October 2014
Volume 10, Issue 10

7 Ways to Build a Strong, Effective, and Stable Team

Strategic moves to create an excellent work environment

Roger P. Levin, DDS

Building an excellent dental team is one of the greatest challenges a practice owner faces. Having received little or no business training in dental school, dentists are not well prepared for the demands of assembling, managing, motivating, and working smoothly with staff members.

A major barrier to creating a high-performance team is the misconception that it begins with hiring excellent staff members. In fact, outstanding employees are made, not found. Even the best candidates for a staff position will need to learn how to excel as part of the practice’s team. Team-building is a continuous process. Following are seven recommendations for building a great dental team.

Share Your Vision and Goals

It’s unrealistic to expect staff members to help move a practice forward if they don’t know what the practice owner hopes to achieve. By sharing the “big picture” with the entire team, the dentist focuses attention on what matters most while making employees feel they are part of something bigger than just earning a paycheck.

Provide Clear Job Descriptions

A detailed job description has tremendous value in building staff skills and coordination. It should include numerical, measurable performance targets based on the individual’s responsibilities in the practice. For example, if the practice sets a target of generating referrals from 40% or more of patients annually, this target would be part of the Internal Marketing Coordinator’s job description. This distributes the accountability for achieving success. It also provides an objective way to measure performance.

Establish an Ongoing Training Program

As practices evolve, training must be used to update staff skills regularly. It can take the form of brief one-to-one instructions, role-playing sessions at staff meetings, and an off-site training program. The value of a strong training program cannot be overstated. It not only results in superior team performance but also benefits the individual employee, the team as a whole, patients, and the practice. Providing excellent training in a timely manner is one of the primary responsibilities of any business leader, including practice owners.

Consider Scripting

In every interaction with patients, what doctors and staff members say matters. The right words can influence patients to accept treatment, show up on time for their appointments, pay what they owe, and otherwise comply with the practice’s wishes. Excellent scripting provides guidelines for successful staff-patient conversations. Role-playing with scripts effectively trains team members to “control” interactions, makes it easier for inexperienced staff to quickly become proficient, and greatly facilitates cross-training.

Pay Your Staff Well

Staff turnover is common in dental practices, causing managerial headaches and the loss of productive time. From a cost-accounting standpoint, most businesses find that, in the long run, it costs less to retain good employees than it does to hire and train new ones. To do this, practice owners should make sure staff compensation is sufficient for retaining team members.

Encourage Communication

A two-way flow of information between the doctor and the team improves the performance of both. By encouraging staff to give feedback and suggest changes, the practice owner gains insight about practice operations from the perspective of those who are handling those operations. Team members are actually the practice experts in many administrative areas. Tapping into that expertise benefits the practice while building employees’ self-esteem and sense of shared purpose. Positive feedback from the practice leader also has a powerful effect on staff morale and satisfaction.

Conduct Yearly Reviews

By focusing on team members individually, these reviews provide a unique opportunity for the doctor to not only reflect on staff performance but also improve it. Ideally conducted away from the office at lunchtime (to change the psychological environment), the review should encourage team members to address these questions:

• What has gone right for the employee since the last review?

• Where can the employee make improvements?

• Are there ways the practice could operate better?

• How can the practice help move the employee’s career forward?

Conclusion

Once practice owners recognize that the best teams are built, not found, they can take a proactive approach to inspiring, training, rewarding, and communicating openly with employees. Actions such as the seven discussed here will put the doctor on track toward building a strong, effective, and stable team.

About the Author

Roger P. Levin, DDS, is a third-generation general dentist and the chairman and chief executive officer of Levin Group, Inc. To learn how to run a more profitable, efficient, and satisfying practice, visit the Levin Group Resource Center at www.levingroup.com/gp—a free online resource with tips, videos, and other valuable information. You can also connect with Levin Group on Facebook and Twitter (@Levin_Group) to learn strategies and share ideas.

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