It seems that I recently have had more than a few incidents that have negatively affected my work attitude. I’m sure most dentists who have been in practice for some time have experienced similar challenges, hence the existence of so many practice management companies. Most of these are beneficial in providing us with the managerial, leadership, and motivational training that we don’t get in dental school. I have used a few of these companies over the years and had recently convinced myself that perhaps I needed to hire another. But, before signing on to another $40,000 to $50,000 commitment, I decided to look back on the lessons I have learned, but inadequately implemented, in the past.
Many years ago, I attended a few sessions of Walter Haley’s Dental Boot Camp in Hunt, Texas. Walter and the boot camp are gone now, but I still remember some of his philosophy. Walter would have been the last to take credit for what he taught, because I remember him telling us that none of what he told us was new. He said most of his tenets came from the Bible, while the rest came from great teachers before him who had positive influences on his success. So, I do not credit Walter and his group as the originators, but merely the source, of these ideas. By the way, Walter was not a dentist. However, he did know how to motivate and transfer life lessons better than anyone I ever met.
Dental boot camp was emphatic about setting daily and long-term goals, writing them down, and reviewing them daily. Being a self-proclaimed procrastinator, I have not been good about this practice. I am pledging to myself to do as he said and, “Do what you gotta do, when you gotta do it—no debate.”
Another practice I will expand on is what Walter termed “getting the monkey off your back.” In our roles as practice manager, CEO, CFO, and doctor, it is easy to become overwhelmed with minutia that can easily be handled by our staffs. How many times have staff members come to you to seek a solution to a problem that you know they could have handled by themselves? We (I) need to give our staff permission and responsibility to handle not only clinical, but expanded management duties. One of the ways Walter said he handled this was by telling his employees that he had every confidence in them to solve the problem. One of his rules was that staff members could not come to him with a problem if they had not already considered at least three solutions—one of which should cost no money.
My favorite “Haleyism” was to “make up a list of things of which I will not put off.” Many of these should be included in an employee manual, regarding policies for expected performance, time off, etc. Others should be included in your patient management and treatment protocols. My most recent addition to his list concerns patients coming to me for a second opinion. I now insist on having all X-rays upon which the treatment recommendations were made BEFORE the patient arrives for the appointment with us.
So, if you need a management coach to help set up systems in your office, hone your leadership skills, or help motivate you and your staff, by all means, hire one. If you have invested in one or more management companies in the past and are still not where you want to be, try these things:
- Make a list of daily and long-term goals and review it daily.
- Make up a list of things of which you will not put off.
- Give your staff permission to “make decisions,” not just perform duties.
- Lastly, “do what you gotta do, when you gotta do it.”
As Walter liked to say, what you seek is seeking you.
Terry G. Box, DDS, MAGD