Opportunities: Try Productive Reflection

As we crest the halfway point of an unusual year, it is important for us to reflect back on the first 6 months in order to move forward more productively in the second half.

PRACTICING PRODUCTIVE REFLECTION

Make a list of positive, neutral, and areas for improvement that occurred in your practice / team in the first half of the year. 

  • Continue implementing what worked well
  • Make decisions about neutral items
  • Develop an action plan for areas that need attention

During your monthly team meeting, include this productive reflection activity on your agenda.

ASK YOUR TEAM FOUR QUESTIONS:

  • Overachieve:  What did we excel in?
  • Neutral: Did some of our goals remain neutral?
  • Needs Improvement:  Where did we miss our target?
  • What action do we need to take?

I have given you several category ideas, you can add or delete, to customize for your practice.

To get you started, I’ll use the example of ‘ALL TEAM TRAINING’.

If you have not had any team training this year, meaning everyone attends together, check the ‘needs improvement’ category. 

Create an action plan using the What / Who / When format.

  • WHAT: Research and hire a coach to work with your team on an area you would like to strengthen.
  • WHO: Assign a task team to research and present the options at your next monthly meeting.
  • WHEN: Schedule a target date to complete the training.

Time to Change the Tires

Winter weather is upon us in Park City, UT. 

One of the changes I make every year is putting snow tires on my car in November. This year, the snow came early and I was not prepared.

For dental practices, the end of the year gives us the opportunity to make necessary changes that will prepare us for Q4 success and beyond.

Having a plan to finish off the year strong will help practices continue to recover. Below are a few strategies to consider.

7 END-OF-YEAR STRATEGIES

  1. Intentionally remind your patient data base to complete inactive treatment to fully utilize their benefits.
    • Keep it lighthearted and use your technology:  text, email, video
  2. Run a report indicating patients that still have remaining benefits to use.
    • Hint:  Many software programs have this feature.
  3. Thank your patients for remaining loyal and wish them well through the holiday season.
    • No strings attached.  Just a simple thank you.
  4. Add additional staff, days, or hours to accommodate the end of year “rush.”
    • Accommodate students on holiday break
    • Help patients maximize insurance benefits
    • Schedule the patients that were postponing due to COVID-19
  5. Thank your referring offices and vendors for the support they continue to demonstrate to your practice.
    • All team appreciation CEU
    • Charitable donation
    • Gift Basket
    • Pay for one month of their uniform cleaning service
  6. Celebrate your practice achievements and recognize / reward the team members for an incredible year under unprecedented circumstances.
    • Plan a fun, all team event
    • Bonus vs annual raise
    • Individual employee choice
  7. Schedule your annual strategic planning meeting with your team.
    • Time to make changes, BEFORE they are needed (think snow tires)

7 Ways to Influence Employee Experiences

DENTAL PRACTICE CULTURE EXISTS WHETHER YOU CREATE IT OR NOT.

Intentionally creating a “Team-Centric” culture and employee experience is the most important action you can take to ensure practice success in these stressful times.

The impact of a strong culture will trickle down into a positive patient experience. Which in turn, creates patient loyalty and retention.

There is no silver bullet to creating culture. ALL team members should be involved!

THE WINNING COMBINATION INVOLVES:

  1. COMMUNICATION

Be open, honest, and empathetic

  1. LEADERSHIP

Create opportunities for team members to lead by focusing on their super powers

  1. ONBOARDING

Take the time to hire the right people who will invest in the practice

  1. OFFBOARDING

How you let someone go is remembered by the team

  1. MENTORSHIP

Structure a support system for all employees

  1. BENEFITS

Provide digital interface, easy-to-use, benefit package options for employees

  1. MISSION STATEMENT

Created, understood, and supported by all team members

As a dental practice leader, maintaining practice health is a delicate balancing act which requires the entire team to embrace: new guidelines, compassion, active listening, and empathy.

Copyright 2020 Lisa Copeland.  All rights reserved.

Longer Days Improve Well-Being

Spring forward and improve health

DENTAL DRILLS

After the many months of short, dark days, more daylight is on the horizon! Take a moment to intentionally decide how you are going to make the most of it.

Daylight savings was originally done in an effort to conserve energy and also allow outdoor workers to achieve more before darkness fell.

Dental office hours typically don’t fluctuate with daylight savings, however, we have more daylight after work to focus on balancing our lives and improve our well-being.  

ARE YOU GETTING TO THE ROOT OF YOUR PROBLEM?

The possibilities are endless in how we can focus on our health!

Build Serotonin: 

More sunlight leads to an increase in serotonin levels, a chemical in the brain that affects our mood. More sun = better mood! 

Absorb Vitamin D

Eat meals outside to take in the sunshine.  As dental professionals, we all know that Vitamin D is proven to strengthen bones and boost our immune systems. When heading outdoors,  don’t forget the sunscreen.

Reduce Anxiety

· A study done by Stanford University revealed that connecting with nature can reduce anxiety, promote positivity, and lower risk of depression. WOW!

Don’t keep all this great information to yourself. Share the message with your patients to enhance their Spring / Summer well-being.

WHERE IN THE WORLD IS LISA?

I recently attended the National Speakers Association Winter Conference in Houston.  The theme was ‘Sales      Playbook’.  To maximize our learning, we had pre-work and accountability projects afterwards.

What an amazing conference to recharge my: business, brand, and brain.  Connecting with cherished and new friends and colleagues is part of the experience.  The hallway conversations are were the magic happens.  Ideas become solidified and actionable tasks begin to materialize.

After 2 1/2 days of content, discussions, planning, and of course socializing, I came home with an exciting “to-do” list that will  increase my profit, performance, and productivity.

I feel so fortunate to be a part of an organization that supports my professional speaking business and feeds my heart and soul.

HOW ABOUT YOU?

Do you come home from a dental meeting or study club event invigorated and ready to reignite your team with creative ideas on how to increase your profit, performance, and productivity?

Our profession has so many opportunities to collaborate and grow. If you’d like to explore ideas, I would love to connect with you and your teams to help your practice or organization flourish.