EP22: Dentistry is a Team Sport

Dr. John and Wendy discuss culture and core values that are necessary to create the best team around you. Tackling challenges of everyday in the office is much easier when you hire the right people, encourage your team, create leaders and make the best office atmosphere possible. Listen to the fourth episode in our 6 part series and see how to be the best office leader and create YOUR best office, tomorrow!

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“EP22: Dentistry is a Team Sport” Transcript:

S1 00:00:02.014 [music] Welcome to the Double Your Production podcast with The Team Training Institute. The one place designed for dentists and their staff who want to grow their practices by following in the footsteps of those that have done it. Who are in the trenches. Who know exactly what you’re going through. And now your leaders, the stars of the podcast, Dr. John Meis and Wendy Briggs.

S2 00:00:27.991 This is Dr. John Meis and I am here with Wendy Briggs on this Double Your Production podcast episode. How are you doing Wendy?

S3 00:00:35.981 I am amazing.

S2 00:00:37.385 All right.

S3 00:00:37.736 Good hearing from you.

S2 00:00:38.596 Yeah. Good hearing from you too. And I understand there is a grandbaby on the way. Any minute.

S3 00:00:43.875 Yeah. Any day. Yeah. She actually went to the hospital this morning and the baby decided today was not the day but there is progress. There is all sorts of good things happening, and we just can’t wait. It’s going to be a great day.

S2 00:01:00.423 I could hear a collective gasp all across the Internet around the world when people realize that you might be a grandmother. You couldn’t possibly [laughter]–

S3 00:01:10.103 Well, I already am. And I’ll tell you what, it’s a wonderful thing. So I recognize that I always make a joke about how I look too young to be a grandmother and everybody always gives me a nice polite courtesy laugh. But it’s been a great journey. This is our first grandbaby though and it’s something to celebrate in our family. We haven’t had a baby girl in 25 years.

S2 00:01:30.882 Yeah. Wow.

S3 00:01:31.039 So we’re really excited. I mean you’ve got two girls, right? But in our family, girls are rarities so it’s super fun.

S2 00:01:37.495 I think she’s going to be a little spoiled. Just a prediction.

S3 00:01:41.002 Well, probably. Probably so.

S2 00:01:42.812 Yeah [laughter].

S3 00:01:44.963 Yup. Spoiled in the nicest way, right? So it’s great fun.

S2 00:01:51.442 So today’s topic we’re going to be talking about staffing issues. So this is one of the major concerns that dentists have. And we’d like to just walk through some of the things that we’ve seen where people have kind of run into the rocks and really ways to avoid that. And ways to get a cohesive team. Dentistry is a team sport. You can’t do it on your own. And if you don’t have a well-functioning team, you are not going to have a well functioning successful practice. It’s just that simple. There is no more element of capacity that is more critical than having a great team. I was visiting with the doctor yesterday who– a great guy. And super nice guy, and well into his career. And he said, ‘Here’s what I want. I just want to have a bunch of team that are doing really, really well but I don’t ever want to have to deal with them [laughter].” Yeah. That’s really not how it works, you know. This is a team sport. And you as the doctor have to be the leader. And so he was not really getting that. And he had had a tough experience. He had all but one of his staff quit on the same day. And so that would tell that you there is several layers of problems there. Super nice guy. And I feel badly for him as he’s putting together a new team even though he just really doesn’t want to deal with them at all. So let’s dig into it a little bit Wendy. So what are some of the things that you’ve seen in practices where staffing issues have been really kind of difficult to see coming and difficult to fix once they’re there?

S3 00:03:39.323 Well, I think probably the biggest thing– there’s a couple of things. The first thing is we’ve got to make sure that we’ve focused on culture and core values because a lot of times when we do see some staffing issues come up, or when there’s drama, or problems, almost always it’s a culture and core values mismatch. And if we don’t clarify– if we haven’t taken the time to identify practice core values. If we don’t weave them into everything we do, you’re probably going to end up with some issues now and then. And certainly having core values and a good culture doesn’t mean you’re exempt from issues. But it just means that you’ve got better tools when those challenges arise. And so I think that’s really important. If we have clarity on our culture and the values that are important to us. And we’re very careful in considering those as we hire people, then I think you’re going to have an easier time of it. There are occasions like the doctor you mentioned where we have to hire four or five people all at one time, where you’re literally choosing the best of the worst if you need multiple hires. And so we end up sometimes getting who we get. And that may not always be the best possible way to start. But in situations where we can be more selective, I think hiring based on our core culture and core values is going to give us the best possible chances of building a cohesive productive team. We want a high-performance team. We don’t necessarily want a team that’s just getting by. We want a team that’s capable and willing to perform at a high level. So I think core values and culture are the very first thing.

S2 00:05:15.356 Yeah. Those two are really the North Star. No matter how crazy the practice becomes and what drama comes your way, if you have those anchored, identified, communicated. You’re communicating them regularly over and over and over again. If you’re not sick about talking about it, you’re not talking about it enough as a practice leader. And it really is how you get people going in the same direction. So I totally agree with that. Having that foundation of the key elements of cultures is really critical. So once you have that– and you talked a little bit about using that in the hiring process is absolutely fantastic because we hire for experience and education. But that’s not where things go awry. Things go awry with culture and behavior. With values and behavior, I should say. And so when people are fired, they’re fired because of behavior and values. So really being able to get that part is part of a good hiring process.

S3 00:06:21.435 You bet. And so we often quote Gino Wickman’s book Traction. And in that book, he talks about teams possessing three basic qualities. And we love this because it’s so true. Especially when it comes to an issue. We need team members who get it. They understand what the goals of the practice are. They want it. So they want to succeed both personally and professionally. And they’re willing to do what needs to be done to help the practice succeed. And then they can do it. They’re capable of doing the job well. So employees who can’t do it are difficult because they may understand what we want to do, but they just aren’t capable of doing it. And so in certain situations, we see this. Maybe we have somebody in the wrong seat on the bus. And once we shift them to a different job description they thrive. So these three qualities are really important. And we could spend a whole podcast just on those three qualities. But if those listening, if you’re wanting more information about that, I believe I have an article published in Dental Economics a couple years ago that was titled, Hiring and Developing a World-Class Hygienist. And what we’ll do is we’ll post the PDF of that article on the podcast main page. So if you go to theteamtraininginstitute.com/podcast we’ll post that article there. And it actually goes into a little bit more detail on these principles. And certainly these principles apply beyond just the hygienists, right? We were hiring team members who were also looking for those qualities which speaks to what you were talking about Dr. John. Sometimes we may hire somebody that’s had 15 years experience in that role, but they may not get it or want it.

S2 00:07:58.011 Yup. For sure. And the want it one is the hardest one to change. If somebody really doesn’t have the desire to do the right things, it’s a tough one to change. That exercise is really a good way to mentally think about your team is where are they on that scale? And if you don’t have a very solid team with people that are scoring well on all three categories, it’s time to make some changes. Either change seats or change people. One or the other. So and [inaudible]–

S3 00:08:34.570 [inaudible].

S2 00:08:35.837 Another frustration that I see is really on the accountability side where we have team members are not performing to the level that we’d like them to perform but we struggle with accountability. So what are some of the things that you’ve seen Wendy, that have helped practices deal with this accountability challenge?

S3 00:09:00.988 Well, I think once we’ve hired the candidate, most practices when you really take a look at what their onboarding processes and training processes look like, I think that’s where we’re missing huge steps because they’re really isn’t a system for holding the new hire accountable for learning what they need to learn. And so this is why we teach a process called, the three, three, three. Right? This is a training system that we help out clients develop for their own practices that lists everything the new hire needs to know after three days, after three weeks, after three months. And that’s just the very basic formula. After the 90 days, then they should begin working on their tier levels of advancement.

S3 00:09:40.466 And so, many practices– we talk about this a lot. The way new hires get trained is really deeply flawed if you think about it. Sometimes they are hired by the team member they are replacing, or they’re trained by the team member they’re replacing. And this team member may not be particularly happy. They may be leaving because they aren’t a good cultural fit. And so in a way we have this fresh new hire that’s being slowly poisoned [laughter] as a part of their training process. And so I think having systems for onboarding and developing these team members are the next phase. And how can we hold someone accountable if they don’t even know what our expectations are? Often if they had clarity on the expectations, then their performance would be completely different. But many times especially I’m speaking on the hygiene side. We have a new hygienist that’s like, “Okay. Here’s your schedule. Here’s sterilization. Here’s your instruments. Ready. Go.” And that’s really all they get. And there’s really no clearly defined system for training and onboarding them. And so some people are going to catch on really quickly and do well and others aren’t. And really in some instances without a three, three, three or some similar effective training and onboarding program, we’re really setting up our new hires to fail.

S2 00:10:57.809 Yeah. We’re so fortunate to be able to see so many practices and the great things that people are innovating. And this innovation came from a practice that had an employee retention problem. And so they had employees kind of coming and going. So they had to learn how to be able to train them and get them up to speed very quickly. And the thought process and the framework is really terrific because pretty much no matter what your job is in the office, after three months you should be able to function independently. Not that you’re the expert. Not that you’re the one that’s going to do the hardest or most challenging cases. But you can do the run of the mill, the everyday stuff.

S2 00:11:38.872 And so once we have clarity on what our expectations are, it’s certainly a lot easier to have accountability. So one of the first steps in really having a good accountability system is being very, very clear on what your expectations and standards are. And being very, very clear about when they’re not being met. Not in a mean or demeaning way. No spankings, right? So we’re trying to maintain people’s confidence while we help them understand how they can perform at a higher level. And so many of us learned accountability by being kind of yelled by teachers, or coaches, or previous bosses. And that’s really not very effective. What’s really effective is to help them understand the why at a higher level and making sure that when they’re not hitting the standard, that we’re having a conversation about it. They should know if we’re not hitting the standard. One of my colleagues that I worked with on an executive level, he had a phrase that I really like. And the phrase was, “What you permit, you promote.” So you have to make sure that if we’re not hitting the standards, that we’re not permitting it. We’re not just ignoring it. That we’re having conversations about it. Now we all know nobody’s perfect. But we also probably have all had the experience of someone who keeps making the same mistake or the same problem over and over again. And that’s where accountability comes into place. So Wendy, what’s another place where we see practices hitting the rocks a little bit?

S3 00:13:20.106 Well, I think sometimes we also find that there’s not a good leadership structure. So once a practice grows to a certain point, we really need to have leaders within the team. Team leaders that can help oversee and take some of the stress off of the doctor. One of the most common things that I hear from doctors just like the doctor you mentioned earlier is that they are burned out. That dealing with the personnel, and dealing with people who are going to be late, or not showing, or constantly calling in sick. It’s draining. And so we love to develop a structure where we have key people within the organization that are taking on some of those stresses and very capable of handling those for the doctor. So we love to see a structure. Especially once a team grows to a decent size where we have key leaders within the organization that are handling some of these daily dramas for the doctor. Now granted, these leaders need to be leaders themselves, right? They need to make sure that they are not feeding into the drama. They are helping the team rise above it and really perform at the highest possible level as they can on their own. So that’s one thing.

S3 00:14:33.252 And then the other thing too is we need to be celebrating our teams. And we look at the teams that do really, really well. Once they get to a level of high performance and they’re cranking, we want to keep all of those team members employed and happy. And that sometimes isn’t always possible, right? You mentioned my daughter having a baby. And so you’re going to have people go out on maternity leave. You’re going to have people whose spouses are transferred and they have to move away. You’re going to have turn and turnover. But there are some things that we can do to minimize people feeling burned out and just leaving because the grass looks greener on the other side. And I think if we’re not careful we can contribute to some of that. Team members want to feel valued and appreciated. And sometimes we’re so busy, half of the time we feel like we’re running around with our hair on fire just taking care of the patient, that we may forget to celebrate our team and really [inaudible] appreciation.

S2 00:15:38.180 One of the things that a team leader really can be helpful with– the most impactful thing for practice success that a doctor can do is dentistry, right? And the more of it you do, the better. But if you don’t have these components in place, the team starts to crumble around you, and you can end up like the doctor that I mentioned earlier. And so really making sure that you have systems to recognize people for milestones, recognize people for firsts, recognize people for jobs well done. If there isn’t somebody focusing on that in the office you’re going to have a hard time maintaining employee engagement. Now we know if we don’t have employee retention, we don’t have patient retention either. And patient retention is such a critical factor in practice success.

S3 00:16:33.879 It really is. I have to share with you Dr. John, I’m a moderator on some online hygiene forums. And not just hygiene forums but dentistry forums. And there was a post that was shared just today from a long-time employee, and I wanted to share a few key phrases with our listeners because this is exactly what you’re talking about. The importance of retaining the team. Hiring is such a struggle. Training is such a struggle. We want to retain them once they’re performing at a level that we’re comfortable with and we feel like they’re a good fit. But here was a post that was shared this morning. “Looking for advice. Wanting to vent. I’ve been working for my doctor for 10 years as of a couple weeks ago. No one has ever worked for him for that long as far as I know. I’m feeling disappointed that he didn’t even acknowledge this. He’s is the type that remembers patient’s birthdays and other dates. And I know he knows when I started. But I’m disappointed that this wasn’t recognized.” So here’s again, a missed opportunity. Now we recognize not everybody is perfect and sometimes things get busy. But a 10-year anniversary for an employee is kind of a big deal for them. I mean you could hear how she was just really disappointed that she wasn’t celebrated or recognized for being a loyal team member for 10 years. So this is kind of what we’re talking about Dr. John. And I love seeing as the concept of having a team leader responsible for team celebrations, we even know some larger organizations that have basically a chief officer over celebrations. So it’s that important that they’ve actually given somebody that title. They’re the celebrations officer. And I think that’s important. Now certainly most of us aren’t going to be able to have one person who’s solely focused on that, but it just shows us how important it is when it comes to employee retention.

S2 00:18:22.814 Yup. And you think about organizations that have had durability and have real great engagement with their members. Our partner Heather Driscoll, her son just went from one level in scouting to another level in scouting. And if you think about the elements that they build into their system, it’s all about recognition. It’s all about progress. It’s all about keeping people seeing a bigger future, you know? And so–

S3 00:18:53.190 Yup.

S2 00:18:53.361 –really, it’s a absolute critical component in keeping employees engaged. And we didn’t mention Wendy, but we have a book on hiring that’s available on Amazon. It’s The Ultimate Guide to Building Your Dental Dream Team. And it goes into a lot of recruitment and hiring and onboarding strategies. So I think it’s the best-selling dental hiring book that is ever been written. So somebody may want to take a look at that. You can get in on Amazon. And the article on hiring–

S3 00:19:32.794 And you know what we should do Dr. John? Yeah. Let’s do this. Let’s give them a glimpse. We have PDF that we can post to the podcast homepage as well. So let’s give them at least a hint of it. I know there’s a piece of it we can share with our listeners. And then of course if they like what they hear, and they want to order it maybe we can supply the link for them as well.

S2 00:19:53.875 Yeah. That sounds great. That sounds great.

S3 00:19:59.008 Awesome. Well, one of the things that we love is we love when we see a team really work on hiring, developing, training. And then the results that come are super exciting. So I have to share– let’s get back to Mitch Friedman a shout out. I know we’ve interviewed him on previous podcasts. But he’s a classic example. I know he’s been putting a considerable amount of effort into training and developing his team over the last two years. And every single month it seems in the last few months we’ve been getting an email saying, “Broke another record. Record month over here,” at their practice. And so it’s really, really great to see the folks at Hunan Springs Dental Care succeeding month after month after month. And that’s really just the end results of putting some of these principles in place in that.

S2 00:20:42.582 Yeah. It really is. And he’s got it dialed in so beautifully now, but it took a while. I mean he had to apply these principles over and over and over again. And he just has a absolute superstar team.

S3 00:20:58.644 And certainly that’s just one of many of our clients that we could share. But it’s really fun to see their growth in recent months. And to see their successes as they apply some of these principles. So here’s the thing. I mean just to summarize, hiring and developing a world-class team it’s not just about the hiring, right? We got to recruit. We got to hire. But we got to train and retain them as well. And those are really I think some of the things that we miss. Once the new team member is hired, I think many practices just call it good and don’t really have a process in place for training and retaining them. And that’s really what I think is missing.

S2 00:21:36.104 Yup. And without it, your practice will not hit it’s potential. It just can’t. It’s so important that dentistry is a team sport. And the better that you are at building a team, the more success you’re going to have.

S3 00:21:50.626 And the less stress, right?

S2 00:21:52.429 That’s for sure.

S3 00:21:52.954 Much happier. And they always say, “The happier the team, the happier the doctor is, and the less stress.” It’s really nice to have a well-oiled machine that just supports you. And you can focus all your time and energy on doing the dentistry which is what most of our doctors really love and enjoy.

S2 00:22:07.716 Yup. Well, thanks Wendy for another great episode and we will all talk to you soon. We’ll have another episode coming up in a few weeks.

S3 00:22:18.007 Thanks again, everybody.

S2 00:22:20.062 [music] Thanks. Bye.


1. All listeners of the Double Your Production Podcast are welcome to schedule a customized Practice Analysis Amplifier where we will review your current production and create your personalized roadmap for doubling your production. Click here to set up your call

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3. Hiring and Developing a World Class Hygienist article in Dental Economics. Here 

4.The Ultimate Guide To Doubling & Tripling Your Dental Practice Production: How To Build An Unstoppable Dentist Practice With The Freedom To Enjoy It! Here