I have a friend who is relocating and looking for a position as a practice manager. Anyone in the Asheville/Hendersonville, NC area who would be interested in a practice manager with an assisting background can contact me at email@example.com
I have a friend who is relocating and looking for a position as a practice manager. Anyone in the Asheville/Hendersonville, NC area who would be interested in a practice manager with an assisting background can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work, and the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle.” ~Steve Jobs
Are you doing what you love? Do you get up in the morning excited about what the day holds? When you think about it, most of your weekday revolves around work. If you don't love your work, you wake up in the morning with a mild feeling of dread. You spend about an hour getting ready to go to work. Maybe you get to spend a few minutes talking to your spouse about who needs to do what that day, and maybe you spent a few more minutes saying "Hi" and "Bye" to your kids.In those minutes, they don't get you at your best because your mind is already filled with that building dread. Then you spend the next minutes driving to work wishing things were different, but not seeing how they could be. Your staff mumbles a greeting that matches yours when you arrive. Your morning huddle is merely a lukewarm formality. For the next 8 or 9 hours you do your job. Finally,you get in the car and drive home. You may spend that time fuming over the aggravations of the day, feeling exhausted, working yourself into a grim mood and now dreading having to deal with the kids and listening to your spouses demands and complaints. It feels endless and tomorrow you'll get up and do it all over again. Are you still with me? I hope so, because here comes the good part.
Now, if you love your job, you get up in the morning with a feeling of anticipation. Yes, you still spend the next hour getting ready for work, but you feel energized and upbeat. You still share the demands of the day with your spouse, but you revel in the feeling of being a team and getting it all done. The kids come down and you all talk about the day that lies ahead of you and promise to share the details of how the day unfolded when you get back together for dinner. You get in the car and start thinking about the patients you'll see that day, and get a few ideas for ways to improve patient service, or team unity. Your happy staff greets you when you arrive and your morning huddle is a positive and productive start to the day. The day seems to fly by. As you work, you hear staff and patients laughing. You are gratified to listen as team members share their knowledge with your patients and give them tips on improving their oral health. You realize, you are one of the lucky people who get to do what they love. At the end of the day you drive home feeling happy and fulfilled. When you get there, your kids rush out to give you hug, while your smiling spouse patiently waits for you to walk up to greet them with a smile and a kiss. Your life feels right and good. You do what you love, and you get to do it again tomorrow.
You may say, "Well obviously the person in the first example doesn't love what they do." It might not have always been true. That person may have started out loving what they did, but circumstances may have lead them away from doing what they loved in the way they loved to do it. A dentist may have found themselves with an uninspired staff, stuck in a multitude of low-yeilding PPO's, and facing unappreciative patients who regularly remind him that they are paying for his kid's college education.
Maybe a dental assistant loved what she did when she started, but found that many people saw her as "just a spit sucker who sat and watched the dentist work", and saw that there was a ceiling on what she would earn and how far she could go. She forgot that she knows she is so much more. She is a patient educator, a treatment plan presenter, an infection control expert, a comforter, a collaborator, a co-worker with the dentist, not just a helper.
A dental hygienist may be thought of as someone who picks the same crud out of people's teeth every six months or so. There is so much more to it than that. She may be the person who first alerts the dentist to the suspicious area that turns out to be oral cancer. Since she checks the patient every six months, she probably caught it early enough to make a life or death difference. She shares information with the dentist and staff that allows everyone to do their job better. She develops a relationship with her patients that helps cement their loyalty to the practice.
It's so easy to forget that we are doing what we love, but we have to guard against falling into cynicism and negativity. As the above examples demonstrate, attitude can lead to dissatisfaction and apathy. The mundane can invade and diminish the thrill of knowing you have found what you were made to do. It's on you. First, be sure that this is what you love to do. Next, get real with your staff. Find out if they are doing what they love. Then let them know it if you are having a hard time loving it these days and ask them how they feel about what you are doing together. Ask them to commit with you to making it something you all love again. If someone won't get on board, find someone else who will. Don't settle.
A reader of this blog passed along a neat chart that is posted on her site The Best Medical Degrees. You can find it here:
I plan to frame it and display it in our hygiene ops, and possibly have it available to give to patients. I'm sure it will be an eye-opener for many of them. Take a look.
Happy Morther's Day! When I think back over the years I realize that my mother's words and advice still come to mind whenever I am trying to figure out how to do anything the right way. When I say the "right way" I don't mean technically correctly, I mean with integrity. Here are a few examples:
That doesn't mean you don't stop doing something that isn't right for you, or is downright bad for you. It means, you don't just get up, take all your marbles and go home. It means you try to see a thing through to the best of your ability and will. You persevere. But, having said that, you know when to say, "Enough", and you end it with dignity. You don't storm off in a snit, or just stop showing up. You sit down, discuss it, don't burn any bridges, and leave or stop amicably if at all possible.
Have confidence in who you are. Be steady and reliable. Have faith in your abilities. Don't change for every person or situation that comes along. If you are always yourself you will find the people, work and life that is right for you and you will thrive.
"Tell the truth"
Always be honest. Be accountable for what you do. If you do something wrong, admit it and get busy fixing it. Telling the truth is freeing. You don't have to remember the stories you told and you don't have to worry about your lies crashing down on you. When you are transparent in your dealings with others, you gain their trust and respect.
Don't put all your eggs in one basket"
Today we'd call that having balance in your life. Don't through all your energy into one thing at all times. Be truly present in what you are doing at any given time. When you are at work, be fully engaged. When you are home with your family, give them your full attention. Have leisure activities that excite you and fulfill your need for fun and adventure. Your cornerstones should be faith or spirituality, family and friends, leisure, and work.
Try new things. Keep expanding your goals and increasing your potential. Don't be afraid to mess up because that usually gets you closer to success. Sometimes we become so good at something, it becomes comfortable to jsut stay right there. The temptation may be to just coast, but at some point that would become boring. Take a break now and then to enjoy where you are, but keep moving to the next challenge.
"Have nice friends"
Make sure to surround yourself with good people. There are people who are so intrinsically good, that you can't help but see it. I talked about my friend Julie in a previous post. She is just an awesome person who is genuinely good and treats everyone with love and compassion. She also is a savvy professional who sees things for what they are and doesn't go along with people with bad intentions or tolerate phoniness. She just deals with it in such a cool way. She's the nice friend everybody's Mom wants them to have, and the one everyone feels blessed to have. People like that keep you on the right track and tell you what you need to hear to stay there. They are few and far between, but you'll know them when you meet them. Hang on to them.
"Treat others the way you want them to treat you"
Whether it's your patients, your staff, your friends, or your family, if you treat them the way you'd want them to treat you, your life will be better. It's not always easy and you may have to really override some strong feelings and impulses, but use self-control and do the right thing.
If we could all bring these Mom-isms to work with us and put them into action every day, life would be better. Is there anything on that list that seems too hard to do? Then what stops us? Maybe choosing just one and working on it till it became our go to response every time is the way to get there. Then, choose another one. Think about it, our Mom's wanted us to get along in the world, to have friends, to have good jobs, to have love, to succeed. It seems like they gave us the game plan, we just have to put it into action. Seems easy, doesn't it?
"When you assume, you make an ass of u and me." ~Oscar Wilde
As managers, we try to avoid becoming the dreaded "micro-manager". I often suspect that particular phrase was coined by people who wanted to be able to slack off without anyone looking over their shoulder and calling them on it.
As a manager, I have a lot to do and really don't enjoy checking up on employees. Once I've taught someone how to do something I want to be able to trust that everyone wants to do their job well and is willing to give at least 85%. I'd like to believe that, but statistics tell me that might be naive.
A recent Gallup Survey reports that of 100 million Americans currently employed, 70 million hate their jobs. That leaves only 30% actively engaged in work they enjoy. The rest are either disengaged and just putting in their 8 hours with no passion or involvement, or actively disengaged and acting out and possibly doing and saying things to undermine their engaged co-workers. In other words, more than half of employees may be bored or unhappy and some of them are trying to drag your great employees down to their level of engagement. Ed Brenegar, a leadership consultant who writes the Leading Questions blog, once told me that you should always set the bar high for your employees because people tend to come down to the lowest common denominator to get along.
Disengaged employees don't pay attention to detail and they don't strive for excellence. They do most things good enough to get by, and sometimes, not even at all. When you think of everything in your practice you leave up to your staff, the statistics can be frightening. What if you just assume someone is working your continuing care list, your unscheduled list, and keeping up your ASAP list? When a hole pops up in your schedule is your front desk able to fill it quickly, or does she shrug and say she called everyone of the ASAP and no one can come? Do you spend the next hour desperately looking through the schedule and calling out patients for her to call, or is she on it without prompting and hand holding? If you had to hand-feed her the patients to call and by some miracle you get the opening filled, do you let her know she'll be held accountable next time, or do you just breathe a sigh of relief that the hole is filled, but kind of feel a little put upon because you had to do her job for her? Again. On the other hand, if you had the employee that had her list ready and got on it and got the job done, did you let her know you noticed that, or did you just take her efforts for granted? Yeah, it's her job, but a little thumbs up takes very little effort, costs nothing, and goes a long way in making her feel engaged.
Bored and unhappy employees don't spend time trying to think of ways to make your practice more successful, or your patients more satisfied. When they seem to be deep in thought, they aren't thinking up ways to grow the practice, they're trying to think about what they're going to need to pick up at the store to make dinner. They're giving you 8 hours of their time, but they just aren't that into it. Find ways to get your employees more engaged. Value their opinions, appreciate their efforts, and acknowledge their commitment. Don't make the mistake many bosses and managers make of cajoling poor performers and over-working good employees while taking their efforts for granted. Give regular praise, find ways to grow them in their position, and ask them what they think can be done better and what they suggest to make it happen. When an employee sees their suggestion put into action with success, they become a part of the success of the practice and it's not just yours anymore. So, don't assume everything's ok, get engaged with your staff and they'll work with you.
"If your self-belief is not strong enough to evoke and emote your passion, then others will not catch it, nor be convinced or persuaded, that your idea, or your product, or your way, is best for them." ~ Jeffrey Gitomer
You have to start with yourself. You have to stand for something that you can believe in. Something that you have no doubt that you will be able to provide and stand behind, no matter what.
If you're a new dentist, just graduating, look ahead, what do you want your patients to say about you in 30 years? Do you want them to remember that you could send them home with a crown in one appointment, or do you want to make an impact on them because of who you were, what you stood for and how you treated them? In the end, it all comes down to how you made them feel when they were in your presence, either speaking to you, or being treated by you. That impression extends to your staff, as well.
If you've been practicing for a while, look back, are you proud of the impact you've been making? Have you been doing the very best you can for your patients? What do you think they tell others about their experience in your office? That's your reputation. It was created by you and your staff.
So, here's your jumping-off point, your self-belief. Your passion. Do you have any? Did you lose it somewhere along the line? Can you get it back? Do you even want to?
Ask yourself this: What do I believe about myself as a dentist? Do I believe that the way I am practicing will improve my patients lives? Have I shared that with my staff? Do I have a staff that will believe in me and help me build my practice around my self-belief? Do I select staff that I can depend on? Do I train and treat my staff well so that they can believe in me and themselves?
Next, ask yourself: What do I believe about my staff? Are they people that have my back, that want to provide what I want to give my patients? Am I just sticking with any of them because I think the devil I know is better than the devil I don't know?
Sit with these questions a while and be honest with yourself. Your answers will tell you if you are on the right course for a satisfying career, or if you need to make some changes. If you have questions or comments, let me hear from you.
Next, we'll talk about attitude.
“You are good. But it is not enough just to be good. You must be good for something. You must contribute good to the world. The world must be a better place for your presence. And the good that is in you must be spread to others....”
― Gordon B. Hinckley
If you're in a position of leadership, you must be good at something, right? At some point, in some way, you stood out from everyone else, and someone in charge thought,
"Huh, she's so good, I think I'll make her my office manager."
If you think back to the day the offer of this position was first presented to you, I'll bet you'll remember a mix of thoughts and emotions. You were probably flattered, possibly a little scared, and most likely somewhat proud of yourself. You were sure you could make an impact that would be positive for the practice and the staff. It's nice to be recognized for your hard work and a job well done. You couldn't wait to get started.
Then, reality might have hit you right between the eyes. In my case, a co-worker that I considered a friend, really struggled to come to terms with having me in a position of authority "over her." I didn't see it that way, but she did and she was determined to take me down. I was shocked and hurt at first, but as time went on and her behavior worsened I became frustrated and annoyed. When it got to the breaking point, the point at which I thought I'd have to let her go, thankfully some goodness somewhere inside me came through. I started to wonder what in the world was wrong with her and making her act this way. We set up a meeting and I realized she had gotten caught in a spiral. She had gotten trapped in her initial bad reaction and couldn't find a way out. I was able to open a window to goodness for her at that meeting and we were once again friends. I think part of the reason I lasted so long through her bad behavior was I recognized she was a good person behaving badly. It was my responsibility to find out why.
As a manager, finding that kind of goodness inside yourself, is essential to the success of everyone you lead, as well as your own. You see, you can't just sit there and bask in the fact that you are good at something, you have to help others become good, or better at what they do if you want to really matter.
Sometimes it's hard to pull any more goodness out of yourself. Most people don't realize how much stress managers face during the day. What everyone else sees you doing, is usually a fraction of your actual scope of responsibility. The better you are at what you do, the easier it looks. It's easy to feel resentful, or to think that nobody gets it. When you start feeling that way remember; that's not goodness talking, it's frustration, exhaustion and sometimes envy. It's easy to envy the fact that no one else seems to worry about production, collections, cancellations, fees, and the cost of doing dentistry as much as you do. Call on goodness and you will begin to think with your rational mind, rather than your emotional mind.
If you focus more on spreading goodness to your patients, staff, suppliers and yes, to the dentist, you will have the impact you knew you could have the day your boss came to you and said,
"I'd like you to manage my office."
Have you ever asked yourself that question, "What makes me so special? What makes my practice unique? What is it about my staff and the service we provide to our patients that makes them loyal, raving fans?"
If you haven't asked yourself those questions, you may just have let yourself fall into a rut. I once knew someone who liked to say, "Be happy for the ruts in life, because everything else is either an extreme of good or bad, and the bad just isn't any fun." I happen to think that the ruts in life give us balance to get ready to deal with the bad, and to enjoy the good. Let's face it, without the ruts, we'd never know how good life can be, and never get a chance to grow or change in response to the bad. Nothing is wasted, unless you choose to let it be.
Dentistry has become competitive. While it's still a healthcare profession in many ways, there are many indications that healthcare is also becoming an industry. Corporate dentistry is creeping into almost every area and don't kid yourself, sooner or later it will change the way you run your practice, whether you want it to or not. Dentists are advertising their practices on billboards which was unheard of, and considered unethical when I began working in 1977. Back then anything more than a small shingle with the dentists name and a yellow page listing were frowned upon. So if you're not comfortable with an image of yourself 5 times the size of the real you hanging over the highway, but you want to be successful and let people know you exist, what can you do?
Start by asking yourself, "What makes me special?" What makes you a special person in general? Are you kind, empathetic, funny, wise, etc.? What makes you a good dentist? Do you give a painless injection (most of the time anyway), do you pay attention to detail, are you a perfectionist? What makes you a special boss? Are you patient, fun to work with, a good teacher, fair? Now that you have your answers, are you applying these qualities daily? Are your patients and staff noticing these things about you and commenting on them? Are there other ways that you can implement these strengths? Sometimes we become complacent and forget to really put ourselves out there. We can let our days become so routine that we forget our passion for what we do.
It's the same with staff. What makes them special? Why are they in your practice at all? When is the last time they set out to make your patients say "Wow! That was amazing!" Again, it's easy to slip into the rut of "good enough". If no one challenges them when they provide mediocre service and no one compliments them when they give outstanding care, then the rut becomes comfortable enough for everyday. How do you get out of the rut?
Getting out of a rut takes a certain amount of effort, and deep ruts that have really been worn in can be tough to get out of, but you can. Start on your own by giving yourself really honest answers to the questions I suggested. Write them down and then write down the ways in which you can start applying them. Next, get your staff involved. Have each one type out three things that make them special and then have them fold up their paper. Next, put the papers in a pile and have everyone pick one and try to figure out who wrote the one they picked. That's just for fun, but it also creates goodwill when others see how good their co-workers feel about them. Finally, ask them what they will do before the next staff meeting to apply their strengths. Tell them what you will do as a dentist and as a boss. Ask everyone to try to keep track of how they see their co-workers doing this. Also write down any comments patients make. Keep the discussion going at morning huddles and regular staff meetings so that everyone can track their progress and enjoy sharing the patient's responses. You will all start enjoying your days out of the rut a lot more and the practice will benefit.
I just finished reading George Saunders Advice to Graduates for his commencement speech at Syracuse University. It was enlightening in it's simplicity. He said that one thing the older generation will always be willing to share is their regrets. His regret was the times he failed to show kindness. He remembered a young girl who was new to his town and school. She sounded like a dorky, brainy girl who was mildly teased and basically ignored. He regretted still, 40 years later, not defending her more or befriending her. It bugs him to this day, although he never picked on her and did occasionally mildly defend her.
I can relate to his sentiment that as we go through some hardships and have others to worry about, we tend to become kinder as we grow older. Just the other day I realized I was becoming much more accepting of others who are different than me, or who choose to dance to their own beat. Just today in the grocery store a young man with huge ear gauges (the round things that stretch a big hole in your ear) waited on me. My conscious mind registered the gauges, but it didn't go on it's former mind rant about what is wrong with him, why would anyone want to do that...etc. He was just a nice kid who wants to stretch big holes in his ears. He did his job and cut my lunch meat and was pleasant. His ears are his business and don't affect me at all. Being less judgemental feels kinder. Being more accepting feels better. It was born of my own pain, but it makes it all worth it because it made me a better person than I used to be.
So, let's get to failures of kindness at work and how we can be more aware of the opportunities we have to be kind. I work with a hygienist named Julie. I sometimes tease her that she seems to attract oddballs. Not only does she attract them, she enjoys them. Immensly. One day recently I was listening to her interacting with a patient that I sometimes find irritating. They were having a wonderful time together and Julie was sincerely enjoying him. Then I realized her kindness allowed her to experience his humanity. I saw her saying goodby to him and caught sight of the expression on his face. It was joy. When I looked at Julie I saw that she looked at this patient with love and acceptance. By sincerely enjoying him as the person he is, Julie gave him more than a prophy, she gave him joy and peace in himself, even if only for that hour. He might have gone out into the world and faced less accepting people, but he had that hour of joy to carry him through the rest of the day. Maybe he'll carry it with him through the rest of his life. We don't know how we impact others and we don't know how long the effect of how we treat our patients will last; good or bad.
So let's follow George Saunders advice and Julie's example. Let's let people be who they are and love them anyway. Let's be kinder. We never know how good it feels to be kind until we try it. Make it a habit. Bring this idea up at morning huddle or staff meeting and ask your co-workers to find ways to be kind and jot them down to share at meetings. Catch them being kind, like I did with Julie and tell them you admire them. Reinforce kindness. I'll leave you with this poem from Mother Theresa:
“People are often unreasonable and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.
If you are honest, people may cheat you. Be honest anyway.
If you find happiness, people may be jealous. Be happy anyway.
The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway.
Give the world the best you have and it may never be enough. Give your best anyway.
For you see, in the end, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.”
― Mother Teresa
I am very happy right now. We have a new store called Loft that just opened in Biltmore Park in Asheville. I love the clothes in that store, they are stylish, as well as comfortable and affordable, so what more could I want? Well, being me (and by now you know me) I want it all. When I walk into any place in which I will spend my money, or my time I want the best service and a great atmosphere (culture).
I get just that every time I enter Loft. I've been there 3 times in the week or so they've been open. (Hey, I lost some weight so I needed new clothes. Yes I feel a little guilty going there 3 times in one week, but that's my issue). Yesterday, I walked in and was greeted by Kris. He has just the right mix of willingness to help, without walking an inch behind you, loudly asking what size you need. When you tell him you're just looking he lets you know he's there if you need him, and then he leaves you to it. Thank you, Kris! He was responsive when a size needed to be found or a color matched, but he respected my desire to shop in peace. I noticed that he spent time straightening the clothes and was near enough to be able to respond quickly, but not so close to be considered a stalker. I found what I wanted easily and went to the register to pay. There I was greeted by Lindsay who was pleasant and warm as she invited me to return in June for their grand opening celebration. She was obviously proud to work for Loft and did her best to make it feel like family. When she had a hard time with my crazy last name, she referred to me as Miss Linda. I love that about the South, they'll find a way to show respect rather than just assume it's ok to call you by your given name.
By now you may be asking yourself,
"Ok, nice, you had a good time shopping, but WHAT DOES THIS HAVE TO DO WITH DENTISTRY?"
EVERYTHING. The store is brand new and pretty and clean. You might have a beautiful, state of the art office, but that doesn't guarantee satisfaction or success. You may provide excellent dentistry, but that doesn't guarantee anything either. Both are foundations that must be there to set the stage for success, but they are just the beginning.
To have true success in a store like Loft or a dental practice, or any business for that matter, you must have the right people creating a fantastic culture. They have to "get it". When a patient walks into your office, someone must be waiting to greet them and make them feel welcome, like Kris did when I entered Loft. It was almost as if he'd been expecting me. We have an advantage, we are expecting our patients and we know their names. Many times I've walked into a healthcare office and walked up to the front desk only to be waved toward the waiting room by the receptionist and have her index finger thumped on a piece of paper on a clipboard to indicate I should sign in while she finished her conversation with her husband about what he wants for dinner tonight ("and why should I have to do all the cooking since you're the one who gets home first, and I am going to teach our son to cook so he'll be a good husband and no, I'm not saying you're not a good husband but I do wish I'd married someone who cooked...yada, yada, yada.") Patients deserve to be greeted warmly and personally. Do you think that's happening in your office? Are you sure? It is your responsibility to make sure, don't just assume.
The culture is a feeling, a vibe; it moves like a living thing through every nook and cranny and it's there whether it's good or bad, and everyone feels it. The front desk is the first drumbeat the patient hears and feels so let her know how important that part of her job is. Every single member of the staff, including the dentist must pick up the beat. Every step the patient makes further into the office must feel as good as the first one. The staff and dentist must convey a sense of pride about what they do, how they do it and how it turns out. They should brag about each other to the patient. "Dr. Morgan is just great to work for, do you know he sent us all to the spa for the day last week?" "You'll love Julie! All our patients say their teeth have never felt so clean after she works on them!" "Annette is such a great person to work with, she's always fun and easy-going." "We are so happy that Brooke joined our staff. She is always so willing to help everyone!" When patients see that everyone likes each other it helps them relax because there is less tension in the office. Continue to keep the beat going when the treatment is complete by walking the patient to the front desk and telling them how much you enjoyed seeing them. If they had more extensive treatment, call them at the end of the day to see how they are doing. Do everything you can to keep the beat in their head long after treatment ends. That's what drives them to let others know just how great you are, just like Kris and Lindsay inspired me to write this blog. People want to share experiences that impress them and make them feel good.
And the beat goes on.
"When a great team loses through complacency, it will constantly search for new and more intricate explanations to explain away defeat." ~Pat Riley
First let's talk about losing through complacency. Sometimes you can have a team that works hard to reach their goals and at some point they make it. Everyone feels pretty good about how far they've come, but no one remembers to set new goals. You may think, "Well, everybody needs a break. We have to relax and enjoy the reward of all our hard work." That's fine, as long as complacency doesn't set in. Good enough feels good enough for most people, but after a while it's not enough anymore and no one notices. When you finally realize that it's time to keep moving forward you may have a hard time motivating anyone.
Very few people work harder, or think innovatively, just for the satisfaction of it. Most need a nudge, a carrot dangled, or the worry of personal loss. Over the years I've noticed that there is no way to attach an expectation of performance to any age range, geographic origin, or level of experience. I've seen people who've been in the profession for decades who are still on fire with ideas and enthusiasm, while the friend they started out with is just riding that final wave into the beach. I've seen brand new employees come in every day ready to learn and improve while other newbies could care less, they just want that paycheck. As far as Yankee work ethic beating out some slow, laid-back Southern drawler, that ain't happening either. Lazy is lazy, no matter where it comes from, the accent may be different, but it is what it is.
Motivation generally starts from inside a person. It can be reinforced by good raising, rewards and praise, but it has to be part of a person's character. That's why it's important to try to find out how people think about work before you ever hire them, but anyone who has done any hiring knows, the person who shows up for work can be very different from the one you interviewed. Read my last few posts and you'll know what to do when that happens.
Complacency makes people lazy, there's no other way to think about it. Complacency is allowed by a complacent manager or owner. Once it sets in, it's hard to reverse, because someone has to wake up and realize there's a problem to begin with. It makes people work harder at making up excuses when things go wrong, than they do at fixing, or preventing them. It's insidious and once it infects your practice it can ooze very silently and extensively through your office. You are the solution. Have a staff meeting to address it and don't let the excuses begin, or you'll be right back where you started. Be open and honest about your own responsibility for it and let everyone know that there will be new goals and ask them to find new energy to get moving again. Next time remember; you have to keep setting your goals and expectations out a little farther as you come close to reach the ones you previously set.
The intellect of the wise is like glass; it admits the light of heaven and reflects it. ~Augustus Haire~
We've talked about employees whose mental capacity, or lack thereof, just don't work in a dental practice. I've saved the best for last. Let's talk about the person whose intellect makes the workplace a heaven on earth because of the peace and light she brings with her (or him).
A wise employee knows the following equation: information shared is information squared. When you share what you know, help someone else look good, or help out without worrying what's in it for you, everyone increases.
This is the employee who does whatever she does for the right reasons, to help make things better. Her goal is for the success of the practice and the welfare of the patient and her co-workers. She goes about her business without the need for applause or fanfare. Funny enough, that is what the employee who is too smart for her own good is looking for, and will rarely find, yet this unassuming person will win the respect and goodwill of others without ever pursuing it.
This employee makes everyone feel good when they are around her and draws others to herself. She deflects praise and directs it to others. My friend Julie works in another practice in town and she is a shining example of this. She exudes love and goodwill. She means it and you can feel it. She inspires confidence in herself and the practice she works in. The light of heaven truly is exhibited in her demeanor, her words, her actions and her countenance. If she left her job she'd have multiple offers as soon as the news that she was available got out. Everyone wants this kind of employee, but they are rare and rarely available.
This type of employee has an intelligence that can not be taught. It is character and integrity that make them special. Decency and self-knowledge give them confidence, and that confidence guides them to intelligent actions and decisions. It makes them treat others so well that they build them up too, inspiring them to their own confidence and improved performance. It's a wonderful ripple effect.
This is the kind of person you want to surround yourself with. This why you don't tolerate negativity and insolence. You make your practice able to support this type of goodness by eliminating the things that will discourage or repel it. As a manager, that's your goal and that's your job.
An intelligent person is never afraid or ashamed to find errors in his understanding of things. ~Bryant H. McGill~
So, last time we talked about stupidity and you wouldn't believe how many times I just typed stupidity until I got it right! It is right, isn't it? Now, I guess we realize we're all a little stupid sometimes. There's stupid for love, stupid drunk, stupid for stupid's sake and just downright stupid. There's nice, but stupid, sweetly stupid, and too stupid to know they're stupid. Hopefully, I've helped you establish a game plan to deal with all the different varieties of stupid there are.
Sometimes there's something even worse. Something more damaging, tenacious, and obnoxious than stupid. It's "Being too smart for your own good." You know what I'm talking about, but just in case, this is how it looks and feels. Snarky, smirky, smug. It's eye-rolling. It's "Duh!", "Let me explain it to you in a way you can understand.." "Are you serious, do you realllly do that?" It points out faults in others and makes excuses for faults in self. It blames, chastises, gossips and is basically ignorant. It never learns. It's bossy and unrepentant. It's horrible to be around and doesn't see how ugly it is. It thinks it's perfect. It has no idea how unintelligent it seems to everyone else. Worst of all it's a waste of any actual intelligence that happens to be there.
It comes from insecurity, low self-esteem, conceit, lack of compassion and ignorance about the way people and the world work. It may have been beaten into a person. It may result from constantly being praised without merit. In some cases, I suppose it's innate. But...in the dental practice it's damaging, disruptive, discouraging and as a manager, you have to dismantle it if at all possible, (which it usually isn't because the person with these issues probably needs therapy and if you start to think you're a therapist, you have your own delusions of grandeur and may think about investing in some therapy yourself. Having said that, who do I think I am giving all this advice...?) If you can't get through quickly and effectively, then it's not a workable situation so don't prolong everyone else's agony. Again, as in the case of unmitigated, negative stupidity; smugness about one's intelligence can cause a world of hurt in the small environment of a dental practice. (in my own defense, ignorance about punctuation doesn't count because I'll admit I get it wrong a lot and it's really hard, especially when it comes to semi-colons! If anyone can tell me if I use them right, I'm all ears.)
When you work in a small, often stressful environment, it is imperative to work together, to support each other's weaknesses and applaud each other's strengths. The last two examples I've given regarding stupidity and being too smart work against that. Deal with it. Either way the vibe can be felt in the air. My friend Kathy, recently said that her husband's practice gained a new patient because the former practice felt negative and stressful, while Kathy's husband's practice felt happy and welcoming. What gave each practice it's vibe? The employees and the dentist. You can't buy that vibe, you can only practice it. You can manage it by making sure you have the right people in your practice and weed out the ones that just shouldn't be htere. Sure, you feel bad letting someone go, but think about it, did they feel bad making everyone around them tense, aggravated or miserable? See, it's not your problem unless you choose to keep it and make it your's.
“Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the universe.”
Ok, so I got your attention, but how many of you shook your head in agreement regarding human stupidity. Let's face it, we're all a little stupid now and then; some more often than others and a few on a daily basis. Whatcha gonna do about it?
As for life in general, we can just expect it. You're going to meet someone who behaves stupidly every day, and you may just meet yourself along the way. Sometimes I do things that appall me. (example: I just had to look up the spelling of appall because it looked weird when I typed it, but I was right! WooHoo) Actually the stupidist thing I did lately was jump into an elevator to try to press the "door open" button for a lady with a stroller and ended up pushing the "door close" button and then throwing myself between the doors to stop them rather than pushing the right button. You should have seen her expression. It basically said, "This woman is a lunatic." (I've seen that expression on people's faces more times than I care to admit) My point is, stupid happens in the world and you just have to deal with it as best you can.
The dental office is different when it comes to stupid. Stupid can hurt people, cost the practice money, and add a lot of frustration to a workplace that carries it's own share of inherent stress. The problem is, a lot of times people who behave, or think in ways that we perceive as stupid are also kind-hearted, trust-worthy, gentle and hard-working. Then, there are the others who are lazy, selfish, dull, or just don't care. Sorting the wheat from the chaff is your job as a manager. Once you've decided that an employee is a wonderful person, but just lacks certain decision-making skills, you can try to help them find a way to work around their deficiencies. It starts with sitting down and being gently, but firmly honest about their strengths and weaknesses; in other words, the dreaded performance review.
Set your review up so that you can really highlight their strengths first, but can also work those strengths into solutions, or tools to build up their weaknesses. If possible, try to assign them duties that will put their strengths to use more frequently and take them away from areas in which their weaknesses cause problems.
Accept the fact that most people, including yourself, are not good at everything. If you have an employee that is not comfortable making decisions, you may be able to give her information that gives her steps to take in making a decision, but if fear of failure or reproach are her underlying issues, your brilliant decison- making steps sheet is not going to help. Instead, address the underlying issues. Role-play at staff meetings and let her see that if she makes a poor decision you will not scream at her, embarrass her or ridicule her. If all else fails, maybe you can console yourself with the fact that you won't have to worry about her making her own rules, or doing things that constantly have to be undone. Identify the underlying issues that cause an otherwise wonderful person to perform poorly and you may have a diamond under all that dust. Their heart makes them brilliant. You just have to place them in a light that makes them shine.
Now, if you have someone who is lazy, selfish, dull and uncaring, ask yourself this: "Why do I keep someone on staff who is lazy, selfish, dull and uncaring?" "Does that make me kind of stupid?" The answer: "On some level, Yes." You may take offense and think, "I'm not stupid, I'm just a nice person. I see the best in everyone. I think everyone has potential." If it feels better, than go ahead and keep telling yourself that, but it will be at the risk of watching the good, kind-hearted, caring employees walk out the door. Nothing clears a practice of good employees faster than the tolerance of poor employees. A friend once told me, "People will sink to the level of the lowest common denominator to keep the peace." I would add, "Or they'll leave." With this type of employee, their attitude makes them stupid. They may be pretty smart on paper, but what's in their heart makes them stupid.
It's not hard to tell the difference between the employee who has some weaknesses that cause her to perform in ways that could be construed as stupid and one whose cruddy attitude makes them stupid. If you can't figure it out, maybe you're the one we should be worried about. Sooner or later, ignoring either type of employee just to avoid the discomfort that will accompany dealing with it will come home to bite you. So, whatcha gonna do about it?
"All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence."
~Martin Luther King, Jr.~
Once you've read the above quote, read it again and put the emphasis on the word all. Many times it's easy to see the dignity and importance in the work the dentist does in a dental practice. He's gone to school for years and he is taking care of his patient so that they feel better and live healthier. It's the same with the hygienist. She is performing a valuable service that contibutes to her patients good health and she has a license hanging on the wall. The dental assistant is a valuable asset to the dentist and keeps his day moving along efficiently. The front desk assistant keeps the schedule full and is the first impression patients receive about the practice. There are other support people who clean rooms, service equipment, deliver lab cases, order supplies, clean the office, etc.
At some point, some people assign more importance to what one or more of the people I've mentioned above do over what the others contribute. It's not always a case of someone looking down on others, but often a matter of someone feeling less than or beneath their co-workers. That is why I'm putting the emphasis on the word all. We have to see what we contribute to patient care in a bigger picture. We have to see what everyone contributes as important to our success as a team. In our office we often hire someone who's job it is to clean and set-up rooms. When this person is efficient, with excellent attention to detail, not only does it help us stay on time, it gives us a sense of confidence that the room is clean beyond reproach and that everything needed for our procedure will be there. This greatly contributes to the patient's overall experience and their level of confidence in our practice.
At one point, the person in that position moved away and we asked our front desk assistant to help out as much as she could. The rest of the staff shared the extra work as well. Over a bit of time, our normally pleasant and cooperative front desk assitant began to have a change in her demeanor and attitude. She became quiet and touchy and began acting out. When I asked her what was wrong, she denied there was a problem. She responded the same way when I asked if something about helping with room clean up bothered her. Her behavior continued to deteriorate until one day she blew up and told me that we had her doing all the "crap work." I explained the importance to the rest of the team and the patient of the work she was doing, but she could not see it. To her it was beneath her. Before long she was no longer a part of our team. Her reaction to doing the work had a dramatic effect on the vibe of our practice. The tension that exuded from her was palpable and difficult to understand because she had always been very mild, and almost silly. The tension caused distraction and made it hard to concentrate on the work we were doing. Once she left, everyone picked up a little more extra work until we hired a new employee. Even though everyone was handling a much heavier workload, we all knew it was temporary and didn't resent it, so the vibe returned to normal.
When the person in that and in any position understands the importance and value of their work they can take pride in doing a good job. We all have to remember that everyone affectss everyone else, therefore we are all important to the practice, from the mailman to the lady who comes in once everyone has gone home to vacuum, and clean the office. Can you imagine what it would be like if any one of them stopped what they were doing for us? Positive feedback and appreciation lets everyone know that what they do is valued and appreciated. Then they can be happy in their work rather than resentful or discouraged. It eliminates jealousy It helps keep the culture or vibe in a practice calm, relaxed and happy.
"Change is the essence of life. It is the goal of all psychotherapeutic conversation. In order for the process to proceed, however, it must move beyond simple complaint." ~Gordon Livingston, M.D.~
If you're a regular reader of this blog, you may be wondering where I've been for the last two months. I've been dating. It's been fun so far. Change has been thrust upon me and I've decided to go through the door that opened when the other one closed and it's going to be an interesting journey into a new life, but I have high hopes. I've met some really nice people and some that were not so nice, learned a lot about myself, had my heart bruised again, gotten confused now and then, cried, laughed, felt doubtful, and felt proud of myself, and there's more to come. We can't always choose the circumstances we're presented with, but we can sure choose how to react and respond to them. That choice makes all the difference in how your life will be.
Let's take this into your work life. Is it what you want it to be? Are you happy? Do you enjoy your day and leave work without unfinished issues, stress or unpleasantness and go home and enjoy your personal life? If the answer is yes; you're doing it right. If the answer is no; why are you choosing to let whatever is happening rob you of your happiness?
Many times we tell ourselves that there is nothing we can do. It's the economy, our staff is hopeless, our boss is crazy, the patients drive us nuts, etc. Spare me. It's you. You are choosing to keep doing the same thing that you always do and you're getting the same result you always get. And you're complaining and hating every minute of it.
Yes, the economy is tough, but are you changing anything about the way you run your practice to help yourself survive? You can only survive if you help your patients find ways to understand the treatment they need, so they can want it. Once they understand and want it, you have to help them see how they can afford it in your office. Make it possible and they will accept the treatment they want.
So, your staff is hopeless? Why? Yes, it's hard to find great team members. It's up to you to identify quality staff members, train them, make corrections where needed, praise, reward and reinforce when warranted and make them feel like they are an essential part of the success of the practice.
Oh, it's your boss that's the problem? Did you ever ask her what's wrong? Did you ever show interest in the state of the practice or you like a kid in the backseat of the car asking "Are we there yet?" Do you come up with ideas to improve processes, save resources, and improve patient service? Do you take initiative and help other staff members succeed? If you do all that and your boss is still an ogre, why are you still there? It's not worth being miserable. I'd urge you to actively seek something better for yourself.
Patients drive you nuts? Sometimes they will. As much as possible, try to find something good about them. Try to see it as a challenge to make the grouchy ones smile, the nervous ones calm down, and the ones with horrible home care do a little better. That's why they call it work.
I could go on all day, but I'm hoping you can see for yourself that you have a choice, maybe you just never noticed that you do. Here's my challenge to you: tomorrow, instead of dreading the things you usually dread; look at them as opportunities to change your attitude, your way of thinking, your way of behaving, and ultimately your level of happiness and your life in general.
Happiness is not acheived with chemicals, medications, a lifetime of therapy, or by winning the lottery. It's acheived by changing the way you think and react. You had the power all along. Use it.
Matthew Kelly, a popular Catholic writer and speaker, speaks about the 7 levels of intimacy in relationships. I was at a meeting this morning at church and began wondering how this idea could be applied to relationships in the workplace. The 7 levels are:
1. Cliche' - this is basically the relationship in which one person says, "Hi, how are you?" and the other replies, "Good, thanks." and the conversation is over. Very basic and superficial.
2. Facts - This one goes a tiny bit further. The reply to "How are you?" will include a few more details such as, "Oh, I'm good, working hard, leaving for vacation next week." Pleasant, but still not much more than a passing comment.
3. Opinions - In this relationship a person will give their opinion and listen to the other person's opinion without really trying to understand why they feel the way they do. They may even just try to tell them why they should feel the same way they do.
4. Hopes and Dreams - There's a bit more trust in this one and the people involved will share what they want and hope for in life.
5. Feelings - Now the people in this relationship have enough trust in each other to express their real feelings about how things are between them and about other people and circumstances in their lives.
6. Legitimate Needs - Here people can express what they need and ask for it and may even care enough to ask the other person what they need from them.
7. Faults, fears and failures - This is the most vulnerable level of intimacy. It's the level that all the other levels have built up to, culminating in trust and inter-dependance.
In our meeting, the final question was, "What level have you reached with God?" Now, there's something to think about if you are so inclined. For the purpose of this blog, I'm asking you, "What level have you reached in your relationships in your practice; with your staff and with your patients? How far do you really want to go? What would reaching level 7 mean for you and your practice?
I would venture to guess that most people have at least gotten to level 3. You may even wish you'd stayed at level 2 so that you didn't have to listen to all the various opinions of your staff members. In my opinion, the problem with staying at level 3 is this, the opinions become annoying because no one cares enough to express the hopes and dreams that would help others understand where the opinions are coming from.
So, let's say you move up a level and begin sharing your hopes and dreams. That could be an awesome staff meeting in itself and would surely offer a few eye, and possibly, heart-opening surprises. It will only work if you let your staff in on the 7 levels though, so that they understand you're not just being nosy or weird. You can't just ask everyone to share their hopes and dreams and then just drop it there either, they'll feel used and end up resenting it and clamming up next time you try to do something like this. You will have to commit to moving on to level 5 and sharing and hearing their feelings. Ok, I know some of you are horrified at the thought and thinking, "Well, now she's lost it. This is too touchy-feely and I don't want to do it. It's just work, who needs it?" Well, that's fine, you can stay at level 3, but you'll be missing out. If you go through level 5, you'll begin to build a culture of trust, cooperation, and shared mission. Who would want that?
At this point, you may be as far as you want to go. Everyone is working together well, people care more, they are beginning to share your vision. Life is better. But, don't you wonder where climbing to those last two levels might just take you? Do you really want to stop short of the pinnacle? I didn't think so. Level 6 may make things a little uncomfortable. This is where people start asking for what they need. You may not like to hear that your hygienists need 10 more minutes per patient to do the job right. You may hate to hear your assistant say that one more staff member would make everything go smoother. But, here's the thing, you get to ask for what you need, too. You can ask your staff to share in your dreams for your practice. You can ask them to treat your patients the way you want them to. You can ask for dedication, willingness, and you can ask them to take responsibility for the success of the practice. You can feel the groundswell of the building commitment to a shared cause and that's what inspires and drives success.
You may wonder, if we have all that, why should we bother with level 7? Really, who wants to talk about their faults, their fears, and their failures? What purpose does it serve? It levels us. It makes us all human to each other. It connects us in a way the other levels can't. It sustains the success that was so hard-earned. It brings us back together when we fail at one of the other levels. We remember what was shared and we feel for the others when they are struggling, or causing us to struggle. It makes it all work and it makes it all real.
Over the years, I've seen my fair share of new employees who just don't work well with our practice. Of course, the first reaction on either side is to blame the other for whatever caused things to fail. That's just human nature, no one wants to be at fault. The only problem with that reaction is that it prevents, or at least postpones us from taking a good look at our role in whatever caused the problem.
More and more I find that new employees want to come into the practice and show us that they "know everything" already. I do understand that they "knew everything" at the practice they worked in previously. I do think that they are trying to impress us with what they know. I do everything I can to let them know before they ever start that we will want them to learn to do things our way. That seems to be the point at which stubborness sets in, on both of our parts. In the rare instance, it's the place where a willingness to learn shines through and my joy in teaching ignites. It's the place where we get our first glimpse of heaven or hell.
Now, you may be expecting me to blame the descent into hell on the new employee. Ok, I will. No, only kidding, I realize that I play a devilish role in the misery, too. Let's face it, everyone wants to be right all the time, and no one is. We all see things from our perspective and rarely take the time to see the other's point of view. And that's where you're both wrong. The real issue is that each person knows where they're coming from, but they don't take the time to calmly explain it and the other person doesn't bother to look past the surface.
The other problem is the emotions involved. The manager wants to see the employee do things the way she wants them done. Period. At the beginning of a new employment situation, that's what matters and anything less is disappointing, frustrating and possibly seen as a warning sign of things to come. That immediately pushes the manager back a few steps and the negatives come into focus while the positives begin to blur. The employee may feel that she has to keep pushing her agenda and can become super-sensitive to any critical feedback, increasing the manager's frustration. Once that tornado touches down, all hell can surely break loose, and often does.
At this point the communication is shutting down and any talking that happens tends to come in the form of accusations and recriminations. It's a shame, because it's really just about people trying to get what they want and need. They're just going about it the wrong way. I don't think any new employee begins a job with sinister intentions and I don't think any manager is just dying to make someone's life miserable.
The answer is communication. Be clear, be consistent and be open to the other person's point of view. It still might not be a match made in heaven, but it doesn't have to get crazy either. In the end, you have a position that needs to be filled, and the trick is to find an employee that is willing to be open to training, the way you want to do it and who believes there is still something she can learn. Try to keep the emotion out of it and take it one day at a time.
In the last few posts I talked about what it takes to be a good candidate for employment. Today I want to tell you about a wonderful boss. It happens to be my boss, Dr. Nigel Morgan. The main thing that makes Dr. Morgan a great boss is his ability to see the good and the specialness in everyone. I noticed this quality in him very early in our working relationship when he patiently listened to an irate, older patient who was unfairly blaming him for something someone else did. He listened patiently and worked with her to come to a satisfactory solution. As I watched, I realized that I would have been hard pressed to feel as much equanimity as he seemed to be feeling. His attitude made a big impression on me.
About a year ago, I made the worst mistake of my dental assisting career. I recemented two provisional crowns with permanent cement. At first, I just thought the temporaries were just really hard to get off. Dr. Morgan came in and tried, but they wouldn't budge. As he tried to cut them off it began to be obvious that there was a problem and he said, "This seems like permanent cement. The longer he drilled the worse my horror grew as I began to accept the fact that he was right. He basically had to prep the temps off and re-prep the teeth. I was dying and he just kept his even temperment. When we were done I apologized profusely. It was obvious that I was very upset by my mistake and Dr. Morgan just said, "It's ok, you've never done anything like that before, everyone makes mistakes." He said it with a kind look on his face, rather than hissing it through gritted teeth. It was a mercy given for the benefit of another with no need for self-satisfaction.
Today, I was grateful to have had the example he set a year ago. One of our hygienists came to me and was obviously upset. She said she'd done something really bad. I asked her what and could see she didn't want to tell me. Finally, she said she'd realized she'd just recemented a temporary on her mother with permanent cement. Her mother has very limited opening and is difficult to work on. Just the thought of having to prep off that temp was enough to make me go right into the death act. Instead, I looked at the distress on her face and remembered how kind Dr. Morgan had been to me when I'd done the very same thing. I wanted to be as kind to her as he'd been to me. I just said, "Well, I know how you feel, I've been there myself. We'll just have to have her come in so we can take it off." I could see she would continue to beat herself up for a good part of the afternoon, she didn't need anything but mercy from me. As a result, the day went on without misery and we all went home happy.
Think back over the past week. Were there times when you could have shown mercy, but gave into the anger of the moment? How did you feel once you calmed down? The next time you feel like reacting in an angry way, stop yourself. Picture the result of that compared to what the result would be if you reacted with mercy. The ability to consider the good of another when you find yourself in a stressful situation is the definition of true grace.
So, I vented a little, maybe, the other day. I know, but I have to let it out once in a while,no? Now I'm back with the good side of interviewing and hiring. I'm going to tell you what you can do to impress and win the job you want. It starts with giving the prospective employer what they are telling you they want.
The cover letter and resume are the first impression you will make on an employer. Go online and find a professional looking template, use an easy to read font and never, ever forget to employ spell check. Make sure your cover letter is specific to the job for which you are applying. Go back and read the posting and ask yourself, "What are they looking for in an employee?" Now, use your cover letter to let the poster know why you are the person who will deliver what they are looking for, what you will bring to the business, and why you want to work for them. Be careful to come across as confident, but not conceited, assertive, but not aggressive, and professional, but not uptight. The resume should begin with your most recent employment and you should list your job responsibilities, salary, and reason for leaving. List your education, associations, awards, interests and any other pertinent information that will help the employer know what you will bring to the position. Also include good references such as former employers, teachers and co-workers. For extra points, include letters of reference from former employers; they make a big impression.
A great cover letter and resume will most likely result in a phone call, so let's think about your phone. If your ringtone is Fat Bottomed Girls, please change it to a simple, non-offensive ring. You don't know what kind of music the caller loves or hates, and wouldn't it be a shame to have a strike against you before you even answer? Which leads me to: be polite when you answer the phone. Don't say, "Yeah?" Instead, use a well-modulated, upbeat voice and just say "Hello." When someone asks to speak to you, respond, "Yes, this is ______." When the caller identifies herself as a potential employer sound pleased to hear from her and be forthcoming with your responses. Listen to clues as to what she is looking for and be honest in your responses. Don't use slang, don't say "Ain't." If offered an interview, respond with pleasure and ask if there is anything that she would like you to bring that you have not already included in your resume. Ask for the address and Mapquest it, don't make the caller spend time giving you directions and waiting for you to write them down. Also ask for the best phone number to call in case there is any hold-up with traffic.
Now, do your homework. Get your map and if you're not sure exactly where the office is, take a ride and find out. Google the Dr's name and if he has a website, visit it and take notes. Does the practice cater to anxious patients, does the Dr. use Cerec, promote an amalgam-free practice, accept insurance, etc.? Look at the Dr. and staff bios and find interests you have in common with them. Now, think about yourself. How would you describe yourself to someone you've never met, that has nothing they can do for you? How would your friends describe you if they knew you'd never know what they said? What would people say at your funeral? (Sorry,that's morbid). What do you like to do in your free time? What's your all-time favorite movie? Actor? Singer? Book? What famous person, dead or alive, would you most like to have lunch with? What would you ask them? How do you handle stress, anger, questions you don't know the answer to, criticism, a difficult boss, a gossipy co-worker? Do all this and you will be ahead of the crowd at the interview because these are all popular interview questions.
Ok, it's time to get ready to go to the interview. Dress like you would to go to church, if you don't attend church, wear what you think you'd wear if you did. I prefer black dress pants and a nice blouse. Don't wear something too low cut, if the dentist is a decent guy, you'll probably make him feel awkward and if a woman interviews you, she'll just think it's inappropriate. Besides, you want them to think about you, not your chest. If you have pets, make sure you use one of those sticky roller things. Also make sure your clothes are wrinkle and stain free. I assume that your uniform will only look as neat as what you wear to the interview. Leave 10 minutes earlier than you think you have to, you can always drive around the block and one of my favorite sayings is, "On time is 5 minutes early." Turn off your cell phone before you enter the office. Turn it all the way off, don't leave it on vibrate. When you arrive introduce yourself to the receptionist, smile warmly and shake her hand and compliment the attractiveness of the waiting room.
Once you are in the interview try to relax and give them a good impression of what it would be like to be around you all day. Don't chew gum. It's ok to pause a few seconds before answering a question, but don't panic or say, "I don't know." Don't look like you think a question is stupid, and don't complain about how long the application was or how long the interview is taking. Be interested in the practice and the interviewer's questions. Be yourself. Have some questions ready to ask about the practice, the position, the other staff, the patient's and the dentist. Don't ask about pay or benefits until the end of the interview. As the interview winds up, ask what the next step in the process will be, tell the interviewer how impressed you are with the practice and why you'd love to work there. Thank her for her time and say goodby to the receptionist on the way out.
Once you get home, email the interviewer and re-state how much you enjoyed your time in the office and thank her for her time. Tell her you look forward to hearing from her. Follow up with a hand written note on plain, cream colored, good stock stationary. If you haven't heard anything in a week, call the office to ask if they've made a decision. If not, re-state your interest in working there. I once was hired based on doing just that.
You are going to get that job.
It seems like a lot of people are taking this cat's advice these days. I have ceased to be amazed at what people will do and say in a job interview. That is, if they ever make it to the interview. When I place an ad I always request a cover letter, a resume and references. That's where we'll start. Pay attention to the ad and give the person what they are asking for. I rarely get a cover letter with the resume and often, when I do, the person has not bothered to change the cover letter to fit the job for which they're applying. When I post a dental assiting position and get a cover letter that reads, "My career goal is to create a successful career in the banking industry...", I have to wonder what the applicant is thinking. Why would I waste time interviewing someone who's ultimate goal is to do something else?
And what's with the reluctance to provide references? Is it some kind of power play or something? I hate to read "references provided upon request". Why do I have to request them? Actually, I already did, in my job posting. Do you mean to make me beg for them? Speaking of references, try to make them worth my dime. I don't want to call your best friend, or your sister. I want to call someone who supervised you, someone who taught you, and someone who worked with you. If you want to add your best friend in with that crew, I'll take it, it will give me an idea of the kind of people you like to hang around with.
If you provide me with what I asked for in my posting, and you used spell check and didn't mess up the grammar with words like "ain't" or phrases like, "I don't got any experience, but people say I learn real fast"; your email address isn't something like "email@example.com; your paper isn't food stained and doesn't smell like cigarettes; I'll probably call you.
Here's the next hurdle, answer your phone like a human being. Don't have Fat Bottom Girls as your ringback. Say hello in a pleasant tone. When you hear it's someone calling you about a job you applied for, sound happy about it. Here's how one of these calls went the other day: After I enjoyed listening to the aforementioned Fat Bottom Girls tune, the applicant answered the phone,
Hmph. "Hello, may I speak to Janie?"
"Is this Janie?"
Ok, one last chance. "I'm Linda, I'm calling about a job posting you responded to."
"We are looking for someone who can communicate with our patients intelligently and pleasantly. You've just disqualified yourself from consideration because of the way you answered your phone. I'm sorry."
Are you kidding me? I wish that was a joke, but this is not the first time that's happened. At least I didn't have to put myself through actually sitting across from this person, but I just don't get it. I thought there was a shortage of jobs.
So, if you make it in for an in-person interview, I'm going to have a lengthy questionairre for you to fill out. I want to know your strengths and weaknesses, how you react under pressure, what your pet peeves are, what you love about your career, basically who you are, what you'll bring to the job, and what it will be like to spend the day with you. Use your head. Don't tell me that nothing bothers you, I've yet to hire a saint. Be honest and let me see who you are. On the other hand, don't be foolish about it. I asked one applicant what her favorite book is. Her response? "Well, I like Harry Potter, but my boyfriend is begging me to read "50 Shades of Gray." Ok, I don't need to know that. "In case you haven't heard, and I don't know how you couldn't have, "50 Shades of Gray" is basically soft porn. I don't care if you read it, just don't tell me in an interview situation. When I told the same applicant that we had an ergonamic saddle type assistant's stool she woggled her eyebrows at me and said, "Oh, I don't know if I can sit on that all day, it might get me all worked up. (another eyebrow woggle) Know what I mean?" I think I could guess correctly, and not because I've had any similar relationship with the stool, but it made me sure that I didn't want to have to share that stool with her. So, she didn't get the job. Neither did the person who leaned over and started tearing sheets off the little calendar on my desk to "catch me up to the present". Really? You just kinda pissed me off. Nor did I hire the woman in the cat hair covered black sweat suit who wanted to know if we could be done in 15 minutes because she had 13 cats that she had to get home to feed. (That one sounded amazing on the phone, too) I didn't hire the one who complained that my questionairre was too long either. Hey, you're unemployed, can't you spare the time to fill out my paper?
If you make it through the in-person interview with me, you get to come back for an interview with my boss and me together. One young lady decided that her best assets resided between her collarbone and navel and came dressed to show them off. My poor boss didn't know where to look. I was absolutely tempted to go get a patient bib and clip it on her so I could stop staring at her chest. I just couldn't believe what my eyes were seeing. Why would anyone think it would be a good idea to interview with their boobs?
I'm exhausted just writing this, I hope I haven't worn you out having you read it. Hopefully, you've gotten a chuckle out of it and are most likely ruefully shaking your head because it all sounds like someone you've interviewed. See, it's not just you. I've actually started to think I attract these people. Next, I'll be back to tell you what will actually give you a good chance of getting the job.
The other day I was talking to a colleague who just retired from dental hygiene. I was telling her that I'm looking for a dental assistant so that I can spend more time on my management duties. We were talking about how hard it is to find people with great work ethics who love caring for patients. She mentioned that it seems like everyone just shows up for the paycheck anymore.
I have to admit to a momentary feeling of self-satisfaction. After all, I know that I don't do that. But, it was a feeling that brought questions with it. Ok, so I've been fortunate enough to find what I love to do. Not only that, I've had some success with it, and some people think I'm good at it. I am even lucky enough to work for a wonderful boss with a great team. That all feels good to me. But, then there's that first paragraph again. I was sitting with a colleague bemoaning the fact that I can't find others who love what they do. I have to admit, it doesn't sound like I was being part of the solution, so does that make me part of the problem?
Maybe I am. Maybe I've been looking too hard for that thing that tells me that this person doesn't care like I want them to. Maybe I should be looking instead for that tiny spark that I might be able to breathe into a flame. When I think back to when I started out in dental assisting at 18 years old, I have to ask myself, "Did I feel then like I do now?"
The answer is "No", in more than one way. I loved dental assisting, but I didn't feel it as a vocation; now I do. At 18 I wanted to put in a good day's work and take good care of our patients, but when the door closed behind me, my 18 year old world opened in front of me and I forgot about work for the day. I didn't go home and write up newsletters, blog articles or read dental periodicals. I wasn't trying to think up new and better ways to serve our patients. I was out with my boyfriend and my friends doing what other 18 year olds do. When I thought about the future, there was nothing dental in the picture; rather I foresaw a wedding, babies and a home. I was a good dental assistant, but it was in a box that fit where I was in life at that moment.
It seems to me that it would be more realistic to look at employees in more than a dental dimension. Yes, we want them to be in it for more than the paycheck, but that's where leadership comes in. I think we have to lead them to the satisfaction of a job well done, a patient well cared for. So much can depend on how we interact, react, and reward. When I read the line in the above Steve Jobs quote, "as with all matters of the heart", I realize that we must address the heart of the employee if we want their work to matter to their heart. Their heart has to matter to us. What do they need from us? When we find out, we have something to do with it. Even if, in the end, this doesn't end up being the work they love, at least you'll know that you did your part.
Should you or shouldn't you? That's the question, and you'll get so many different points of view that you may be sorry you asked. Ask anyway, you need to make an informed decision.
Should you sign up as a perferred provider for insurance plans? On the plus side, it will help you build a practice base quickly. If you negotiate your fees well, it may be worth it at least for a while. There is finally an established company to help you with that. Sandi and Lisa at Unlock the PPO can help you decide which insurance plans will work best for you and they can also help you negotiate fees. They offer:
Both of these ladies are good friends of mine so I feel free to tell you that they are both just warm and sincere and so easy to work with. (I am receiving no renumeration in return for this endorsement, they don't even know I'm writing it. I hope they don't mind me copying and pasting the above from their site). It's also a good idea to talk to them if you're buying an existing practice. They can look at the ratio of insured patients to non-insured and they'll also see if the plans that the dentist is currently involved with will work the same for you. Just remember, if you sign up as a preferred provider it may help you build your practice in the beginning, but it may be tricky to drop plans later once you're established without losing the patients who came to you because you were "a part of their insurance." No matter whether you participate, or not, always make sure you and you're team understand insurance participation or non-participation and know what to say to your patients either way.
I recently heard of a situation where an insurance company stopped grandfathering in new dentists as premier providers. The dentists were buying practices that showed an income from insurance based on the fact that the selling dentist is a premier provider. When the new dentist takes over he finds out that he can not be a premier provider and then has to accept a lower fee per procedure than the previous owner. That can drastically lower the income potential for the new dentist. I like to watch out for you new dentists and I don't want to see this happen to you so be careful and do your homework on any practice you want to buy.
Another option is fee for service (FFS), or partial fee for service. In a fee for service practice, patients pay at the time of service and send in their own insurance form and are reimbursed directly. The office will often print out the form for them along with any necessary narratives and x-rays. In a partial fee for service practice, the practice may agree to allowing the patient to extend payment over a few months.
Naturally, patients initially prefer to visit a in network dentist because they perceive it to be the best way to get their dentistry for "free." They can become so "insurance bound" that they actually start to believe that they are "not allowed" to exceed the yearly maximum. It takes patience and excellent communication skills to be able to educate the patient on the limitations of their insurance, their right and ability to choose out of network care, and to reassure them that they are not "losing their benefit" by choosing a non-participating dentist in most cases. For the dentist, becoming a participating provider can mean more paperwork, necessitate hiring additional staff, require accepting less per procedure, and often results in a certain amount of professional dissatisfaction depending on the temperment and sensibilities of the dentist.
It's not an easy decision and that's why I'm so happy to see Sandi and Lisa ready and willing to help you navigate these important and difficult decisions.
A few months ago I mentioned that there will be times when I will bring spirituality directly into a blog post. This post will be one of those times when it will lead the blog post. When I first mentioned it, a reader immediately messaged me and said that she loved my blog, but would not be returning because of the mention of religion. That's too bad because it makes me wonder if it hadn't be evident that I am led by, or at least want to be led by faith and trust in God; or her mind is made up that all religion is a certain way. Here's my thought on spirituality: I respect every faith that has goodness as it's basis. Goodness toward our fellow man, toward our environment, and our fellow creatures on earth. For myself, my faith is that God is love and He wants us to love one another. So, on with the post.
There are times, as a manager, that something happens that makes me have an initial reaction of anger. I know this is not a proper reaction to act on, so I try to wait until the emotion subsides before I approach the problem, if possible. If the issue needs an immediate response, I try to figure out what needs to happen first, and do that and push the emotions aside.
The other day I noticed that one of our employees had been on Facebook during business hours. I know that some employers have decided that this is one battle that they don't want to fight, but I don't want anyone playing on a social networking site when everyone else is working, and they are being paid, and trusted, to do the same. The employee, let's call her Laura, had left early with permission and had inadvertantly left her Facebook page minimized. When I was closing her computer at the end of the day, I saw it and my heart sank a little. I know that in the grand scheme of life, this is a little thing, but I trusted her not to do that and I'm always sad when my trust is chipped away. Now, I started thinking about those things that I'd been after her to do that were still left undone. I thought about viruses entering the system and disrupting our day. I had to wonder how she went about getting on the internet to begin with since it had been disabled on staff computers. (It's not hard after all, I figured it out pretty quickly). After all those thoughts came and went, it all came back to trust. Then the anger started to tickle it's way in. I thought it would be a great surprise for her to come in the next day to find her Facebook page maximized on her screen. I typed out a letter documenting the offense with a place for me, my boss and Laura to sign. I felt annoyed that she had caused me to have to do that. The thing that made me most annoyed was that my boss had just announced that he was sending us all to the spa for a day to thank us for all our hard work. This is how she shows her appreciation? Hmph!
That night happened to be the night I spend an hour at Adoration in our chapel. It is an hour dedicated to prayer and contemplation. As I sat there I prayed that God would show me how He would like me to handle the situation. You see, the anger had faded and I realized I just wanted to be fair to Laura, my boss, and the other staff who had been hard at work while she was on Facebook. The first thought that came to mind was, "What would I want someone to do if it had been me?" The answer was that I'd want them to give me another chance and not assume that I would just do it again. I would want them to think about my overall performance and behavior. I would want them to show mercy and consideration for me as a human being. Ok, God, but what about my boss? He's paying her to work, he just arranged a nice day to thank us all for all we do. Doesn't he deserve better? My thought then was, What makes us assume that we deserve everyone to be perfect for us? If, overall, they try hard and do their best, that's enough. As far as the other staff goes, they've all messed up at one time or another, as have I, and we've survived. I still didn't know how to approach the issue because I didn't want it to continue, but now I knew I didn't want to have that FB page maximized anymore either and the document was going into the shredder. What to do then?
As I left the chapel, our pastor, Fr. Martin, was standing outside alone. I asked him for advice and he said,
"Write her a short note saying that you saw that she was on Facebook, she knows she shouldn't be, and that you don't want her to do it again. Don't make a big deal out of it, give her a chance. Leave the note and see what she does."
That's it? So easy? So peaceful? That's when I realized that we make too much drama out of nothing sometimes. Fr. Martin and the rest of our priests are Franciscans. Franciscans are renowned as peacemakers, and known for their simple, approachable manner. They see the world and people differently. They build their own life around prayer and fraternity. For reference, to be fraternal, means to aim for mutual aid or benefit.
I realized that is the way to approach problems and people. Be with them when you lead them, not "in charge" of them. Love them if you want them to follow. I got into work early the next morning and closed the Facebook page. I fed the shredder and sat down and typed up a short note using Fr. Martin's words as my guide. I set it in front of her computer and went about my morning tasks. When she came in I greeted her as usual. She saw the note and read it and came to me immediately and apologized. I told her that I like to be able to trust her, and that I knew she would work to rebuild that trust. I told her that her overall attitude and performance was wonderful and that now that we had discussed it, I hoped it would be left in the past. I then went on to discuss patients for the day with her and tasks that I needed her to accomplish. In other words, peace. What could have been a tense, stiff, uncomfortable day, continued on in peace.
We have to remember that we lead as we are led and we choose who and what we follow. I searched out my lead and was directed to Fr. Martin. We have to remember to do that. We can't just think that we know best all the time. We have to wait and check our gut. Does the solution that seemed brilliant an hour ago now make you squirm a little? Whenever you solution ends up with some victory for you, examine yourself. Why do you need that? Do you need to feel powerful? Do you need to feel clever? Deal with yourself before you ever have the nerve to deal with anyone else. If you are spiritual, ask for guidance. Aim for fraternity with the other person. That's when you'll do the right thing and have peace.
Peace Prayer of St. Francis
Those were the words of wisdom imparted to me from Chameroun during my pedicure yesterday. You may remember that Chameroun works at the hair salon that I wrote about the other day. I'm coming back to talk about her because she made a big impact on me years ago, and she never even knew it.
She had talked about what her life in Cambodia had been like, and she'd experienced some traumatic things. As I said, she was living here without her children and I'm sure that was so hard for her. Yet, she was always happy and cheerful. One day I asked her how she stayed so happy all the time. She answered, "I take each day and enjoy that day."
That reply has gotten me through some tough times since then. It always pops into my head when I feel sorry for myself, or when I'm in a bad mood. What it comes down to is being aware of what you are focusing on. It's easy to focus on how bad things are when it seems like nothing will go right. But, there's always something good if you're willing to see it. Sometimes, I think we want to linger in 'how bad we have it' because it usually pays off, at least for a while. People commisserate, they pity you, they try to help you, and you get a lot of attention in general. What you don't realize at the time is that some of those people just want to be in on the information. You are basically gossiping about yourself when you tell too much about your woes. After a while, everyone gets tired of your downer routine and they go away. Then you have one more thing to whine about, but now no one is listening.
How often does this happen at work? One employee comes in with her terrible news and everyone hugs her and tells her how awful it is. The next day, everyone is just wondering what will have happened since yesterday and they'll be all ears. That will last a while, and then soon you'll notice a pall over the culture of the office. The downer is having an effect and it's not good. She walks around with a pitiful face and an "ask me about my troubles" attitude. She's still more than willing to share, but she'll find she's worn everyone out. Rather than healing, she's getting worse, and now you have a problem in the office in general, too. The atmosphere is crappy, not happy. Finally, by letting someone vent beyond reason, you are crippling them and keeping them from dealing and moving on.
There's something wonderful about seeing someone smile through their pain. One of my co-workers recently lost her husband, but you'd never know it by her demeanor toward patients and other staff. She once told me that she sees work as a place where she can get away from her problems for 8 hours. She is sad about her husband, but she doesn't shroud herself in sorrow. She functions and finds the good in the day. She's happy, not crappy. Do you see how that is a choice? Sometimes you have to choose it minute to minute. Sometimes you are happy 95% of the day and give in to crappy 5% if the time. It's a force you either go with, or pull away from.
Yesterday Chameroun told me that she's proud of me for being happy, not crappy. I was delighted to hear that. It was sometimes an effort, and it was definitely a conscious choice on my part. In the end, it feels so much better to be admired than to be pitied. Next time one of your employees or co-workers (or even your boss) is acting kind of crappy, talk to them about it. Many times they don't even realize it and you could make a big impact on them and every one around them.
Colgate has developed a great new website for dental professionals -- their New Expert Implant Care website. You can visit the site at (www.expertimplantcare.com <http://www.expertimplantcare.com>This tool helps professionals provide the experiential content patients need to maintain their investment by providing expert advice on proper hygiene techniques. The website features a “Share this Website” tab that allows professionals to email or text a link to patients during a consultation. This replaces paper brochures that may never be reviewed, with digital content delivered the way the patient prefers. This also benefits the dentist or hygienist by providing a valuable resource they can offer to their patients. The videos showing proper homecare will be appreciated by patients because, as they say, a picture, or in this case a video, is worth a thousand words.Colgate is giving us a great tool for helping our patients take care of their implants. Visit the site and you'll be impressed.
Ok, I'm on a roll with Do The Right Thing and Get The Right Stuff. My hairdresser just liked my post on Facebook and that got me thinking about her. Martha Huggins opened the Hair Gallery about a billion years ago. Not really, I just tend to exaggerate when I don't know the real information, so indulge me. Martha has been doing my hair for about 16 years and it always looks good thanks to her. But, what else does she do so good that makes me want to devote a blog post to her? She's got her business figured out.
Once you become a repeat client at the Hair Gallery, you're family. They build a relationship with you. I've been to Martha's daughter's wedding and she's been to my daughter's wedding. She even gave a last minute adjustment, at the reception, to the excrutiating clip she put in my hair, rendering it painless. Good thing too, or that thing was coming out. She has shared in my joys and she has shared in my heartaches. I was sitting in her chair with color in my hair when my ex-husband called to tell me he didn't want to be married anymore. Bad timing on his part, but Martha and her assistant Joy enveloped me in a hug that conveyed not only sympathy, but love, sisterhood and strength. After the crying was over, Martha said, "Well, at least you can look good" which made me laugh and laughter through tears was a Steel Magnolia moment which fit the scene and fit the people.
They share their lives with us, too. They have their own measure of pain, heartache and worries, actually more than is fair, but they always greet everyone with a smile and a sincere welcome. They're fun! Joy is basically Martha's right hand and it's obvious that they share mutual respect and love for one another, and you can feel it. Chameroun does my nails and she is a mess, in a good way. Down South when you say someone is a mess, you mean they delight you and entertain you and you wouldn't have them any other way. I love Chameroun. I have been known to fall asleep in her chair during a pedicure only to snore myself awake to her laughing face. She is always happy and I have to believe she's made a decision to be that way. Chameroun emigrated here from Cambodia. She's known more than her share of heatache. She spent years without her children and went to college with a limited knowledge of the English language. Now her children are here and they excel. Chameroun is funny, sometimes naughty, but always spreading happiness.
Things don't always go perfectly at Martha's, but when something goes awry, she stays till the bitter end to fix it. Martha may kill me for this, but I'm going to tell you about the time she turned my hair hot pink. She was going for some red highlights and when Joy washed me out she said, "Were you going for this shade of pink?" Now, Joy is pretty funny so I figured she was teasing, until Martha took the towel off my head. Hot Pink!! Martha calmly said, "Let's just see what this looks like once it's dry." Still, HOT PINK!!! Here's my philosophy; it's only hair, it can't kill you. I was not about to make Martha feel any worse than she already did so I just smiled and said, "Oh, don't worry, I know you'll fix it." Well, I had a doctor's appointment so I had to leave and come back to be fixed. I had some fun with the doctor when he looked shocked and I told him I loved my new color. I went back at 5pm and Martha went to work. The first try turned the hot pink to purple which I thought was a big improvement. Her son and his girlfriend stopped by to get a look at what was obviously becoming big news in our small town. I half expected a news crew to show up next. It took about 4 hours but Martha kept at it until she felt satisfied I could go about the world looking good. I ended up with a really cool dark brown shade with a few purple highlights. In the time I was there, Martha fed me dinner and made sure I was ok. Mistakes happen, it's how you respond to them that makes all the difference in the world. It's a lifelong memory for me now, but one that always makes me smile.
Are you starting to get the reason why I think Martha has the right stuff? It's the culture she's built in that place. She re-decorates every now and then, she's always got the latest, best products, and all that's nice, but it's the feeling you get when you walk in the door. Heck, it's the feeling you get when you wake up in the morning knowing you've got an appointment there. You anticipate a good time and a great result.
Martha also has the business end down as well. She treats her employees like family. She rewards dedication and loyalty. On her birthday she took her entire staff out to dinner and a movie. She celebrated her special day by treating them. When I think about Martha I think about someone with a solid character, an easy laugh, a beautiful smile, a huge heart, and open arms that know when to close around a broken heart and somehow make it hurt a little less.
So, do you have what Martha has? Have you built a culture in your practice that makes people smile just thinking about you? I know, it's harder to do that for dentists because patients have a lot of anxiety, but we women have anxiety about our hair, too. It's all in the approach. Do you treat your staff like valued friends? Do you make your patients a part of your practice family? Do you share in their joys and sadnesses, or do you just politely say the appropriate words for the situation? Do you face your mistakes, apologize and make it right everytime? Do you love what you do and is it obvious? If you asked Martha, I bet she'd tell you that she does all the above, and she does it with intention. She intends to run her business this way and she intends to be a success. The way I see it is this; you can wish for a great business and success, but wishes might as well be water, they don't stick and they slip right past you. You have to intend, and act on your intentions and you will bring success into your life.