EP11: How to be an Effective Team Leader and Manager

Team leader, office manager or a member of a team, listen in to Dr. John and Wendy, experts on office management talk about how to be a great team leader, as well as when you NEED more team leadership. Improve the productivity of the office, your doctor and save yourself mental energy tomorrow. As mentioned in this episode, if you’d like more information on the team training institute book or the summit Scroll to the bottom of this post!

To better understand how our team thinks this could fit into your office request a roadmap call at the bottom of the page!

Like what you hear? Download our book here on this page!

EP11: ‘How to be an Effective Team Leader and Manager’ Transcript

S1 00:00:02.331 [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. Or in the trenches, know exactly what you’re going through. And now your leaders, the stars of the podcast, Dr. John Meis and Wendy Briggs. [music]

S2 00:00:26.472 Good morning, everybody. Welcome to the Double Your Production Podcast. This is Wendy Briggs and I’m here with Dr. John Meis. Hello, Dr. John.

S3 00:00:33.883 Hey, Wendy. How is it going?

S2 00:00:36.037 I’m awesome. I’m awesome. I’m really excited to visit with you today. We just finished up a quarterly practice growth retreat with some of our top members, our diamond members. And one of the topics that came up very often at this retreat was the role of a team leader, and having a structure where we have a very capable team leader helping the doctor apply his vision and strategically help to grow the practice. So I thought this would be a good topic for our podcast. We get lots of questions about this. What is the team leader supposed to be doing? What’s delegated to the team leader? And how can our doctor be more confident in letting go some of this tasks that they’ve done themselves for so many years? I thought we would just dive right in and talk about how to have an effective team leader.

S3 00:01:25.333 Yeah. Sounds good. Having an effective team leader is so helpful in raising doctor’s productivity. That’s why it’s such a key position in offices. As offices are implementing all of our steps to doubling your production, this is one where really has a lot of leverage on the doctor’s productivity. So one of the questions we got asked is, “At what time do you need to have the team leader?” And we’re using the terms team leader, office manager, clinic administrator. We’re using this term for all of those at this time on this podcast just to make some clarity there. So the place where I really like to see a team leader be put in is when the team goes beyond 16 members. Generally, a doctor can be productive and still manage a team up to about 16 members, but once you get past that, now you’ve got too many people to keep track of. So the organizational industry experts would say that you have a mismatch between your span of control and your span of responsibility. Meaning your responsible for more people than you can really keep track of and develop. Does that make sense?

S2 00:02:56.732 Absolutely does. Yeah. And that’s one thing we’ve seen, as well as practices grow without capable leadership, it becomes very challenging to continue that growth. It brings to mind the picture of a building. A building that doesn’t have a stable foundation. When it gets so tall, pretty soon the entire building is going to collapse. And we’ve seen that happen to practices as well. When the doctor is still trying to have their hands on everything that’s happening day to day, once you grow to a certain point, you really need to delegate some of those tasks, so that the doctor doesn’t spend their valuable mental energy on anything other than doing the dentistry.

S3 00:03:36.655 That’s right. So as a practice is going through the double your production process, one of the pieces is to improve the productivity of the doctor. The productivity per hour particularly. So the doctor is focused on production. The team leader is focused on everything else in the office. So that saves a lot of mental energy. And when I ask people in dentistry what we ran out of first mental energy or physical energy, everybody knows we’d run out of mental energy. One of the reasons why doctors retreat to their private offices and have to be dragged up by team members is because they simply have run out of mental energy. And having an effective team leader really allows you to save a lot of mental energy so that you can use it in producing more dentistry than having to deal with all the non-clinical headaches that an office might have.

S2 00:04:34.121 Yes. That’s so important. There’s a lot of tasks, the day-to-day tasks that the team leader can do. But I think that’s the most important thing is that we do save our doctors. Your doctors can then focus on doing what they love. And we really talk to doctors and have them look at their quadrants of doing, right? What do they really enjoy doing? A lot of times, the tasks that they’re doing if they’re assuming the role of the team leader or the office manager, it doesn’t make that list of things that they enjoy doing. So usually when we help doctors see the vision and see the value of delegating somebody’s task, it really makes everything want on the team happier.

S3 00:05:12.320 You bet. So let’s talk through maybe some of the things that a team leader can do. And we’ll talk kind of early stages, middle stages, late stages. How’s that?

S2 00:05:25.435 That’s great. Yup.

S3 00:05:26.876 So early stages, the team leader can obviously prepare for and lead the morning huddle.

S2 00:05:36.653 Yeah. Another podcast is coming on the morning huddles too because I think they’re still important and so many times when we visit the practices, they say, “We’re not having a morning huddle. We got rid of that.” And I think that may be part of the reason for that. There’s quite a few reasons for that but maybe one of the key reasons is, it’s just one more thing that the doctor has to manage. So if we have a team leader that’s managing that, that’s a beautiful thing.

S3 00:05:57.398 Absolutely. Because there’s prep work for ineffective morning huddle. The morning huddle itself takes mental energy because we’re trying to create an environment that the entire team is pumped up. And by having somebody else other than the doctor to do that, saves a ton of mental energy. So other things team leaders in kind of the beginning stages can do is they can certainly lead the regular team meeting. They can also solve some practices at a weekly team meeting, some monthly. So that’s something that could be done early in the stages. Also doing scheduling of team members. That’s a relatively easy thing for team members to do, it does not require a whole lot of judgment. One of the places where I see doctors really stumble is they are not– they tend to hold on to every decision. And so there is a concept called decision fatigue that– and I personally think it’s just the same thing as mental energy fatigue. But you hear it, you read about it and you hear about it from all different kinds of sources. This decision fatigue that we can only make so many decisions and then our mind starts to bog down. And if the decision making in practices is bogging down, whoever’s bogging it down is the blockage. And most often, it’s the doctor. So Wendy, what are some of the decisions that you have seen doctors delegate to their team leader? Once they are started and kind of doing the basics of the job, what are some of the first things that you see doctors delegate?

S2 00:07:52.545 Well, a lot of the time we’re having the office manager reviewing reports and helping the team know what adjustments need to be made. So decisions about that is if we’re not a goal, maybe figuring out how we can hit goal. I think you mentioned a couple of them. Decisions based on scheduling, if somebody needs a day off, getting their replacement. Those are super easy. Even decisions on how we manage patient care if we have a patient that’s calling [inaudible]. Some of those things– some of those decisions on what to do, insurance write-offs or adjustments that are necessary to keep patients happy. Some of those decisions obviously need to be approved by someone. Other decisions, it seems that we’re talking early on. Decisions about making processes better or increasing efficiency. If we have certain situations that aren’t working, some of those day-to-day problem-solving decisions can certainly be delegated to an effective team leader.

S3 00:09:01.120 You bet. The onboarding of new team members which is usually woefully done in dental practices that’s something that is kind of a mid-level team leader process that they can run. In addition to attracting and kind of weeding through prospects for hires, that’s something that kind of a mid-level team leader can do pretty easily as well.

S2 00:09:30.431 Yeah. I would say as well managing the compliance of the team, are we CPR-certified? Have we done our OSHA certificate? HIPAA compliance, and all those things like that can certainly be delegated. Those are things that a checklist and a couple– somebody needs to be managing those things certainly, and it doesn’t need to be the doctor.

S3 00:09:52.487 Very, very true. And most of this thing, you can take any one of these topics and there is a process for it. And the process needs to be written out using our systematizing effort which is one of the things that we teach. That’d be another good podcast, too.

S2 00:10:10.929 You bet.

S3 00:10:10.914 It’s really how to create a process.

S2 00:10:14.033 Yeah. It certainly would. Even just getting the new hires or the team, making sure that they understand the system, and that they understand our practice policies and how we want our patients to be served in taking– one of the things that I like to use this in analogy is when someone’s hired at an In-N-Out Burger restaurant, for example, it takes them about six months of training before they are allowed to touch the hamburger. And I just find that fascinating because it’s a hamburger. But it takes them six months to really be– develop to the point that they feel like this new hire is capable of handling their golden goose, right? And if we compare that with dentistry, I find it fascinating that sometimes we have new hires and from the high dentist perspective, they’re told, “Here’s your room, here’s your instruments. Ready, go.” And they’re serving patients day one and in dentistry, patients are our golden goose. And so I think you have to be an effective team leader that can help our team understand, this is how we want our patients to be served. And these are the most important principles and things like the phones and the conversations that we have, and all of that are super important. But the doctor doesn’t always have the time needed to message that to the team. Another key role of the team leader is making sure that our core values are transferred and being lived every day. That may not be mid-level, that may be transcending into a higher level skill set. But those are things that are so, so important. When it comes to explaining the practice policies or the practice philosophy, or the values that a practice that’s something that we got to have a team leader managing that.

S3 00:11:56.052 One of the stumbling places that I’ve seen with doctors is that as they start to delegate things, the team leader may not do it just as they would have done it, and they look at that as a mistake. And when there is a mistake there is really a couple of ways to look at that, and one of the ways I like to look at it is kind of the 80% their way of looking at it. So when I do a project personally myself and I get all done with it and it’s all packaged, after a little time has passed I look back on it and I think, “Oh, it would have been better if I did this or it would have been better if i did that.” And I kind of say to myself, “Well, I got an 80% there and that’s not too bad.” And the thing is when our team leaders do things, they’ll often get 80% of the way there, but the 20% that they missed is probably going to be a different 20% than the 20% you would have missed. And so they got stuff that you wouldn’t have gotten, but they missed stuff that you would have.

S3 00:12:58.271 And so the idea is if we’re getting it 80% of the way there, that that’s really what we look at as success. There is always going to be the things they would have done differently. So when you identify one of this phases where they didn’t do it the way you would have done it, and you can characterize that as a mistake, or you can characterize it as the 20% that’s different what you did. And what you do at this critical juncture will say more about your success as a leader than anything else. The default response to this is to take it back. Whatever it was you delegated to that team leader take it back and do it yourself because they can’t do it right. That’s what really, really weak leaders do. Really great leaders give that team member direction and also give them the confidence to keep doing it. Right? Because if you destroy their confidence, they are going to be unlikely to take on additional challenges. So make a corrective action and fill them with confidence because we all perform better when our confidence level is high.

S2 00:14:02.838 Absolutely. And I think that’s– an important thing is to have some type of internal processes or measurement set up so that you can identify what’s working and what’s not.Measurable goals are important and especially if you have a new team leader that you’re trying to develop. Or if this is a new direction for you, there needs to be some thought put into how you’re going to measure and evaluate how this employee, how this team leader is performing because another thing that we often see – just like you said, Dr. John – when things don’t go well, we have a tendency to blame the person or the individual when really it’s the system’s failure, when we really look closely at it. Which is why those processes are so important that you talked about. And so I think having a way to understand how things are working is important. That’s why a lot of doctors will look at reports, and production and collections and adjustments and insurance, aging reports and things. Because really that’s one of the only ways we have of measuring success. So I think it’s important as well if this is a new direction for you, or if you have a relatively new team leader, making sure that you have a way or managing or measuring the processes.

S3 00:15:17.189 So as we go to kind of the top level team leaders, here they’re working on – as you mentioned already – really the culture and values. Make sure that we’re keeping those in front of people and doing it in a way that keep those alive, and keep directing the office. Team leaders at this level also are doing essentially all the hiring and firing. And they also have P&L responsibility. Which means they have access to the financial performance of the office, so they’re looking at the metrics from a productivity and collections standpoint, but they’re also looking at it from a profitability standpoint. And they have the responsibility to drive that profitability. So looking for ways to improve production, looking for ways to reduce expenses. And because they have that responsibility, strategic planning now gets on their list. Now, they may not be doing that alone. They may be doing that in conjunction with the owner-doctor. But we have a couple of practices, Wendy, that we work with where the team leader does all of the strategic planning and does all of the analyzing the financial results and has complete P&L and balance sheet responsibility.

S2 00:16:35.622 Yeah. I would say that’s a very few, unique situations. I would say more often than not the doctors are involved with that. But we do have one practice that I can think of off the top of my head of a rather large practice where the team leader even has a $50,000 decision capability. So they are capable of making up to a $50,000 decision without the doctor’s approval. And that’s pretty high-level right there [laughter].

S3 00:16:58.004 That for sure is. Doctors, if that makes your sphincters tighten just listening to that [laughter], this is not something that happened overnight. This is what happened when giving small decisions, having regular meetings to share experiences and share ideas with the team leader. One of the ways that doctors can really support team leaders and develop them is spending time with them, dedicated time, scheduled time every week. Go over the decisions they made. Talk about options. Talk about things that went well, things that didn’t go well. If you do that regularly, and you provide a safe environment for the team leader to really kind of stretch themselves, you’ll be amazed at how quickly people will come along. And it takes years, but eventually they’ll get to the place where you do trust them to make a $50,000 decision. So that’s certainly not the place to start. It would be not responsible to do that. But how you guide someone’s judgment is by letting them make decisions and talking about what went well and what didn’t afterwards.

S2 00:18:08.581 Love that. Well, I think also, Dr. John, it’s important for us to remind our listeners today that we go into leadership and team structure quite a lot in our book, The Ultimate Guide. And so if you have not yet taken advantage of our opportunity to order that book and read that book, if this is a topic that’s interesting to you and you want to spend some more time in it, we think this is one of our five key steps to doubling production in the practice. And so we would encourage you. We’ll include a link where you get some more information about that book for those that haven’t read it. But we do go into a lot of detail on leadership and team structure in the book as well as in our first couple of episodes of our podcast. We’re visiting about that quite a bit. So there’s certainly value to be had in both of those resources– super important to understand the key benefits that having good leadership and team structure can bring to the dental practice.

S3 00:19:05.180 One of the ways to help develop your team leaders from one level to the next is certainly to be involved in our coaching programs. But we have an event coming up in April, our annual summit, that is a great place for team leaders to develop. We’ve got speakers that are speaking specifically to the challenges that they face, speaking specifically to the teamwork between a doctor and their team leader. And it’s really a great place to start the process of developing a person, if you don’t have one. If you already have one it’s a great place to take it to the next level.

S2 00:19:41.828 Perfect. Love that. And so we’ll include the link for Champions of Dentistry, our summit. This is our 13th annual summit. We’ve been hosting this summit for 13 years, and as Dr. John mentioned, we specifically invite speakers that are unique to dentistry, that are focused on driving practice growth, and it’s a great team development opportunity. We even have a gala and a team dinner that always supports a fabulous charity. And so it’s just an amazing opportunity for your leaders to get the knowledge they need, to also rub shoulders with some other team leaders from truly exceptional practices across the county. So we’d encourage you to follow the link. We’ll include this here for you easily on our podcast page so that you can access that information and hopefully join us. And it’s in fabulous New Orleans, so we’re super excited about that as well.

S3 00:20:32.999 That’s going to be fun.

S2 00:20:35.183 Sure is. Well, thanks, Dr. John. It was a great podcast. I think we will plan– I’ve got a couple podcasts upcoming, our next two podcasts. We’re going to do one where we’re actually speaking to the team leaders so they know how to be better in that role. And I think that’ll be a fascinating topic as well.

S3 00:20:50.846 You bet it will. Looking forward to it. Thanks, Wendy.

S2 00:20:54.768 Thanks so much, Dr. John. Have a great day everybody. [music]


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

2. All listeners of the Double Your Production Podcast, can test-drive our Double Your Production Membership where you have access to the trainings, videos, and live Q&A’s with both Dr. John and Wendy. Check it all our for just $1. Click Here to See Everything That Is Included.