Are You Asking Intentional Questions?

Asking intentional questions takes preparation and planning. The good news is we become more skilled at it as we practice.

An intentional question should be thought evoking and create a pause that generates curiosity. To ask an intentional question, we start by actively listening. Then, ask yourself, are you clear with the statement/question? Next, move to ask clarifying questions to enhance communications and relationships.

For example:

  • I am curious what you mean by…
  • Tell me more about that…
  • Help me understand what that looks like…

Clinical Application

Take time to observe and understand the patients’ behavioral styles.

“Katie mentioned you shared with her that you were a little nervous about today’s appointment. Tell me more about that so we can address your concerns and increase your comfort today.”

Delivering a patient’s ideal dental experience starts by addressing concerns and fears, and then discuss the best approach to providing the dental work needed. Acknowledging the patient’s fear and discussing the approach is psychologically comforting. By involving them in the solutions we build trust and provide a safe, comfortable environment.

Types of Questions

Distinct types of questions have their place in a conversation

Closed-ended question start with:  Will, Do /Does, Is, and Are

Open-ended question allow for conversation, increased knowledge, and information gathering. They begin with: What, How, and Why

Clinical Application

A clinical example of a closed-ended question looks like this.

  • Do you have any changes in your health or medications that we need to update?

Most people will say no so you can move on!

An open-ended question could be structured this way.

  • What medications, including OTC, vitamins, and supplements, you are currently taking?

When we use the right language, we get the information we need and more. This allows us to ask intentional questions, practice active listening, and guide the conversation to positively influence the patient’s dental journey in our practice.

Using Verbal Softeners

Clarifying questions should also include cooperative communication techniques. They are used both to prevent escalation and to defuse emotional situations.

Consider the way we say things to each other or your patients.

People don’t respond well to absolute, authoritarian, or harsh language.

Try using a sales training technique of inserting verbal softeners.

  • Phrases and words like “sometimes”, “it could be”, and “perhaps” state things in a less abrasive way.
  • Other softeners include “it’s possible,” and “occasionally.”

My favorite verbal softener is “perhaps.” 

  • “Perhaps we have had miscommunicated. Tell me more about your interpretation or expectations of the treatment plan we discussed last week.” 

Verbal softeners are valuable tools in helping you appear more cooperative and likable to prevent conflict.

Two actions you can clinically implement today are:

  1. Add an open-ended question to your health history requesting updated medications like above.
  2. Select a verbal softener and practice using it with patients during a conversation. It will become a habit very quickly.

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.

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.

Being Authentic Builds Your Dental Practice

Dental Professionals Are:

IF YOUR EMPLOYEES AREN’T THRIVING PERSONALLY AND PROFESSIONALLY, YOUR PRACTICE MAY BE STRUGGLING

According to Gallup Workplace, COVID-19 challenges are influencing your team dynamics. 

Employees are craving clear, honest, direct communication.  The reality is, many employees are disengaged and feeling anxious about their job or career.

Work is a stabilizer in good times, and more so in bad times. Focusing on the team’s wellbeing is essential for better team performance.

The Well Being Five are identified as:

Career         Enjoying your career and having motivation to reach goals

Social           Having supportive relationships

Financial     Stability to decrease stress

Community Feeling safe with a sense of pride

Physical       Health that allows you to complete daily tasks

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

FOCUSES ON PRACTICE WELLBEING BY FOLLOWING THE THREE C’S:

COLLABORATION

Decide as a team the direction the practice is going post COVID-19.

  • Schedule a semi-annual team meeting to evaluate, discuss, and plan the remainder of the year
  • Meetings should follow a specific, timed agenda with each team member participating
  • Utilize engaging strategies such as: polling, breakout rooms, surveys, interactive handouts, and Q&A,
  • Every team member has leadership skills, coach them to shine in their area of expertise

COMMUNICATION

Invest in your team and level up your listening and communication skills.

  • Has your team every worked with a communications coach? 
  • Do you have stand-up (huddles) meetings daily?
  • Are you engaging the team in weekly, monthly and annual meetings?
  • Have you updated your mission statement AND does everyone support it?

CONNECTION

Staying connected and confronting the business of dentistry with our teams is essential.

  • Daily touch points with each team member is a communication must in our new routines
  • The younger employee, the more check-ins needed
  • Provide continual updates on the status of the business
  • Practice empathy, openly, with all employees

BE INSPIRATIONAL

BE AUTHENTIC

ENABLE UNITY

STAY WITHIN THE REALITY OF THE SITUATION

PRACTICING H.O.P.E.

The world is in a very fragile state.

Every interaction should imply H.O.P.E.

Honesty

Open honest communication is always the best way to approach a fragile situation.

Options

Provide people with options: 

Patients: Would you like to reschedule your appointment for June or would you like us to call you when our office is reopened? Please keep in mind we have many patients to re-schedule. You may not get in as quickly as you would like.

Vendors:  Can we place a hold on our auto shipment until we are back in the office, or should we accept the next one and get our office supplies fully stocked.  How are other offices handling this?

People

Focus on people…not the processes. 

Everyone is feeling isolated and anxious. Take the time to actively listen to everyone you interact with.  It will benefit you in the long game.

Empathy

Empathy is a gift.

People are in different stages of dealing with this: 

Fear, Acceptance, Opportunistic

Try to recognize where that person is and realize that individuals handle stress differently.

If we can get to Acceptance, that is where we begin to move forward and become creative!

Keep in mind, some people may never be able to leave the fear / impulsive / protection stage.

Copyright 2020 Lisa Copeland. All Rights Reserved