Is it Me, or Them??

.A client said to me this week,

“You’ve got to help me sort it out, listen, here’s what’s going on. My Practice Manager isn’t really managing, she’s just keeping the scores and taking sides with the team against me. My Receptionist isn’t dealing with new patient enquiries in the way I’ve asked her to and we’re missing out on new patients. She also has a habit of inflaming situations with disgruntled clients instead of calming them down. My Associates are complaining that they are not getting enough new patients (and yet, they get more than me and I gross more than them…). My Hygienist wants to stay self employed and yet she wants me to pay her whether she sees a patient or not. My overdraft is increasing and when I’m away from the practice, very little seems to get done and I’ve no idea what they get up to. I’m feeling tired and weary and underpaid and I think I might just sell the practice.”

Very often when we hear this from a client, the Breathe Coaches spring into action and we set about rescuing the practice owner and the practice with tactics like these. We:

  1. “Re-chip” the Practice Manager so that they understand their role is to help develop and grow the practice and that handling the administration and buying the team birthday presents isn’t enough.
  2. We train the receptionists as to how best to handle new enquirers by teaching them how to: build rapport, seek information, offer solutions within the right time-frame, explain the fee, ask for the business, overcome objections and close the sale. We do this week by week using mystery shopping to review progress.
  3. Help the Associates improve their self-confidence, standardise their clinical examinations, improve their communication skills, track their average treatment plan values and record their daily production against a target.
  4. Explain to the Hygienist that times have changed at the Inland Revenue and the criteria for being self employed are strict and clearly laid down on their web site. And, that it is the Principal’s responsibility to get the terms of their employment in line with their behaviours.
  5. Go through the practice’s fixed and variable costs line by line and identify any areas where reasonable savings can be made.
  6. Meet with the fee earners and find out what the roadblocks are to improving their daily gross fees. Then help them get past their roadblocks.
  7. Re-motivate the practice owner by reminding them of their vision and their business plan and the benefits that will flow from achieving these goals…

However, before we push the button to implement these tactics, it is often essential to stop and ask a couple of questions:

  1. Has this happened before to this practice owner?
  2. What is their role in this story?

Because, put bluntly, part of the problem for this practice owner (and for many practice principals like her) is that they are simply not leading their practices and influencing their teams.  Often, the reason the team are not behaving as the practice owner would like is not because the front desk can’t do their job, or that the associates are naturally grumpy, but because they are lacking clear leadership. That’s why it’s all kicking off in this practice because their is no effective leadership. Fixing the team as we describe above does not always fix the problems that the practice owner is experiencing. What is needed is to fix the leadership before any of the other problems. The Team don’t know what the business plan is, what direction the practice is heading, what the destination looks like, what strategy and tactics are to be deployed and what they have to do to help achieve the plan and, really importantly, “what’s in it for them?”!

Leadership and influence take many forms, but the version used in some practices can take the form of: criticising, complaining, feeling resentful, becoming angry, controlling, or not communicating at all. These are not successful leadership behaviours. Few of us get taught to lead. Those that can do it well either have a natural skill or they have trained themselves in successful leadership and influencing behaviours. Those that are good at it know that they need plenty of time to motivate and persuade their team to follow them on the journey towards their business goals. They also know that leaders have to walk the talk, all the time and they understand that their teams are mostly longing to be lead!

To lead a dental practice along a path of sustained growth and success, you really have to nail these two:

  1. The Vision. The Destination. The Objectives. The Business Plan, Strategy and Tactics.
  2. A set of effective Leadership and Influencing Skills. Know how to motivate, lead and influence your team so that they come with you rather than push back against you.


So, what’s missing in the practice I describe is a destination and the leadership to get to it. The practice doesn’t necessarily need a wholesale clear out and replacement of the team, they need a more effective Practice Owner leading them.

If you need some help with either of these two skills (creating your Destination & Business Plan, or becoming a better Leader), we are running two events in November (as we do every November) to help you with this stuff: The Breathe Retreat and The Breathe Leadership Workshop. If you would like to know more about how either of these events can help you, please contact Ernie on0845 299 7209, and read the article below from one of the Breathe clients who has experienced The Breathe Retreat.

With all good wishes,

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