Communication between management teams and ownership is a critical function of a successful DSO or group practice. Does your practice have a clear org chart that outlines the reporting structure for your company? Does your team know who they are accountable to and who they are accountable for? With these channels for communication clearly defined, it is easier for our teams to know who to go to and for what- making decision and implementation quicker and less painful. Once our reporting structure is clear, the leadership team should establish an agenda driven, 30-60 minutes, once weekly meeting that includes owners, Regional Directors (RDO), and in some cases Office Managers (OM).
The RDO, in conjunction with OM’s at the practice level, should prepare the meeting agenda with updates for outstanding action items (from last meeting), staffing, HR concerns, facilities issues, MTD and YTD KPI’s, marketing and other business. The owners are simply attendees of the meeting, offering their feedback and input when needed. These meetings will keep the OM’s accountable to the RDO with regards to outstanding tasks and systems implementation and the RDO accountable to the owners. Each task or action item should, not only be attainable but, have an agreed upon target date of completion. Then, it is our managers responsibility to pass down the important relevant information and delegate the agreed upon systems at the practice level. While having a strong and consistent Leadership Meeting is a step in the right direction, the strongest accountability will be needed at the practice level, where employee engagement is typically the lowest.
For RDO’s and OM’s: “We have tried to implement systems and it works for a period of time, but then we slip back into our old habits”. Does this sound familiar? We hear this from frustrated dentists and managers nearly every day. Why, though, is this such a common theme in dental practices? In our experience, it is fear or the inability by owners and managers to hold their team members accountable. The truth is, accountability is hard for most, but it doesn’t have to be. If you follow the sequence of “Systems, Training, People”- accountability will be easy and, moreover, expected by your team. There are several reasons that team members may not follow a system.
The first is they don’t understand what is expected of them. As dentists and high-level managers, we sometimes have the unrealistic expectation that our teams just know what we want from them. Is this fair? No. If you want your team to perform a certain way, they must know what you want. When these expectations are documented, or written down, they become systems for your office. All your systems should live in a handbook in your office to be referred to by the team, especially when there is a new employee. Having documented systems is step one, but even knowing the expectation isn’t always enough- and this is where most practices drop the ball. Investing time and energy into training your team so they have the skills to deliver on the expectations you have set is often overlooked by managers and owners for fear that production may suffer during those times spent out of patient care.
The truth, however, is that by not training your team, you are losing production every minute you are in patient care. An untrained team will lose money, but trained teams will become revenue driving machines. Once you have established and documented systems, and you have spent the time properly training your team, your team members decide to either comply or be subordinate. Most team members will happily comply, at least for a time, but when they start to slip there is no one there to get them back on track. This is where accountability and discipline come in. A progressive discipline system will empower RDO’s and OM’s to formally address and document insubordination by team members and encourage policy compliance by offering improvement plans. These can be used at all levels of the company.