EP 89: Burnout: How To Thrive In It [The Surprising Secrets]


Today, burnout among dentists and their teams is at an all-time high. 

For that reason, you might think that now is the wrong time to drive change in your practice. However, the right kind of change may actually save your practice from that burnout (without losing patient flow, team members, or profitability). 

That’s the subject of today’s episode of the Double Your Production Podcast. 

Listen now to discover:  

  • How to implement change without compromising your core values 
  • The importance of communicating the “why” behind all effective changes 
  • The key to getting amazing results right out of the gate 
  • The 5 steps to creating lasting change in your practice
  • And more

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 or in the trenches who know exactly what you're going through. Now, your leaders, the stars of the podcast, Dr. John Meese and Wendy Briggs.

Dr John Meis: Hey, welcome everybody to this episode of the double your dental production podcast. I'm Dr. John Meis here with

Wendy Briggs. How you doing, Wendy?

Wendy Briggs: I'm well, thanks, Dr. John, excited for a great topic today.

Dr John Meis: Yeah, I am too, and our topic is really driving great performance. And right now we're seeing practices struggle with this, aren't we?

Wendy Briggs: Yeah. There's so many challenges in the midst of dental practitioners and I'm hearing that burnout amongst dentists and their teams really is at an all-time high.

Dr John Meis: So we know what's happening in the general dental economy. We know that the health policy Institute has said that the dental workforce is 17% smaller than it was prior to COVID, yet the dental demand is every bit as good, maybe more than it was before the COVID pandemic started.

So what we're seeing is teams running ragged, shorthanded, trying to take care of as many people as they did before, but they don't have as many people to help. And so we're starting to see things start to fray around the edges. Aren't we?

Wendy Briggs: Yeah. And it's not just dentistry. We see the help wanted signs everywhere. It seems like everyday on the media there's stories about what's happened to the workforce. Where did the workforce go? But it is affecting dentistry too. And just because it's affecting other verticals or other businesses, it doesn't mean that it makes it any less frustrating for those of us that are in the trenches and having to live with this reality right here and right now.

Dr John Meis: Yep. So when we have this situation and we want to make improvements in our practice, it's particularly tough to make change when already everybody is on their back heels a little bit, just because of how busy everybody is, but it still can happen. And our coaches are still seeing great results when they go into offices. And so I thought it would be a great topic to just discuss, how do we drive change? What are the things that we know from outside... The things, how do we have an impact in practices? And then some tools you can use to have impact with your practices without having a third party.

Wendy Briggs: Of course. And I think Dr. John, one of the things to note is sometimes in times like this doctors become more fearful to try and implement change. I'm on a few social media panels and we moderate some of these, these groups. And one particular group stands out to me, it's the office managers group. And they're the ones saying, "I'm having to tolerate all this unacceptable or less than ideal behavior, because we're afraid that if we make some of our team members bad and they quit, then we'll have no one."

So that's another challenge that we're hearing. And this is why this topic is so important for everybody on the dental team, whether you have a doctor or a hygienist or a team leader.

Dr John Meis: Okay. So there's really different segments to this one is how do we maintain our culture, our values, and have teams behave in a way that are consistent and congruent with that. The next piece is how do we create change? We want to always be on a path of continuous improvement. So how do we do that? And how do we help practices do that? And then the last thing would be a tool that practices can use on their own that we've found helpful in thinking through changes that you want to implement. How's that sound Wendy, that a good set of topics?

Wendy Briggs: Yeah, for sure. Awesome.

Dr John Meis: So first one, how do we keep practices behaving consistently with values? When we know they're short handed where we know, do we keep our standards high? Do we lower our standards? And it's a tough question, mark. And I'll have to say, there's not a single answer. One of the things that I found very helpful when we talk about behaviors, we talk about how do we relate what's happening in the office to our values.

So if we're having a corrective conversation in our office, let's say one of our top values is service. And we have somebody who comes in late every day. And so now the patient, we start with patients late. That's not really living in consistency and congruency with our values. So having using the values as a crutch, it's not about me per se. It's not about personalities. It's not about anything. It's not about not being grateful for you coming to work every day, but it's about, we're not living up to our values. And I think that's the easiest way to not make it personal, be able to have these conversations, be able to have them consistently and have standards that everybody can be expected to live up to.

Wendy Briggs: This can apply in so many ways. We had someone to reach out and say, "we have this one particular hygienist that isn't consistent with taking the needed x-rays it's always, we'll get it next time." Or there wasn't a sensor available. And again, in a very similar mindset, we could say, "Hey, one of our values is, patient experience. And if we aren't providing diagnostic criteria to our doctors at the standard patients deserve, it's going to have a negative impact on the patient experience in the future." The whole point of taking radiographs consistently is to catch things when they're early and they're small to save the patient time and money down the road. And that's another example, so it can be on the clinical side too, not just on the behavioral side, if there are clinical standards that aren't being met that can still be related back to your values.

Dr John Meis: Yeah, absolutely. And so then the question becomes if they don't live up to that, what do you do at that point? And the reality is you have two choices. One is to lower your standards. The other is to keep your standards and go through what would be a progressive discipline process, which we have talked about on previous podcasts. So we all go into detail on that, but those are the two choices. And I know some practices who have relaxed or lowered their standards in order to keep the team intact and keep everybody together. The problem is you do that with one person and one thing, now it can snowball on you. And now there's more topics and more people that are not living up to those standards. And so re lowering your standards is really very, very tricky and very, very dangerous because it can get away from you pretty easily.

Wendy Briggs: I would agree with that. We've seen that plenty of times. We often say your best is your worst. And what can happen is your best employee. The one that you're afraid to lose is usually the person that you end up lowering those standards for, and that's why they become the worst. It becomes the worst thing that you ever have to deal with in your practice, because you know, it can create this culture where there are favorites and those favorites are accommodated when the others that are not, the favorites are not, they're held to a different standard and that that's never fair or fun for anyone to have to deal with that.

Dr John Meis: Yep. Yeah, for sure. All right. Let's move on to the situation where you have someone helping you create change. Like we do at the team training Institute and our coaches do in offices. So tell me what, Wendy, do you think is the secret sauce there? Why is that so amazingly effective?

Wendy Briggs: I think so. So often we hear from dentists through the years, "I've tried to get my team to do X score for years, and it just never really quite happened." And I find often what we hear is that the doctors are telling their team what they want them to do, which is an important thing. Having clear expectations is a really great step forward. However, what we found is many times the team would absolutely love to be able to give the doctors what they want. We'd love to be able to do that more often, but what they don't have often as the compelling why, so the doctors come to the hygienists for example, and say, "Hey, we want everybody to have a fluoride," but if they don't present the science behind it, the comments that we hear on online or directly from hygienist is the practices have shifted.

The doctors are all about the money now, they want us to focus on production, production, production, and we just can't get behind that. We don't want to be that kind of a provider. So something key was missing. We were told what to do, but we weren't told why we should. That's an important thing. And instead of the doctor had said, "Hey, I've read some current research about risk factors in our society. And so many of our patients struggle with, with decay and we really want to help them. One of our core values is patient experience and service. And so we really want to help our patients. Therefore ha let's talk about how we could offer a fluoride more successfully, more effectively and consistently to our adult patients." That's a completely different conversation then you really need to do fluoride on everybody and that's all they get.

So what I think is really unique about having one of our coaches come as is we not only tell the teams what they could be doing to elevate patient care, but we lead with the why we bring all the latest research and science. So they understand why it's important to add these services to our menu, or to add a focus and strive for a higher level of consistency with these services. And then we bring probably the most important part of the equation. And that is the how, how to overcome objections, how to offer these opportunities to patients, especially if you've been in that practice. And you've been a provider for 15 years, and this is the first time that the patient's going to hear about fluoride from you or whatever the service is. You've got to have a way to language that so that you don't make yourself look bad so that you don't make the practice look bad so that you don't feel like, "Hey, this is the product of the month."

That's not a comfortable place to be either. So that's what we bring, is not only what to do, but why the team should do it and why the providers specifically should do it. And then how to get it done in such a way that it's not time intensive. We get high acceptance from the beginning. And those are things that myself and our team of amazing world-class hygiene coaches have developed and refined over the last 25 years. So that's why it works so amazingly well is that it's not just, "no, we're not making it up as we go along." These are proven strategies that we're teaching.

Dr John Meis: Yep. It also is an effect from the person expert from far away. Having a coach come into your office, you could say the same things like, "Wendy, I've seen you do magic and coaching in offices, and I've seen the slides. I've been sat through multiple of them." I could do it right in my own offices, but it doesn't have the same effect as somebody coming from outside in, there's just a certain amount of influence and a certain amount of open-mindedness that comes when you have someone from outside. And that's why having a coach come work with your team is so effective and so valuable.

Wendy Briggs: I would agree Dr. John, we have an upcoming, quarterly practice growth retreat coming up here really soon. And at every retreat we try to celebrate the superstars in the room. So the hygienists who have embraced these changes and done really well, not just the hygienist. We know dentistry is a team sport. So we're celebrating the entire team for the progress that they've made. And one after another stands up and they're like, "oh, hygiene productions doubled." And for us, production isn't necessarily the goal. It's just a result that comes when we elevate patient care, but we celebrate those who are doing amazing things. And we've created this culture where it's okay to celebrate one another and we want to see them celebrated. But what happens is, I would say the overwhelming majority of clients we work with do get amazing results right out of the gate.

But inevitably there's always a few that don't. There's always a few that managing the change within their team and their practice is a little bit more difficult and a little bit more challenging. And sometimes by seeing the results of everybody else in the room, it can be empowering for those who haven't had those results yet. So I would say not only is there a magic Bret coaching, but there's also magic in putting your team members, even those that aren't quite having success yet in a room with other like-minded professionals that are having success. Because when they see what someone else is doing, they know what's possible. And they know that, "Hey, this is a small town practice from Kansas or a small town practice from Louisiana." And these strategies work for them. Therefore, they probably could work for me. So I think sometimes seeing is believing and there's value in that. And that's something else that our clients gain from working with.

Dr John Meis: Yeah. And that's why these networking groups and membership groups are so important because they help you to eliminate some of the excuses that you have. So we have these mental barriers of reasons why we're not performing at a higher level than we are. And you go in and you go into a room full of people and you see people just like you, they're in advantage or disadvantage locations, just like you. And they're knocking it out of the park. And all of a sudden it starts to peel away the excuses and that allows your own thought process to not stand in the way of better performance.

Wendy Briggs: Yeah. I love that so much. But Dr. John, as I mentioned before, there are sometimes those practices that have a slower start and sometimes our own coaches reach out and say, "Hey, I think we really need to have a conversation with the doctor." We've had you step in and have a few of those conversations, a handful of times it's not necessarily very often-

Dr John Meis: Pretty often, but yeah.

Wendy Briggs: What's awesome. Is that what happens after that conversation? So could you give our listeners a little bit of insight into some of the things that you say in that conversation, and maybe as if we have any practice owners listening who say, "Hey, I've tried it all, I've given my team what to do, but they should do it. We've been hired you guys to come in and help them with how or another coach," could you guide us through what you say to the doctors in those conversations that can help them know how to manage that situation?

Dr John Meis: So multiple things I say, first of all, you have to focus on the process of just educating patients and giving them the choice. So often we decide for our, we don't even realize we're doing it, we decide for our patients without giving them the choice. And one of the things our coaches do a great job with is helping offices upgrade the quality of caring that they give as preventive therapists and periodontal therapists and all that is, is really just letting them know what's available and what's possible, and why it would benefit them. And so often doctors can sometimes focus on the end result instead of those two pieces. So it's like, we're not focusing on production. All we're focusing about is doing the right thing for the patient at the right time, every time.

And that's helping them to understand what's available and why it would help them. So that's a key thing. Number two thing that I always talked to them about is it's rare that we have a team where no one is excelling. So there's usually one hygienist or maybe two or three, or depending on the size of the office. There's always somebody excelling. And rather than focus on the ones that are struggling, we focus our attention and our congratulations and our joy and our pat on the back very publicly with the ones that are performing well. And very often our human nature tendency is to do the opposite, but you make much more progress by catching people doing the right things and acknowledging that in a very, very public way. So those are two of the things that I have on really every one of these conversations that I have. And that really helps direct things in a more positive way. And I think helps practices get unstuck.

Wendy Briggs: Yeah. I love that. Dr. John, what would you say to maybe that we also sometimes can have the opposite occur where the teams onboard the team wants to go, but the doctor keeps shutting it down. So what would you say to the team members when the doctor's the one sometimes unknowingly in the way?

Dr John Meis: Yeah. Well, I think that you said the key word there, and that is unknowingly first is to set treatment standards. When we see this, we're going to recommend this, make sure that you have that locked in and then invite your team to hold you accountable to that standard. And if you don't live up to that standard, it's your team's job to let you know, "Hey, what was the deal here? We, we all decided and agreed on this, but you did this now." Obviously that's done at the right time at the right place. Certainly not in front of a patient, certainly not even in front of other team members, it's a personal conversation, but holding your doctor to the standards that the doctor picked is really the secret there. And that takes some humility from doctors to be able to take feedback like this, but feedback is the breakfast of champions. And if we all want to get better at what we do, feedback is extremely helpful in dialing in on the things that we can improve.

Wendy Briggs: Yeah. I love that such great advice.

Dr John Meis: Very good. And then the last piece we had is a simple tool. And let me pop this up. There we go. So successful change happens where we do certain steps in certain orders. And so these are the orders that I think really helps teams create change. Number one is create awareness that there might be a change coming and why you might be making the change, letting that soak into the team a little bit before you actually get specific, I think is helpful. Very often as leaders, we will be thinking about something, cogitating about it, thinking about all the different options. We'll be thinking about it for a long time, weeks or months even. And then we spill it on our team and we expect them to catch on just like that. Well, that's not really fair.And so we think that putting out some awareness, inoculating the teams.

So to say with an idea that might be coming, helps them to slowly get used to the idea. And now they're thinking about it. It's rolling around in their subconscious and I think it makes it helpful. The next is getting team buy-in, and buy-in means every change that you make. You have to think of the win, win, win formula. And that is, how is this a win for our patients first and foremost, how's this a win for our team? How's this a win for our practice? And if you can figure those out ahead of time before you lay it out to the team, you're much more likely to get buy in from the team when they understand that it's going to improve the quality of care, or it's going to improve the health of our patients. Fantastic. If they understand that if they did this and they did it consistently, it's going to change the performance of the practice.

We advocate a method of having your team share in the improved performance of a practice. We think those kinds of bonus systems are important in driving change. The next piece is making sure that they understand getting the skills on how to do it. And I have seen it happen that someone has awareness that we've done everything we can to create. Buy-in, they've got the skills, but the desire is just not there. And that's part of what we're seeing a little bit, I think right now, just because of how weary teams are because being shorthanded. But if you can help them get the desire. And I think the vast, vast, vast, vast, vast majority of dental professionals really care about their patients, really care about their patient's dental health. And that's the one key, the one lever I think that can help them get over the desire hump.

The last is to make sure they have the resources, nothing worse than creating a change and you don't have enough of something. And so one of the things that our coaches teach is having a consistent radiograph protocol and looking at the metrics, are we living up to that protocol? And the answer is often no. And why aren't we? One of the reasons very, very common is we don't have enough sensors. And so what if the sensor is being busy and we're tight on time, we just decide to do it next time. So that would be an example of not having the resources to do it well. And the last is we got to have a plan and we have to have a start date. So nobody starts until the start date. And once that start date hits, we're all doing the change.

So if you do these right, you'll get successful change. If you don't get the awareness right, you're going to create confusion. You're going to drop a bunch of stuff on them. It's going to be overwhelming. They're confused and overwhelmed, and that doesn't create change. If we don't get the buy-in, there could be sabotage. And I've seen that happen multiple times where the team decides against the change that the doctor is trying to drive and creates a tremendous amount of chaos and a tremendous amount of drama in the office. So if they don't have the skills, now the teams are worried about doing it well. They'll go along with it, but that creates a lot of anxiety, which is completely unnecessary if we do it right. And if we get over that desire hump, we don't get the resistance that we would have if we didn't.

And if we ask our teams to do something without the resources, for them to be able to do it, now we have frustration. And the only way people can express their frustration is with their performance. So that creates change. And if there's no action plan, there's no start date. It's very chaotic, very anxious. And it feels to the team. I could just Brendan on a treadmill and that's not a good feeling. Nobody likes that. So if we do these steps in the right order, at the right time, it will greatly improve your ability to create change.

Wendy Briggs: Yeah. I love that Dr. Johnson, for those that are listening to the podcast today and not watching it, we are going to take a screenshot. We'll put a PDF of that chart that Dr. John just walked through. So, so wonderfully, and we'll put it on the landing page, our homepage of the podcast. So if you're listening on the go and you want to see visually what he just walked through, we'll take a screenshot of that tool and post it for you on our show notes landing page, so that you can access that and walk through it.

After John, I think when you look at early on, we talked about the practices that facilitate their progress by having a coach. That's why they have such, such impact. They have the awareness, but they don't necessarily have anything else. And so when our coach has come, they've knocked out all the rest in one day, the buy-in the desire, the skills, the resources, the action plan, like it's all done. And so that's the beautiful thing about having someone come help you is that you can actually facilitate the progress. And we work with the, creating the awareness with your team, work on the buy-in. We work on the desire, we're able to help partner with you in that.

Dr John Meis: Yep. That's what makes the magic happen and why coaching is so effective and why, whether it's in a dental practice or any other business, every high-performing person I know gets coaching, because it allows you to have a bigger impact on the world. And for us to be able to have a bigger impact on our patients, dental health is awesome.

Wendy Briggs: Yeah, love that. So, if you're curious about who we are and what we do a little bit more, we certainly have a couple of opportunities coming up that we'd love to have you reach out to us about, we have started to invite guests to sit in, in a very limited basis on our quarterly practice growth retreats, where we work specifically with clients. So if that is intriguing to you, certainly you can reach out and get some more information for us on from us on that. We also have a couple double your production workshops coming up as well. And certainly our annual champions of dentistry summit will be held the end of April, 2022 in the amazing, beautiful San Diego, California. So all of these are exciting opportunities for you to come and mingle with other practices, like-minded professionals that are doing amazing things, and you always take away as much from our members as you probably do from ourselves and our team. So we'd love to have you attend at some point.

Dr John Meis: Yeah, we sure would there very, very powerful get together is very, very impactful. Getting you in the right mindset, getting your team on board, doing the right things. So fantastic. Well, thanks, Wendy and thanks everybody for being on this episode of the double your production podcast. We'll see you next time.

Wendy Briggs: Thanks everybody.

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