Every job in the dental practice is important. The dental team feels empowered and encouraged when they are given responsibility. And with responsibility comes accountability to the team, the doctor, the practice, and the patients. Accountability is often viewed negatively, as if it is just a way to point a finger at someone to blame or to highlight failure. But accountability done right is exactly the opposite. It is a system within the practice that gives the team members the time, tools, and training they need to succeed. There are four key steps to accountability done right.
Step #1: Sole Responsibility
For each specific job — recare/recall, scheduling, ordering supplies, and so on – one person is put in charge and is clear on the expectations and the training needed to accomplish the task. It is a good idea to put expectations in writing so there are no miscommunications, and expectations should include both measureable goals (such as past due account balances) and desired behavior. For example, your goal could be to reduce A/R to less than five percent of production, with the behavior to make use of a patient financing company like CareCredit.
Step #2: Time
Clearly defined time is scheduled for the team member to work on the job. If not, it is almost guaranteed the job will not get done. This means that if, for example, we want the person in charge of recall and reactivation to make calls Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday from two to three in the afternoon, then that person is not also trying to juggle answering in-bound phone calls or patient care.
Step #3: Due Date
Each job should have a non-negotiable completion date. The date could be months away, later that day, or it could be an ongoing event scheduled on the calendar; for example, recare and reactivation reports on the doctor’s desk the first working day of each month.
Step #4: Follow Up
When you follow up, the doctor has the opportunity to praise and appreciate what a given team member did. Daily coaching is a big part of follow-up. Creating a culture of coaching is one of the ways to make change stick, and it can be accomplished in many different ways. In daily coaching, the goal is to help the team along the path of success. If something goes wrong, the team leader needs to take a deep breath and choose the best time to discuss the situation with the team member in a way that is productive.
One great technique that can make daily coaching easier is the “feel, felt, found” approach that clearly states intention. This is how it works. Let’s say you have two team members who seem to bicker, even in front of patients. The coaching might go something like this: Alice and Linda, I feel we have a communication challenge, and it is affecting the superior level of patient care we as a team are committed to providing. When you were in conflict in front of our patient today, I could tell they felt uncomfortable, and I did, too. I have found that the best way to keep our practice and team healthy is to discuss any issues between team members privately. It is my intention to always provide our patients with a comfortable, welcoming, and warm environment, and both of you are an important part of that. So in the future, please do not argue in front of patients again.
Accountability done right is:
• Putting one person in charge of a task
• Giving the time and training to succeed by a specific due date
• Giving appropriate and encouraging coaching
This will ensure a positive impact on the team’s morale, patient care, and the practice’s health.
*Dr. Savage is CEO of Miles Global, a practice management and consulting fi rm exclusively serving dentists. Email is Rhonda@milesglobal.ne