One of the big challenges that dentists face in running a practice is how to be a leader of their team. Most dentists are genuinely unsuited for this task by their natural character. We tend to be self-starters, which makes it hard for us to get inside the heads of people who are not. Unfortunately, this can make it very hard to motivate your team if they aren’t performing the way you’d like. One strategy dentists often fall to is setting up performance goals that seem to give an objective, numerical way to measure how well people are doing their jobs.
However, unless they’re properly used, these metrics can actually lead to worse performance among your team members. Consultation by Dr. Safarian can help you avoid these problems with metrics.
You Get What You Measure
One of the big problems dentists experience when they start setting metrics is that they start getting what they asked for, but it’s not what they actually wanted.
Consider, for example, that you might notice your front desk staff is spending too much time on the phone when patients call to make or reschedule appointments. You decide to set up a metric–the average length of time spent on the phone with patients–and a goal to reduce this time by 20%. Hooray, you manage to achieve your goal in a month!
But then the problems start. It turns out that your desk staff has been in such a hurry to get off the phone with patients that the frequency of incomplete or inaccurate information has gone up. Patients start showing up at the wrong time for appointments, and you have to deal with patients that have been double-booked. Maybe an appointment is supposed to include a certain procedure, but that wasn’t noted and the supplies weren’t laid out properly. Maybe you don’t even have the supplies on-hand if it’s not something you commonly do.
By setting up a numerical goal, you encourage your employees to focus on a certain aspect of their job rather than paying attention to that job as a whole.
Not Everything Is a Number
Another problem with setting up metrics is that you might end up trying to use numbers for measuring things that aren’t well-suited to numerical measurements. This can include subjective categories of patient experience that might not easily translate into numbers.
You might start rewarding or punishing staff on the basis of whether these numbers are going up, down, or remaining stable. Unfortunately, just seeing the numbers go up or down might not mean the staff is doing anything wrong (or right, for that matter!). If you’re not using a properly validated questionnaire, your questions might prejudice the answers for good or ill.
Or, what you’re seeing might just be random fluctuations in the number, which you won’t know unless you collect a long enough series of data before using the numbers. Often, researchers recommend collecting a year’s worth of data to understand regular and seasonal fluctuation before starting to actually use numbers.
Leadership Is More Than Setting Benchmarks
So, what do you do if you can’t just set numerical goals and expect people to achieve them to improve your practice? In some cases, it might be that simple. In other cases, however, you might need a subtler or more detailed approach.
In the case of employees spending too much time on the phone, for example, you might need to listen to employee phone calls and figure out why they’re spending too much time on the phone. Once you know where the wasted time is, you can train desk staff in being more efficient on the phone. In other cases, role-playing can help you show your employees how to face and overcome daily problems that hurt your productivity, patients’ goodwill, and, ultimately, your bottom line.
Dentist and business consultant Dr. Shahin Safarian has experience dealing with these types of personnel problems. He can help you assess the problems in your practice and develop winning strategies to overcome them so that you can grow yours into a 7 Figure Dental Practice.
Please call (858) 349-7996 today to learn how Dr. Safarian can help your dental practice and schedule regular consulting.