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January 16th, 2023

Episode 141: Dr. Baird Answers Your Question About Setting Team Expectations

“I struggled with setting expectations without being a prima donna or overbearing.” ~Dr. Bruce B. Baird

A doctor recently emailed me this question: “How can I as the doctor – through my leadership – build the skills to set expectations and promote accountability with my team?”

I get variations on this question all the time, because, let’s be honest, team management is the most challenging part of your job as a dental practice owner. 

But this topic is so important because if you get it right, you can save yourself and your team from so many headaches, and save your business from the chaos caused by team turnover. 

I could probably do an all day seminar on this topic, but today I am going to hit on a few of the highlights I see in this qustion, including:

  • Developing the leadership skills to set expectations with your team
  • How solid systems help you manage your team when breakdowns happen
  • The role crucial conversations play in effective management

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Hi thi is Dr. Bruce B. Bair with The Productive Dentist Podcast and this is going to be about leadership and it’s another one of the questions I got from one of our listeners, How can doctors through their leadership development, build the skills to set expectations have Crucial Conversations with their team and promote accountability among themselves and the team? Well, fantastic question and we could probably do an all day seminar on it, I’m going to touch some of the highlights of what I see in this question but how first of all, how do we develop the leadership skills?

I think one of the books that you should read is Crucial Conversations and it’s a book I read several years ago, because I struggled. You know, how do I set expectations with with people without you know, without being a I don’t know a prima donna or somebody who, you know, you don’t understand what kind of debt we have in this practice and, you know, I want to set these expectations and and there are times in basically all of this that question about how do you develop the skills to set expectations. It starts with you It starts with the boss, it starts with the leader and you can’t if you’re showing up, you know, 20 minutes late for the morning and you’re you really don’t have a big interest in training your team and you don’t really have you’re just they’re going through the motions.

It’s a job, you know, you’d like it but it’s not, you know, it’s not the do all end all for your life, well, then you’re going to have a difficult time. You know, you’re going to have an extremely difficult time setting expectations and setting kind of rules and regs. So what I would say is, first off, you need to get systems in place that are solid systems for accounts receivable for revenue cycle management for case presentation skills for financial options. There’s everything has To be set, you know, I love Pete Dawson and and I went through all a pizza courses years ago and Pete used to say, you know, there’s a place for everything and everything in his place.

Now he was talking about instruments and, and impressions and, and all of that which I agree there’s a place for everything and everything should be in a place, everybody knows where everything is but what about our systems, there’s a system for everything and there’s a way of doing everything and that way is the way that you, as the leader, have developed through education and through coming, most of us are not going to come out of school, knowing all of our systems, you know, you’re going to have to go and that’s one of the things we teach productive dentist Academy, these are systems that you’re going to put in play, that are going to be solid, they’re going to be systems that you can count on, they’re going to be systems that are maybe not universal, because a lot of people don’t do things the way that we recommend doing it but

But it’s going to be something that you understand and your team totally understands. So when you get into a situation where everybody is trained, everybody is on the same page, then what happens when someone goes off the rail? That’s when you need to, you know, because you’re gonna set expectations based upon the systems that you have in play. They, you know, these are our expectations. This is what we do. A, B, C, D, we have a patient that we’re going to do a treatment plan on, we do the treatment plan. B, we’re going to ask if they have any questions, who would do we’re going to answer those questions? You know, ABCD, you know, we’re How much is this going to be? What do you have financial options?

Absolutely. What are your financial options? Everybody in the office should be able to tell you these are our financial options, a lot of dental practice, they say, Well, I’ve got to have somebody who does case presentations. No, as the dentist, you’re presenting the case, you are the one who’s getting the patient to nod their head and say yes to treatment, even before they know how much it is they want you to be the one to do it. So all at that point you need to do is tell them this is this is how much your approximately your case is going to be but I’m going to have summer go over that with you and then summer has a system she goes through. So everybody in the practice has this has this ABC D now you’re setting these expectations but what happens if somebody falls off the rails, that’s when we call that a training opportunity?

You know, we say okay, at our next team meeting, which you should be having at least once a month, and I would say early in your career, and early with your team. That should be four hours a month, and maybe even a full day a month to train on what you want and how you want it done. Okay, as you get further in your career, and only further in your career with the same team that you had to start with, because team turnover is a total bummer. I had one assistant been with me 10 121 32 years. So early on in my career. Like I told you guys, I had lost employees left and right, because I didn’t know what I was doing.

We teach a course called driving the bus. I didn’t know how to drive the damn bus, how can I hold people accountable to get on the bus and I didn’t know how to drive it and so that’s where you need help but once you once you get that figured out as the leader, which you should now what kind of conversations to have when people fall off the rail and move away from a system that you have in place? Well, you have a training opportunity when you have your training, you talk about it. Hey, guys, I noticed that when we’re doing this, I’m starting to see some you know, our financial arrangements, options. You know, I’ve noticed that they’re not being signed, and we’re starting to see some cancellations, which usually cancellations have to do with our financial options. When a patient’s not fully understanding what their financial options are.

Guess what happens? They end up canceling the appointment, because that wasn’t it wasn’t something that they totally understood. So but when you have to have that crucial conversation, because I call a training opportunity is more of a group solution. I say, Hey, guys, I’m seeing this. Let’s keep a close watch on it but then it gets down to a crucial conversation with a specific team member and I would have no problem calling in somebody in the office saying hey, you know I love the way you talk to the patients. I love the way Are you, you know, you assess, but this is something I’ve noticed and we’ve really got to shore this up. Because you know, these patients don’t seem to be 100% committed to the treatment, I need you to come get me I need you to, you know, whatever that system breakdown is and that crucial conversation and the patient and your employees going to be going, Yes, I understand. Dr. B, I’m gonna do that better and then what you do is you trust but verify, you’re gonna say, okay, great, let’s do it and if I can help you let me know, that’s coming as a leader that’s coming different.

It’s just being pissed off at somebody for not doing it the way you want it done and so I simply say,
Yeah, that’s great but then you’re gonna keep following that person to make sure over the next month or two months, that, you know, they’re following the protocol that the whole team is following and then comes the time where they’re not doing that again and you might have a second conversation and say, we’ve talked about this before. I’m gonna give everybody the benefit of the doubt I go, is everything okay, at home? Is everything going well? Or, you know, oh, yeah, yeah. You know, and, at some point, if a team member continually flows, against what’s going on, you’ve got to have some accountability. Because if you don’t, it kills your team. I mean, you may have five people that work for you, if you let one get away with not doing things the way that you have set up the practice to do, then what happens is the whole place starts to, to fall apart.

Have I ever seen that happen? Yeah, I’ve seen it happen in person. I’ve seen it happen in probably 400 practices around the country that we’ve worked with. Because it’s it’s absolutely critical that these crucial conversations are had and like I say, read the book, Crucial Conversations, it really is awesome and it helped me, it helped me to be able to talk to patients in a way or talk to a team in a way that I’m not attacking them, I’m just attacking the behavior of what’s going on but

if you start letting people get away with things, then everyone’s going to be getting away with it and I can tell you, I’ve seen it over and over and over and over and over and over again, in dental practices where some aren’t, and it’s not that it’s their favorite, you know, because some of the team will be going well, that they just shouldn’t get away with anything, because Doctor so and so likes her. Know that that can happen. In your practice. Again, I’ve been there, I’ve done that but what can happen is you can direct, we have conversations with people, and let them know that this is the behavior that that we have no matter if you know him from outside of the office, and you consider them maybe I’ve seen people hire friends, and then they can’t say anything to him and the friend just basically runs over the rest of the practice and

then what we end up having is an invitation, you know, you have to be willing to invite people to go to their happy place if that’s what we need to have. In other words, you can invite people to go to their happy place. Because in the way I do, that is I’m talking to the patient, or I’m talking, I keep saying patients or I talked to my team member and or my employee and I say, you know, we’ve gone over this three times and you know, I just I’m not sure you get it, giving you every benefit of the doubt but you know, I think you’re going to have to find a place somewhere else store somewhere else, where you’re going to be happy. Because there’s no no way you’re happy when I’m constantly on you about not getting this or that done and I don’t know what the reasons are for why you haven’t such a tough time but we’re only here on this planet for a short time and I want you to be happy. I want you to have true joy and happiness in your life and you invite them to go somewhere else.

Now I’ve done that with an employee who was a very good friend, and she was pissed I’ve talked about it in previous podcasts but if you didn’t hear it, she was pissed. She was a hygienist and she had suffered from depression, and bipolar, and she would come in she’d be the best employee in the world and then the next week, she’d be pissed about everything and then the next week she’d be great and I told her us man, we really got to watch this and I probably didn’t have the crucial conversations that I should have and then finally in January, which is what I do every year I look in January and say Who am I surrounded myself with? What are the fun things I’m doing? You know, who are these folks? are they leading me in the right direction, am I leading myself in the right direction? And so I told her, I said, I’m gonna invite you to head by she says, You’re firing me and she was so pissed off. I said, Well, no, I’m inviting you to your happy place and she laughed. You know, she was a beautiful photographer. She was just a great person and she was so pissed and slammed the door to leave a year later, she was in Colorado now and

she had opened up her own hygiene office and solo office and had opened up a photography shop next door and she was like a saint, unbelievable photographer. She came back to me a couple of years later walking down the hall, and I thought, oh, no, here she comes and we’re still friends to this day, but I thought she was gonna punch me but she came and hugged me started crying and said, I would have never got to the place I wanted to be if it hadn’t been for you and so So remember that, you know, sometimes you have to have the way you’re always going to have Crucial Conversations but

sometimes you have to invite people to go to their happy place. So anyway, hopefully, this has been a good podcast for you guys remember, vote for the productive dentist podcast and tell your friends about it and I look forward to next time.

Thank you for joining me for this episode of the Productive Dentists Podcast. If you found this episode helpful, make sure you subscribe and pass it along to a friend. Give us a like on iTunes and Spotify. Or drop me an email at Don’t forget to check out other podcasts from the Productive Dentist Academy of Join me again next week for another episode of the productive dentistry Our guest

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