People are excited about their own ideas, goals and what they help create. This episode has something for everyone! Listen in to Heather Driscoll who dives into creating a dream team that provide support and ultimately elevate the overall environment in your office. Dive in full speed ahead with the tips and tricks she brings to the table, and implement them TOMORROW!
“EP46: Increase Overall Team Effectiveness and Engagement with Heather Driscoll” Transcript:
To share with you my pre-game ritual, which I think I’ve shared before. So I always give myself this very modified pep talk, and it goes like this, “Don’t suck.” Okay. That’s it. Except for today, it was a little different because when I look at the agenda, and I’m going after the amazing Dr. John Meis and the absolutely extraordinary Wendy Briggs and right before lunch, pressure. So I had to change up my pep talk. So today, it went like this, “Oh, please, dear Lord, don’t let me suck [laughter].” So that’s what I’m shooting for. Anyway.
So I want to share with you some strategies to improve team engagement because I know from experience, and research supports the fact that the highly engaged teams are also the most effective. No surprise there, right? And the reason this is important to me– there are several, but I’m going to start with this. So why must I be engaged and effective? Well, this is my family. So I have a really fantastic husband who just supports all the craziness I come up with on any given day, appreciates the fact that when we check in to a Marriott hotel, they’re like, “Oh, a titanium elite member,” which means I spend more time in hotels than I do in bed with him, but he likes the concierge lounge, so that’s good. My beautiful daughter who’s a sophomore at the University of Iowa, go Hawkeyes. And then that cute little boy who’s nine years old, my son, and I’m learning a lot about Fortnite. So that’s fantastic. But I live my purpose and I try to help other people live their purpose because I believe that I owe it to them, and I owe it to the teams that I have the responsibility of leading. So real quick, before I share my strategies, I believe my purpose is to be the kind of leader that can create an environment and culture that makes it easy for my teams to see the opportunities and hope of tomorrow. Because when they can see those opportunities, and they can feel that hope, seeing and believing, and when they can see it and believe it, they can do it. But I have to engage them in a way that makes them even care or want to. So highly engaged teams are an absolute competitive advantage. Easier said than done, right? We have practices in the Tulsa, Oklahoma market right now where you can’t find a hygienist to save your life. And so anybody? No, I’m not recruiting [laughter]. I almost did, and then I remembered the rules. Right? But if you know anyone who lives in Tulsa and is a fantastic hygienist, send them our way. Because the labor market’s so tight, you have to do an even better job of creating an environment where people want to be. Not just your patients but your teams. So I always feel like team engagement and team effectiveness would get a lot more attention if there was a category on the profit and loss statement that reflected how well we were doing. Right? Wouldn’t that be great, if every month I could pull up the PNL and I could see, “Oh, perfect. Team effectiveness performing to budget. Oh, we’re ahead of our projections for 2019 on team engagement.” But it’s not that easy. So we have to be more in tune, and we have to really condition ourselves to think about how our businesses are supporting the purpose and vision that our team members have for themselves.
All right. Okay. Very good. So if you asked yourself to give yourself a score right now, on the effectiveness and engagement levels of your team, would it create a positive on your financial statement? Or do you have opportunities for improvement? And I think all of us have opportunities for improvement. So I want to share with you some thoughts behind how to improve our overall team effectiveness by increasing the engagement our team members have in our business and our purpose. So engagement is defined by three factors: how employees think, how they feel, and then, ultimately, how they act because of how they think and how they feel. So leadership effectiveness is really where it all starts. Right? So what Dr. John said yesterday about the fact that if there’s a problem, who’s fault is it? The doctor’s. Right? Because by nature, whether you like it or not, the day you were given the title of doctor, you became a leader. So your effectiveness as a leader, not just the doctor, but those of you who truly have the title of leader, your effectiveness trickles over into everybody else’s effectiveness. Not a surprise. Right? But what happens is we spend a lot of time managing the complexity of the atmosphere in which our teams engage and perform. So we create systems for recall, and a new patient process, and ordering supplies, and we try to minimize the complexity of the atmosphere, but there’s the complexity of our team member’s hearts and our minds and back to the think and feel, right, which impacts how they act. And no one really teaches us, well, how in the order do we minimize the complexity that happens in everybody’s lives because sometimes they can get a little bit crazy. So the best leaders, the most effective leaders find a way to kind of blend the two, create an environment where we can minimize the complexity of both the atmosphere in which our teams perform, but also the mind and the heart in which they operate, right? So we’re not going to give into touchy-feely– I had a fantastic visit with Dr. Mitch Freedman and his team. They’re our blue diamond members. And one of their team members said to me, “I really liked your training because it wasn’t camp cupcake.” I was like [laughter], “That’s fantastic.” So no camp cupcake today although I like strategies and things we can put into action far better than that.
So my top 10 strategies to improve team effectiveness and team engagement. And they’re not actually mine because I didn’t really create any of them, but I borrowed them from people who are super successful and a company that I’ve been doing a little bit more research on called The Great Game of Business. I think that if we want to continue to be disruptors, to Wendy’s point, in our industry, we have to study really successful businesses outside of healthcare. There’s a lot we can learn from Amazon and CVS and all of these– Redbox. We were just talking about– Wendy had a great idea about an adaptation on Redbox. And so The Great Game of Business really challenges people to look at their business through a different lens. And so I really borrowed some of their thoughts.
So rule number one, you get what you give, right? And not just as a leader but as a team member, a teammate. So I believe it must be clear upfront in your practice that your hiring strategy is the fact that people have to come with batteries included, right? I can’t spend all day building you up. You have to come prepared to contribute in a way that makes it easier for everybody else to be effective. But creating that kind of culture starts at the top. So some ways to make that happen, first and foremost, and Dr. John alluded to this this morning, clearly defined and agreed upon core values and not just the values but the behaviors that we believe represent the values that you’ve stated are yours. And so it’s one thing to create a poster with five core values, and it’s another thing to behave and act and live in a way that really truly supports those. So a good, fairly easy way to do that, just get some post-it note flipcharts, write your core values on them, and have your teams share what they believe each value actually looks like. So if compassion is a core value of yours, well, my version of compassion might be very different. And so the flipchart exercise just really truly allows people to share as a team how they believe each value really-truly shows up. What does that look like in teamwork and patient experience? Because what you will find is that people have very different ideas of integrity and results, growth. Whatever one of your values might be, it’s important that everybody understands not just the value but how we can make sure that it’s really-truly present every single day.
So then when you have really clear values and the behaviors that support them, you can use that information to support the processes you use for selecting team members. You can incorporate this information into your job postings, into your interviewing processes, hiring training, you name it. So one really good way to do that is by having your team help you think of scenarios, questions that could be asked of potential new team members that really support the kind of behaviors that they want to see in the teammates that they’re ultimately going to be working with. Group interviewing, so lots of times I like to make sure that someone other than the leader of a certain role is in the interview process. So if I’m hiring a business assistant, I may just want a hygienist to sit in with my admin team leader and really truly take to the next level the concept of people supporting what they help create. No one wants to see the people that they hired fail, right? So when you can engage people in having a little more skin in the game, it’s super helpful. The other thing is they see things through a different lens, right? A hygienist’s evaluation of a business team member looks very different than mine, and I really want to make sure I can capture that insight.
So core values in decision making, there are times that we struggle to make a decision. And often times we don’t recognize that it’s that way because what we’re trying to decide is creating some kind of conflict with what we truly believe. And unfortunately, we don’t always step back and engage our team in a way that helps to really decide– help us to decide, “Would this bring our practice closer to our vision? Would this be in alignment with who we say we are?” But often times, as leaders, we tend to take on all that weight, and then our teams have trouble supporting the decisions we make, especially when they don’t completely align with who we say we are.
And then the last one, Bonnie’s advice, so Bonnie is, was my mother. And I remember when I got my first job, well, my first technical job, I was 14, and I started work at a grocery store. My twin sister and I both did. And this was my mother’s– I guess her version of a pep talk, which you’ll see now where I get my talent on pep talk. This is what she told us when we went to leave our first day of work, “Listen, 14-year-olds come a dime a dozen. They’re not doing you a favor by giving you a job. Make sure you work hard. Don’t embarrass us. Now, get going,” basically. It was something like that. And I was like, “Got it, okay. Don’t suck, right?” I’ve just condensed it. I’ve got more efficient. And so I often think sometimes– and I’m trying to make sure that my kids, as my husband says, are not a drain on society, right? Sometimes as team members, we think we’re irreplaceable, right? We start to get the sense of entitlement, and once in a while, we need a little bit of Bonnie’s advice, “You’re not that great, right?” Seems completely counterintuitive to team engagement, right? You suck. No, that’s not what I mean. But creating systems that really allow people to really have a little bit of personal reflection, right? Because sometimes we really-truly start to believe we’re the most amazing, and in some ways, we are, but we’ll only be able to stay that way if we keep working at it. So having some element of feedback that’s really honest and candid and maybe doesn’t always feel good. So we’re going to talk a little bit more about that as we move forward.
So rule number two to improving engagement it’s easy to stop one guy, but hard to stop 100. Right? And so successful practices have team members who hold each other accountable. They’re in sync with each other. They’re aligned. They depend on each other. They have common goals, and they have the freedom to act on making those goals happen, which is probably the most important part. Right? And so some of the ways that we make it easy for people to be aligned, so that we don’t have as much heavy lifting as their leaders, is to make goal-setting an all-team sport. So it was interesting yesterday on our Diamond Member Day, which was fantastic. Your big ideas were absolutely incredible. But some of what we heard was the creativity that they brought to goal-setting and to accomplishing some specific tasks that they were really struggling within their practices. So again, I think that’s fantastic. Because as the leader, I don’t want to be responsible for every decision, every goal we set, number one, because I’m not usually the one with most accurate view of what’s really truly happening, and number two, people are much more likely to be excited about their own ideas. Right? And so if we engage the team in setting some of our goals, it feels different than if I just come and tell them what their new goal is. They’re much more likely to push back if I’m the sole decision-maker.
The other things is having them think about how the goals they set are going to impact their teammates. So really easy to kind of get into that natural divide of the front office and the back office. And sometimes the goals that departments pick are really great for them, but they don’t necessarily recognize the toll that it’s going to take on the other teammates that they don’t as closely interact with. So you’ll see things like, “Oh, we’re going to increase reappointment to 95%, and we’re going to do that by making sure that the front desk does all–” because those of us who work at the front desk are lovingly called furniture. Right? The front desk is going to reappoint all the patients. Right? You know if you work at the front desk. I feel you. Okay. Well, that’s fantastic, except for, you’ve just created a bottleneck and a burden on the front desk. Right? And so we don’t always check in with our teammates when we’re setting goals, which is really difficult when you’re trying to improve team engagement.
So the next thing is creating an environment where the team provides feedback as often and as candidly as possible. So that means that it has to be safe, and it usually has to be more positive. So I just borrowed this idea from Dr. Friedman and his team when I was there – I don’t know – last month, I guess. Caught you cards. And I don’t know if it was caught you or got you because– Caught you? Oh, okay. Good. My midwestern accent picked up their east coast accent, translated perfectly. So I was a part of their huddle, and team members came with caught you cards. And it was truly just highlighting something that their fellow team members had done well the day before or during that week or what have you, and then they put them in this bucket, and then they had a drawing at some point, the week or the month or what have you. And of course, the more good you did and the more caught you cards you had, the more chances you had to win something in the drawing. So it’s a fantastic way of providing feedback, but in a really positive way. Because what happens is that people reward what they want to see more of. Right? “Oh, I caught someone so helping sterilize instruments,” or, “I caught someone so being super positive when I asked them to help me with the financial arrangement. Whatever it is, people will tell you what they want to see more of in a format like this. The other thing we talk with our diamond members is exercises like the My Development Path exercise. So it’s scary to ask people what you could do better at, right? And most of the time, because we’re all really nice, we don’t want to tell people, “Well, you’re not the greatest at this,” right? And so the Development Path exercise is something that I encourage teams to do together. And it looks this simple. You just have a worksheet, one for each person, and the top section is the confidence builder, right?
So you pass it around, and everyone gets a chance to write down something that I’m good at, right? You do an exceptional job at these three things. But then you ask them to tell you something that you could do better than you’re doing today, right? And so it’s easy because everybody is doing it. Everybody is making the commitment to ask their teammates to be really, truly honest, “Please tell me how I can be better. Tell me how I can be a better teammate. Tell me how I can be a better dental assistant.” Whatever it looks like. And then whatever that list ends up being, there’s usually a little bit of a theme to some of the answers, and from there you can create a development path for your team members.
So I remember, when I was a clinical dental assistant, which was short-lived because I did suck at that. I could not make a temporary to save my soul. And so the thought of me ever making a three-unit temporary bridge, I was just like, “There is not a chance that’s ever going to happen. And so I know with great certainty that my fellow dental assistants would be like, “One thing you could work on would be just maybe staying away from making temporaries altogether [laughter].” I don’t know. But beyond that, once I identified an area of opportunity, I can then find someone who had that same responsibility in their Excel column. Then I know who to go to if I want to get better at making temporaries. But everybody is doing it together, and so it’s less intimidating and more likely to stick.
The next thing is getting comfortable with uncomfortable. So easier said than done, right? But oftentimes in dental practices, those of us as coaches, we go into a practice, and you can feel that something’s just not quite right. And you don’t know if there was like a falling out, but you kind of start to tell by the way people interact, something’s just maybe not quite right. And then typically what happens is we start our training, and we try to help give strategies to improve patient care and teamwork and all those things, and then something gets said in the meeting, and it opens up the floodgates, right?
Well, this is where most people panic. Except for me and my colleagues in the back row, the fantastic Team Training Institute coaches, we go, “Ooh, stuff’s going to start getting good,” right? Because uncomfortable is where progress happens. And so you have to practice being uncomfortable. And so when there’s issues in a dental practice, I just like to roll out the red carpet for them, not in a self-serving way, but if we’re having trouble staying on time with patients, well, let’s talk about it. Not so that we can point blame because that’s not going to help, but so that we can really overcome the uncomfortable. And then as a team, we can just agree, yeah, we want to get better at these things. And to get better, it means we’re going to have to do things different. But oftentimes we shy away from those conversations that might feel a little ugh, when that’s actually where you need to dive full speed ahead. So one way to do that is truly just by practicing. If I need to have a difficult conversation with someone, still, to this day, sometimes, I’ll call Dr. Mees and I’ll say, “Do you mind if I just kind of talk this conversation through with you?” And that’s wonderful, right, because he’ll give me some feedback and say, “Yeah, you might want to think about adding this or maybe leaving that part out,” or what have you, but it’s just like the discussions about feelings or [for ride?]. Right? We try to get really good at those things because we know it’s what’s right for our patients. But we don’t spend time getting good at having challenging conversations, even though we know it’s what’s right for team engagement. So I just challenge you to spend a little bit more time in the uncomfortable. So I believe that if you build a culture of accountability, it takes care of itself. But I love this quote. We’re building a culture of accountability, trust, and togetherness. Which means entitlement will not be tolerated. Really highly engaged teams make it very hard for underperformers to stick around. That’s perfect for me as a leader, right? Then I don’t have to make the tough decisions, which I shouldn’t anyway. But really engaged teams who have these skills are able to help people understand that their future might be brighter somewhere else. All right. So rule number three, what comes around, goes around. Tell the truth because I believe we should just leave it up to someone else to handle all the karma. Right? If I’m just honest about what’s happening, then I don’t have to worry about the downfall or the downside of trying to sugarcoat things. And so what this looks like in highly-engaged teams is this: communication, communication, communication. In good times and in bad. Right? So consistent meeting structure. It’s one of the very first things I ask teams. How often do you meet? Well, we used to meet every month. Right? Well, sometimes we meet once a quarter. Well, it’s hard to communicate and make positive change or keep people aligned when you don’t slow down and really get intentional about it. So not just consistent communication platforms but the unexpected. So just the other night, I text Dr. Mees to share with him just a success story at one of our practices that we’ve been struggling with. And he said to me, “Would you mind sharing this girl’s phone number with me, so I can text her and congratulate her?” So I did, and he texts her, right? How long did that take? Two minutes? Not even? What do you think’s going to happen with the girl that Dr. Mees texts? She’s going to do more of what he’s congratulating her on. Right? Because communication matters. The consistent planned communication and the inconsistent surprise communication. It’s important. It increases team engagement. The other thing that I believe happens with really great leaders in the most highly-engaged teams is that they’re just human. Right? They’re just who they are. Unless you’re a jerk, you don’t get a free ticket to just be who you are [laughter], but most of the time, people want to know that their leader is just like them. Right? They want to see you in your best and they want to see you humble and authentic in times that are challenging. They don’t expect you to be a superhero. So I work with lots and lots of doctors who don’t ever take advantage of the incredible resource they have in their team. They keep everything to themselves, and I’ll get to the fact that there has to be a level of professionalism and optimism, right, when you’re sharing things. But you don’t have to be a superhero. And the most engaged, most effective teams have leaders who are just comfortable with being human. Right? No one expects you to move mountains. They want to help you. Right? They want to know that you need their help. And so imperfection is relatable. Right? I remember the very first summit I spoke at – I don’t know how many years ago – and I finished, and I thought, “Well, that didn’t suck.” Right? And a doctor came up to me afterwards and he said, “Oh, I just wanted to tell you I really loved your presentation because you were just normal.” And I was like, “Ow. Okay. I think normal’s just a step above sucking [laughter].” And I hung onto that for a long time until one day, I was sharing that discussion with someone, and they said, “That’s not what he was saying. He was saying you were relatable.” And so he took what you were sharing and thought, “Well, holy cow. I could actually do this.” Well, imagine how I felt. It was that two ways of looking at things that Dr. John shared with us this morning. Right? I don’t have enough new patients. Or I’m just not quite as effective with case acceptance. Right? So for me, I took normal as an insult, and really what he was saying was, thank you. Right? And so normal is relatable. And our teams want to see you being normal. Again, in an optimistic and professional way, of course. All right. So last one on rule number three. Being likable doesn’t simply mean doing what people want. And I found this out the hard way because I had some really challenging people I led. And these may or may not be their real names. They are. So don’t tell them [laughter]. But Brenda and Jan were a little bit of a challenge for me in my early leadership years. And anything I would ask of them, I just felt like they just did the exact opposite. I think partly because I was a lot younger than one of them at the time. And one day, I was just like, “All right. Here goes. I’m going to have a really uncomfortable conversation.” And I just walked over to the two of them, who were mumbling under their breath about basically, I’m assuming, how horrible I was and how we were asking ridiculous things of them. And I just asked them nicely, “Would it be okay if we talked through the obviously hard feelings that you have about what we decided?” And they were completely caught off guard, and they were like, “Absolutely. Let’s discuss it.” And after we talked through it, Jan said to me, “I never respected you as a leader until this moment because you weren’t scared of not being liked.” And I was like, “Oh, well, she just wanted to know I had a backbone. Right?” And so sometimes, we’re so concerned about being liked that we don’t do the right thing for our patients or our teams. And really highly-engaged teams sometimes don’t like their leader. And that’s okay. Right? Because if you just set out to be liked, you need to be prepared to compromise on anything at anytime. And you very likely could achieve nothing. Right? So I’m okay with someone not liking me on any given day. Because I know it’s not their only encounter with me. Right? I have to build trust and rapport with people before I’m able to be a little more candid. But it’s okay for you as a leader, once in a while, for people to be like, “Gr.” Because they know you’re coming from a good place. But backing away from uncomfortable, it’s hard to move forward when that happens.
All right. We’re going to stop you there and let you take home some of those diamonds that you learned today and get working on creating a more effective team within your practice. We hope you enjoyed this podcast with Heather Driscoll and we will see you next time. [music]