Where’s your focus at work?
While for many this seems like a rhetorical question, it’s a valid reality check that determines both your level of happiness at work, the results you can achieve and the degree to which your patients will recommend you to their family and friends. The emotion you lead with makes a difference. Let me explain my recent experience.
My mother was in the emergency room with a developing situation requiring her to be hospitalized. I think it’s safe to say that anyone who has visited an emergency room with a loved one knows the whirl of emotions that both the patient and family members are feeling. The urgency of the experience is palpable and the faces of those waiting in the ER show the concern and anxiety in play.
Adding to this apprehension, the ER can often be bursting with patients seeking treatment, creating a situation that presents a challenge to the team of medical professionals at hand. Like all challenges in life, the ER team can see this reality as a burden or an opportunity. That choice determines the experience for doctor and patient.
Imagine this scene:
Your Mom is in the ER, a nurse is in the process of placing an IV and a doctor storms into the room. Oblivious to the nurse, he places his hand on your Mom’s back forcing her forward so he could listen to her breathing while asking a series of questions in a staccato rhythm.
Now consider two questions in that moment:
1. What emotions do you think the patient is feeling?
2. What emotions do you think the doctor is feeling?
A few minutes later, the ER team changed shifts and a second doctor entered the room. He smiled, introduced himself to your Mom then knelt by her side asking, “How are you feeling?” He took a moment to listen to her answer. He then asked all the same questions the first doctor had asked.
Consider the same two questions:
1. What emotions do you think the patient is feeling?
2. What emotions do you think the doctor is feeling?
Here’s an actual rhetorical question: Which experience do you want for yourself and for your patients?
With that in mind, how well are you delivering the best experience on a consistent basis? Not just when it’s easy, but when you are running behind, stressed or understaffed? Have you talked about purpose with your team? There may be a great opportunity here for you to talk with your team and help them come together to see their primary purpose at work and how they can support each other in this purpose.
As my Mom’s staunch advocates, we reported the first doctor’s behavior to the nursing supervisor who genuinely understood our concern and offered her apology. Turns out the nurse had also reported the doctor’s behavior. The first doctor returned to the room, stood in the corner and said, “I’m sorry that you were upset. I am very busy and was just trying to do my job.” A classic non-apology, apology. I reached out to him to explain that a more empathetic approach would benefit him as well as the patient, may only have taken an additional 30 seconds and would have been rewarding for him. He didn’t get it. He left as harried as he entered, maybe even a little more. I was sad for him.
“Let’s do things not only to create progress… but to create purpose. Purpose is that sense that we are part of something bigger than ourselves, that we are needed, that we have something better ahead to work for. Purpose is what creates true happiness.”
~ Mark Zuckuerberg, CEO of Facebook
Thankfully, my Mom is home and well, with this experience behind her. This was a cautionary tale demonstrating the power that purpose brings to our ability to create happiness in our daily lives. We all face challenges; how we respond to these challenges is the difference between fulfillment and frustration.
We all have stressors in our life. Have you noticed that some people can keep an even keel and move gracefully through the process, while others get caught up in the urgency, losing themselves in the process? I believe the most destructive impact of stress is that it can blind us from the freedom we have to choose our next steps and move forward on our own terms, creating a culture that embraces joy, gratitude, empathy and respect.
Your practice culture can’t simply be announced, it must be earned one day at a time.
Here’s a challenge for the coming week:
Talk with your team about the freedom of choice you have to choose the emotions you will lead with and to determine where your focus will be at work. Identify potential stressors in the day at your morning huddle and set an intentional plan of action that will build the culture you all want to live and work in. Proactive planning will be a powerful tool for your team.
Let’s talk about Difficult Conversations
We’ve all been there – out of nowhere you realize you are dealing with an upset person. This person could be on the other end of the telephone, or right there with you, it could be a patient or a coworker.
For a team that is committed to exceptional care and service, this is where the rubber meets the road. It’s easy to be at your best when everything is going as planned, not so easy when the unexpected happens. You don’t ever need to be flustered as long as you are prepared with the right mindset and great responses that will let the other person know you are listening, understanding and want to help.
Here’s a great approach to working with an upset caller:
#1 Stay Calm & Remember:
- The caller is angry about a situation & is emotional– it’s NOT personal– it’s just directed at you
- Recognize you need to take control of the situation to best help the caller
- Shift emotionally and physically into Rescue Mode – it’s your opportunity to turn things around
- Listen for Understanding – be certain to write down the caller’s name and use it
- Thank the caller: “Mary, thank you for taking the time to call and let us know something is not right”
#2 Remain Calm & Connect:
- Talk and let your caller know you are there to help … “I’m listening… please tell me what has happened so I can help…”
- Practice active listening and take concise notes: bullet points are sometimes easier than sentences
#3 Remain Calm & Steady:
- Empathize with your caller. “I’d be upset if this happened to me too” or “Mary, I can certainly understand how you feel”
- Confirm your understanding of the details of the situation “May I please ask a few questions to be certain I have all the information I need to best help you?”
#4 Remain Calm & Reassure your Caller:
- Thank the caller again. “Thank you for helping me to better understand”
- Take responsibility. Be sure your caller knows you are invested in helping them – not just taking a message. “I will personally see that we resolve this for you.” Or “I will personally see that I get you in contact with the person who can resolve this for you.” Or if possible, “Let me fix this for you right now”
#5 Remain Calm & Move Things Forward:
- Find a win-win solution. “My goal is to resolve this situation for you. I will go ahead and …”
- Or, “I have great news … I think I can fix this for you right now. Let’s go ahead and …”
- Confirm your next step. “Will this be okay with you?”
#6 Follow Up As Promised:
- Bring things to a positive close “I want to make sure we resolved this issue for you. Is there anything else I can do to assist you?”
- Thank the caller again for taking the time to give you the opportunity to make things right. Let them know you really appreciate them and thank them for the opportunity to help.
One more quick tip:
Be authentic, respectful and empathetic – not accusatory or defensive. The three best words for gaining clarity are never “Why did you?” because the normal response is a defensive one. Instead, use these 3 magic words “Help me understand.”
Your tone and body language changes when you say these words and you will invite conversation that will be much more likely to lead to resolving the issue at hand. Successful communication is about consciously choosing your approach, leading with your best intentions and listening for opportunities to let your patient or coworker know you’re ultimately both on the same side wanting to create the best possible outcomes.
Does this sound familiar?
Your 11:00 patient has arrived on time. Unfortunately, your 9:00 patient is still in the chair, you’re running behind and you still have two hygiene patients to check.
Everyone from the patient in the chair to the team to the patient in the reception area are impacted. Stressful, for sure. You vow to tease this apart at your next team meeting and figure out what went wrong. You run to the team lounge and make a note on the agenda list, What’s wrong with the schedule that we’re running behind – figure it out!
Two days later as the team gathers for the weekly one-hour team meeting, you pull the agenda list from the lounge. As the meeting begins, you ask, “What’s wrong with the schedule that we’re running behind?” Your question is met with the deafening sounds of silence. “Anyone have any ideas here? What do you think the problem is?” You realize you’re looking at the tops of everyone’s heads. They do not want to make eye contact and be put on the spot to weigh in and risk getting thrown under the bus. How can you create solutions when the team won’t weigh in and help you create solutions?
PIVOT Point: Strategy
My Dad always said, “If you don’t like the answers you’re getting, ask better questions.” Time to hit the reset button and change your strategy. I recommend two new strategies to create a breakthrough for you and your team. [Page 24 in PIVOT]
#1 Set your team up for success [The CAUSE strategy]
C Create an agenda that supports your team to grow beyond their circumstances
A Avoid the blame game. Search for innovative solutions rather than excuses
U Understand the real issue at hand. Are you dealing with facts or opinions?
S Set your team up for success by starting the meeting on a positive note with great energy
E Engage with your team to do the pre-work for the meeting so everyone comes to the meeting ready to contribute solutions. Have their backs.
#2 The FIRST 20% Solution
The most common approach to problem-solving is to focus on the result and work right there where the problem became apparent, the train derailed and the system failed. The trouble with that approach is that the problem actually occurred long before the train derailed. It’s in re-evaluating the actions in the first 20% of the process, before the train ever left the tracks, that you’ll find the opportunities for positive changes that will create a better result.
Funny coincidence, Bradley Cooper learns the value of the First 20% solution in the movie Burnt. I’d love to hear from you if you, too recognize the First 20% lesson in the movie. I’ll leave you with this, “The difference between school and life: School teaches you lessons and then gives you a test. Life gives you a test and you learn the lessons.”
First Step… Celebrate Your Successes!
There are five fundamentals of PIVOT Leadership. This post will focus on Strategy. Click this link to the article, Go Right Ahead, Play Favorites that addresses where your leadership focus should be to celebrate the high performers on your team. Today we’ll talk about the how to celebrate and come alive in your practice. Here we go….
“Seems like as soon as we reach one goal, we move onto the next goal. I think our practice could do a better job of giving us that high-five feeling when we’ve earned it.” Brave words from a team member during a recent meeting.
- Could one of your team members be feeling the same way?
- As the practice leaders, could you do a better job of celebrating success and encouraging your team to celebrate each other?
Who doesn’t love a celebration? I especially like when I see team members recognizing one another for great work by sharing their ‘wins’ from the day before. This is one of my favorite parts of my client on-sites and Skype meetings.
“Tell me something good” is a key fundamental strategy for success as well as an uplifting way to start each day and celebrate each quarter with your team. Below I’ll take you through the 5 Steps to Celebrating Your Success Team Meeting.
5 Steps to Celebrating Your Success Team Meeting
Step #1 Schedule a special team meeting
The first quarter [Q1] of the year begins with holiday celebration, fanfare, party hats and noisemakers. This is a time when many teams focus on strategic planning and thoughtful intention for the new year. It’s high time we give some attention to the start of the second quarter [Q2], too. Let’s start with recognizing and celebrating your Q1 wins.
Step #2 Create a fun atmosphere in your meeting room
Celebration meetings should not look the same as every other team meeting and usually involve festive foods. You could bring in lunch or snacks, decorate with balloons or noisemakers. Some teams choose snacks like fruit, yogurt, or crudité while others go for nuts, candy, and chocolate. You could also decorate with small potted plants that the team members can take home. This is also a good time to plan a fun activity for the team during the meeting.
Step #3 Brainstorming Time
Let the team know it’s important to you that the team recognizes and celebrates success and you realize that some ‘wins’ are obvious to the entire team, yet many times a team member has a personal win the rest of the team would love to know about. Then, break into smaller groups, give each group a copy of the Celebrating Your Success worksheet attached and have them begin their brainstorming session. Each team’s challenge is to create a list of the accomplishments [big & small] that you as individuals and as a team have accomplished in Q1 and identify how you achieved your results.
Step #4 Synergize
After about ten minutes, bring the small groups back together so you can share your lists. Have a large sheet of easel or butcher paper and sharpies available. Draw straws to see which team will create the main list on the large paper and then have the other teams call out their ‘wins’ and together create one long list. *Tip: Brainstorming is most successful when it begins in small groups and you’ll build momentum as you come back together. * Chances are the group will think of more accomplishments as you synergize to create this one big list. more accomplishments.
a. Talk about how you made these achievements happen
b. Encourage team members to share details of the most meaningful patient connections they had in the previous month.
c. Clapping and cowbell celebrations should be encouraged too!
d. When discussing the team behaviors and actions that went into these special moments and practice wins be sure to notice any recurring themes. This exercise sets the stage for establishing Q2 strategies goals and we’ll talk about that in next week’s email blog.
Step #5 The Take Aways
Our lives are enriched by the quality of our relationships. Look for opportunities to build the quality of your team relationships. Yes, this takes time, but less than you may think. Begin every day by sharing “what was great about yesterday” so you authentically create an atmosphere that supports and encourages the team to raise the bar on their connections with each other and with patients. Like a new pair of shoes, it may feel awkward in the beginning. Stick with it. One day you’ll notice you all have come to love this strategy for team success. Ask me how I know ☺
To get you started please download my Accomplishments by Quarter Worksheet.
Distinguish your practice by seeing your patients on time. Your patients will appreciate your respect for their time and as is true with many things in life, you will reap what you sow. Here is a link to my article from Dental Products Report sharing my 5-Minute Rule. http://bit.ly/1OLylKK
My favorite team meeting, the one I want to attend is “The Meeting After The Meeting”; the one that takes place in the hallway, sterilization area or at the front desk when the team separates into groups and has a no-holds barred discussion of exactly what should have been said at “The Official Meeting”. It’s in this raw honesty that change is possible and we can create an agenda that fuels Team Meetings That Work!
The trouble is that “The Meeting After The Meeting” is private, by invitation-only and it’s a tough ticket to get.
Click on this link to read the full text of this article as published in The Progressive Dentist Magazine to learn the surprising 4 steps to set yourself up for Team Meetings That Work