Failure to Launch?

How often does something happen in your practice that frosts your socks and leaves you feeling angry and frustrated, and you carry it around with you the rest of the day, maybe even into the evening? When these incidents involve staff, what do you do about them? Most of what I see and hear from many of my clients is a pattern of RE-action + NO-action. Do you fall into that trap? For example, let’s say an employee does something that really makes you mad. Do you engage in huffing and puffing, complaining, griping, commiserating, dumping, railing against the unfairness, drawer slamming or worse?  Then what? Continue reading

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Tinker Dabble Doodle Try

Unlock the power of the unfocussed mind.  That is the subtitle of Dr. Srini Pillay’s book, Tinker, Dabble, Doodle, Try. And it is what attracted me right away to buy the book.  Have you ever experienced difficulty staying focused? Or have you ever been so focused on something that time passes and you suddenly realize that you have been focused on one thing for hours? I seem to experience both frequently; the latter often when I am at the computer.

Our culture is very pro-focus. We learn it in school (I can still hear my Grade 5 teacher rapping her ruler on the desk and saying “Focus, students, focus!!”). Our jobs demand it. Whether you are a dentist in the middle of a big case, or the CDA assisting, staying tuned in to the task at hand is mandatory and necessary. One of the parts of working at the front desk that I found so annoying and difficult is the constant pull away from focus by phones ringing. Even our leisure time is often centred on being focussed, keeping our ‘heads in the game’.

Dr. Pillay’s thesis is that we are too focussed! As a Harvard-trained psychiatrist and brain researcher, his credentials lend credibility to his hypothesis that our brains are not hard wired to stay focussed for long periods of time on one thing. He claims that when we switch off the focus and allow our thoughts to wander and imagine, we not only release our creativity and enable it to flourish;  we can return to focus refreshed and with greater ability to focus! Wow!  As I delve deeper into his book, the ideas that he advocates are resonating with me. By training myself to be able to switch easily from focus to unfocus and back again, I am nourishing both and will be better at both! I love that.

I will likely write again about Tinker, Dabble, Doodle, Try. For now……I am enjoying the journey.

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Are you too nice?

When communicating with your employees, when is it OK to be blunt and assertive, even though your words might hurt?

Usually, our communication takes this tack when we have either left a communication too long, or we have been too soft, too kind, too gentle in past communications. How can we avoid “fierce” conversations? By communicating early and clearly! Continue reading

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I Hate Being a Boss! Help!

“Being a boss is the part I hate most about my job as a dentist and practice owner!” I wish I had a dollar for every time, as a coach, I have heard that lament from my coachees! You would prefer to be chairside, right? You are most comfortable when you are being a dentist, with a patient in the chair, performing dentistry…am I right?

 Would it surprize you to know that many of the skills you use every day when you are with a patient, are the same skills you need to be a boss?

Oral Health Journal (February 2017), has printed a comprehensive 6 page article, written by Diva Priya Appulkuttan on scientific strategies to relax anxious patients. What jumped out of the article for me is on Page 18 – “Communication Skills, Rapport and Trust Building”. Listen to what the points the article makes in this sub-heading, then re-read it inserting “Employee” in place of “Patient”. I have highlighted here the most relevant parts of each point (paraphrased) and added a few  thoughts in brackets:

  • A good patient-dentist relationship is crucial for the management of anxiety.
  • Communication strategies are very important for the patient-dentist relationship.
  • There should always be two-way communication.
  • The dentist should personally converse with the patient, and listen carefully in a calm, composed and non-judgemental way.
  • Information should be acquired from the patient regarding concerns, taking time to inquire and listen.
  • Patients should be encouraged to ask questions (and contribute input).
  • Patients should be kept completely informed about what (needs to be) done.
  • Keep inquiring, give moral support and reassurance to convince patients that their words are taken seriously.  
  • Dentists should give all the necessary complete information, which builds good rapport and increases the patient’s confidence.
  • Patients appreciate clear, honest and straightforward (feedback).
  • Avoid negative phrasing.
  • Nonverbal communications are an essential skill.
  • Face the patient, make eye contact (let them know they are seen, heard and understood).
  • A friendly, sensitive and (empathetic) approach will be appreciated by patients.

Do you see where I am going with this? If you use only half the skills that you muster up to make patients feel at ease; seen, heard and understood, valued, appreciated and not a number, you will be half way there to increasing your “boss-ability”. Adopt the same tone, mindset and attitude that you use with patients. You’ve already got it mate….now use it!



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Dentist or Entrepreneur?

Some years ago, I read an article by Dr. Bruce Glazer in Oral Health magazine titled “Are Entrepreneurism and Dentistry Mutually Exclusive?” Dr. Glazer thought so and I was so incensed by his argument that I emailed him. A very lively and intelligent exchange of emails ensued….. Continue reading

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The Ice Castle

The Ice Castle

I attended a party a few weeks ago in the home of a co-member of a volunteer club to which I belong. I have known our host (I will call her Gina, not her real name) for many years and always found this person to be articulate, capable and dedicated. She is committed to our cause and is always willing to jump in and help. Does she overuse her strengths sometimes and tend to ‘rule the roost’? Yes, however I know her heart is in the right place. This was my first visit to her home.

I always love visiting other people’s homes, because how they live and what they surround themselves with in their homes says so much about who they are. Sometimes I am completely thrown off guard. This event was one of those times.

Gina’s home was lovely – in a magazine sense. It was a picture perfect home, decorated elegantly with statuary, artwork and furniture. It was decked out for Christmas like the front cover of House Beautiful with silver or white Christmas trees in every room, decorated with coordinating baubles. The mantle was draped in green and tinsel garlands, sculptured angels and silver candles. She had floodlights casting dancing ferry lights on the ceilings and baskets of greenery strategically placed by the door. Each room was softly lit with blue light coming from beneath the sofas and chairs. It was magical, elegant, near perfect and…….cold.

Why cold? Well, firstly, the tile floors were freezing. Mostly, there was something missing. Continue reading

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BOSS HACK! Acknowledge vs. Appreciate

BOSS HACK: Acknowledgement vs. Appreciation

Hey, both are good. But there is a difference! Appreciation is saying “Thanks for a good day” as one of your staff members heads for the door. Acknowledgement is saying, “You handled disgruntled Ms. Jones beautifully today. That wasn’t easy – you have a special way with people and great patience. Thank you!” Do you hear the difference? Appreciation stops at thank you, you did a good job. Acknowledgement taps into something special, specific, skillful and what it took to do it.  Did it take sacrifice? Did it take courage? Did it take patience? Did it take willpower, enthusiasm, etc. We all like to be appreciated, however when we are acknowledged, it literally lights up our brains, leaves us feeling open, bonded, trusting and engaged. As a boss, isn’t that who you want on your bus?

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If It’s Not Working, Change It!

I had one those really uplifting coaching conversations yesterday with a client who has been practising for over 25 years. I spend a great deal of time with dentists in their first ten years of practice and so I often find that the life lessons and stories that more experienced dentists have to share is both inspiring and energizing.

Many of the challenges stay the same….it’s the perspective that changes! Yesterday’s conversation was about the transition from expecting perfection from staff for so many years, to a more relaxed, less stressful approach. He understands today that his frustration when staff did not meet his expectations was a self perpetuating, downward spiral, particularly since he admitted that his expectations were not only NOT communicated, but that they changed from day to day! It would have been impossible for anyone to meet them!

His approach now is very different and I think there is a lesson for us all in this. He now listens more to his staff and their concerns, appreciates them more, acknowledges them, and views them not as necessary evils, but rather as human beings who care about his practice and patients and the profession. He claims that it’s just age that has mellowed his outlook. I believe that he made a conscious life choice to change direction because he became aware that his approach was not working for him, for his practice, for his staff, and for his own stress level.

This is a wake up call for us all. Don’t wait for 30 years to change what is not working. Whether it’s on your own or with a coach, give yourself permission to be introspective, step outside yourself and ask poignant questions, such as “Is this working?”, “What is this costing me?”, “How can I change this?”.

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What are you telling your patients?

I have recently had a couple of bad customer service experiences – both of which wasted my time because the businesses I was dealing with didn’t understand the value of communication. I am always looking for (and finding) parallels that affect the dental industry  and can be useful for making life in a dental practice flow more smoothly, elicit less stress or just be more efficient. This was most definitely a lesson every dental practice can use… Continue reading

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Office Manager “Right Stuff”

Does your Office Manager have the right stuff? Were they hired for their managerial qualities or something else (tenure, loyalty, a CDA who can’t do clinical work any more? ). What are the qualities an excellent OM should have?

Professionalism – they represent your practice. How do they dress? What is their demeanor in and out of the practice? Are they reactive or flippant? Do they speak respectfully, maintain a calm demeanor and carry themselves with a certain gravitas?
Leadership – are they someone you and the rest of your staff can trust, look to for answers, and are they able to engage, motivate and inspire others?
Communication – I hesitated not putting this one first. Are they able to resolve conflict, explain expectations, not take things personally, deal with issues rather than personalities. Do they lay blame, are they sarcastic, do they make assumptions? Are they able to communicate without tears and in a professional manner. Can they explain what they need and make requests, are they able to say what needs to be said? Communication style, technique and ability can be morale makers or munchers!
Organization – exemplary organizational skills, attention to detail and the ability to be an ‘air traffic controller’ are essential.

The ‘right stuff’ Office Manager should manifest all four of these skills. If they don’t, you can fix it by either replacing your manager with someone who does have these skills, or provide your OM with training and/or coaching to help them develop these skills. Managers are not born, they are grown. If you want to keep the manager you have, make sure they have the resources they need to do the job right.

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