In the May 2014 issue of AGD Impact, Dr. Don Deems had a great article about how to take responsibility for employee behavior. It’s a great article and has some really great steps on avoiding the pitfalls of teams falling apart and how, as the leader of your team, you can create an environment that is fulfilling and positive. Of the many points he made, one that was mentioned was employee agreements. He did not expound much on this particular topic (no room in a one-page article), but this point resonated well with me.
More than 20 years ago, after I bought my practice from Dr. Roy Rasmussen (who, at 89 years of age, is still healthy, of sound mind and mostly sound body, continues to be an inspiration for me), I ran into the usual problems that we encounter so often. The receptionists were complaining about the assistants, the assistants were complaining about the hygienists and the hygienists were complaining about everyone. And they each told everyone, except the person they should have been talking to, that they were unhappy. It did not happen every day, but it happened with enough regularity to keep the office from reaching its potential, which hurt me financially.
I worked with a business coach and he pointed me to some wonderful training he had received from Tony Robbins, the man who brought us the “Personal Power” and “Get the Edge” personal improvement systems. There is one section that talks about an employee agreement. It is both simple and powerful.
Simply put, if Sally has a problem with Josephine, she does not tell Anne. Sally has to talk to Josephine directly. And Anne has to agree that if Sally does come to her with a complaint about Josephine, Anne is to direct Sally to talk to Josephine. That’s it. We all simply agree (regardless of position within the office) that Person A must talk to Person B and that Person C, if approached about Person B, must send Person A back to Person B without comment, but simply to support.
It all boils down to communication and relationships. I don’t expect my team to be best friends and socialize on a personal level outside the office. I do, however, expect them to be comfortable enough to sit down, face-to-face, in a private, supportive environment, and discuss like adults the issues that we are having with each other. It is simple, it is powerful and it has lead to peace in my office for many years. I now have team members (I don’t have staff, I have team members) who have been with me for 15, even 20, years. At first, I needed to be a neutral third party, sitting as an observer, to ensure the conversation remained civil and adult; that soon dropped as expected adult behavior reigned and became commonplace. The blame train ended.
Another important aspect in helping the employee agreements to be effective was personality testing and the information we learned about each other from this testing. I’ll discuss that in my next blog.
In the meantime, if you have not implemented the employee agreement in your office, try that now. And let me know how well it works for your teams.
Larry Stanleigh, DDS