Do you have an Office Manager in your practice? Are you sure? During a recent presentation I was giving for a group of dentists, I facilitated a case scenario where an employee came in late for the third time in a month. The purpose of the exercise was to learn how to apply my 4-step “Manage Moments, Not People” method of communicating as a boss. One attentive and experienced dentist put up his hand and asked, “Isn’t this something my Office Manager should be dealing with?”
Is that a question that might have been going through your mind? My response is, “That depends.” Do you actually have an Office Manager? Or do you have someone with only a title, a chocolate soldier? Here’s how to tell. If you answer no to any ONE of these questions you do not have an Office Manager.
- Was your OM hired for his/her leadership, communication and managerial skills with a proven track record, or are they one of your front desk receptionists who graduated up to that title?
- Does your OM have a specific job and job description or is she working as a receptionist but with added duties and responsibilities?
- Is your OM deemed to be the Direct Report for all your staff?
- Does your OM do the hiring and firing for the practice?
- When employees want a raise, do they go to the OM or to you?
- Does your OM make decisions for the practice?
Depending on how you answered those questions, what you may have is an Administrative Manager. You likely have a receptionist who has taken on the added responsibility of scheduling, recording payroll hours, perhaps purchasing, organizing vacation schedules, overseeing maintenance and other administrative necessary tasks. She may be the go-to person when other staff have problems, which she then relays to you an as-needed basis for a decision.
This is not an Office Manager. The dental industry is ripe with administrative personnel who are given the title of Manager without any consideration for the following three criteria:
1.What the job includes. Be clear about your expectations of what your OM’s job will include. Don’t just offload any and all responsibilities that seem like a good idea at the time to pass off to her. Create a job description. DO you want your OM to be a real manager and be the direct report for your other employees? DO you expect her to manage conflict and disciplinary issues? Is she expected to make decisions for the practice?
2.Leadership & communication skills. A good Office Manager has a leadership style that is empowering and steady. Consideration must be given to demonstrated, proven leadership and communication abilities and experience. How do the other staff members respond to her? Is she adept at managing conflict? Can she mediate? Does she communicate expectations and direction to the other employees? Do they respect her? It’s not good enough to bestow the title of OM on someone because they know your practice and patients, and are good organizers!
3. Teeth. Time and time again, I see dental Office Managers who are given that title, without any authority to carry out their job. True delegation is to assign a task along with the authority to make the necessary decisions in order to achieve the desired result. Communicate your expectations clearly including a system for reporting back to you, and remain accountable for the outcome. Most Office Managers don’t really know what is expected of them, and they certainly aren’t given any authority to make any decisions. When it comes to managing staff, at best they become the dumping ground for the difficult scenarios and have to come to you to make a final decision, and at worst employees just do an end-run, come straight to you and bypass OM completely. It would be like giving a dentist the title of Doctor with a license to only make diagnoses but no treatment.
The case scenario I presented to that room full of dentists, where an employee shows up late for the third time, is a great example of how the three points above affect how this scenario should be handled.
If the questioning dentist truly has an Office Manager with a specific job description that includes managing staff, with the skills and authority to implement solutions and/or disciplinary measures, then yes, dear Doctor, your OM should be handling this one.
On the other hand, if you have an Administrative Manager who is a good organizer and may be a go-getter, but you haven’t thought about whether or not she has strong leadership skills, conflict resolution ability, demonstrates exemplary communication skills and has been given the authority to manage this situation to its end, how can you justify passing off this situation to her?
A true Office Manager has the skill, ability and enough authority so that you can properly delegate the tasks that you don’t have the time or the desire to manage. A chocolate soldier will only give you cavities.