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.
I enjoy the opportunity to speak to many team members around the country and to learn about their goals and dreams as well as their frustrations. It’s in those interactions that breakthroughs often occur. One person recently told me, “I worked for that doctor for over 15 years and he never once did anything for me.” Wow, where do I begin? I decided to listen and learn this person’s perspective.
“Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak up – courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.” Winston Churchill is the genius behind this quote that teaches the value of quiet strength and wisdom.
I’m a big fan of Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People; in this case, I was practicing the Seek First to Understand, then to be Understood habit. Once I gain a better understanding, I’ll be able to ask the questions that will give the other person the courage to stop making their case for unhappiness and instead face the future with renewed enthusiasm.
When this woman was finished with her story, I asked:
Question #1: “Now that you’re with a new practice, why is this coming up?”
Her answer, “My new doctor is doing reviews, which the former one never did. We’re talking about me, which is good, but my new doctor doesn’t appreciate all I know, all I do and how good I am. He just wants me to do more.”
I then asked question #2: “Are you happy in your work?”
She responded, “Lately, I’m feeling frustrated and bored at work. I rather be appreciated for what I do now than have to attend meetings to learn more.”
And finally, question #3: “Do you think your best work days are behind you or ahead of you?”
Her energy changed as she was very quick to respond, “I’ll probably work for another 15 years, so I sure hope they’re ahead of me!”
Whoop, there it is! That’s the enthusiasm I was hoping was still there, although masked by her own ego and disconnect with the new doctor’s vision.
Enthusiasm is what fuels our passions to create, to enjoy our work and to take our personal and team performance to the elusive next level. Enthusiasm isn’t about what we have – we can be appreciative of what we have or have accomplished. Enthusiasm exists for what’s to come, where we’re going, what we’ll achieve next. Enthusiasm is about the future. I’ve met this woman many times through the years; her name and face have changed, but her story remains the same.
How about you? Have you met this person, unhappy in the present, not sure how to move forward? The choice is to step up or to step out of the practice.
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.”
Have you ever had a moment of inspiration and it disappeared as quickly as it arrived?
I had one of these moments a year ago this month as I realized the answer to the question that dentists have been asking me for years. This aha moment was so exciting to me that it inspired me to write a book over the next six months!
Here’s the question: “Can’t I just do the dentistry?”
This question is usually accompanied by a sense of frustration over the time that dentists spend away from their clinical joy. Does this sound like you or someone you know?
I know this is the dynamic that causes new dentists and dentists that have been practicing fifty years to agree that their biggest stressor in practice is the team stress and drama.
My aha moment was in realizing that my consulting work over the past twenty years has indeed taught me (and my clients) that “Yes, you can just do the dentistry” after you make a few key leadership pivots.
This is the passion behind my book, “PIVOT: Practice Leadership Redefined How Dentists Adjust Course & Just Do the Dentistry“.
When I think of a pivot I think of basketball. My dad always used sports lessons as metaphors for life, so of course, my mind went to sports as I was trying to come up with the perfect title for my book.
While watching the Villanova Wildcats win the NCAA Championship last year I noticed that the color commentators for the tournament continually talked about Nova’s star Ryan Arcidiacono’s awesome ability to pivot. Aha! I loved the sound of the word and the visual of shifting in place to create a better opportunity.
Turns out that the lean business definition of pivot is to “change strategy without changing vision.”
That’s exactly what I am proposing to you in the book.
Today’s Pivot Point: Leadership
First Step… Shifting Your TEAM Mindset
Shifting your TEAM mindset is the first step. Start with them and you’ll experience radical results. Think about how you would want your team to treat your patients and aspire to treat your team the same way.
STOP DOING THESE 3 THINGS
1. Do not share your financial stressors with the team
If you want to inspire your team to fully engage with head, hands, and heart, you must go first. Share your purpose and passion with your team. One thing I know for sure is that when a team comes together understanding the big why in what they do, the financial success will follow.
2. Do not think that a good paycheck alone will inspire your team
Visa’s inventor, Dee Hock, said it best “Money motivates neither the best people nor the best in people. It can move the body and influence the mind, but it cannot touch the heart or move the spirit; that is reserved for belief, principle, and morality.” You definitely want your team’s hearts to be in it.
3. Do not think that clinical excellence alone will build your practice
Your patients do not judge you by the quality of your work – they simply are not qualified to judge quality. Patients judge you and decide if they will continue to be your patient by the way they feel when they are in your practice. Excellence in care and service is the winning combination.
What SHOULD You Do Instead?
If you’ve been guilty of any one or more of the previous things, I’ve created a simple Do This Not That Guide to PIVOT in a different, more productive direction!
Simple click on the image of the guide to begin shifting your team mindset today.
Did you try the guide to begin shifting your team mindset? Share your experience in the comments section.
Do You Remember the old game show “To Tell The Truth?”
This long-running game show featured challengers who were introduced and all claimed to be the central character. Celebrity panelists conducted a Q&A and then had to choose who they thought was actually telling the truth and was the real central character.
When it comes to finding the next best team member for your practice, you too will face multiple candidates who claim to be the ‘real thing.’
Let’s spend some time talking about how you can navigate these tricky waters and improve your chances for success. In this webinar, we’ll review laws, recommendations and follow actual candidates through the selection process.
Hiring may be more art than science… but there’s so much you can do to tip the odds of making a good hire in your favor. Please join me Tuesday, December 2, 2014 at 5:00 Pacific & 8:00 Eastern for an interactive webinar, Hiring… on Purpose!
You will learn:
- To add rigor to your hiring process to improve the odds you hire right – the first time
- How to separate the best interviewers from the best candidates – this is huge!
- Gain confidence as an interviewer as we review actual questions & answers from real dental practice interviews
- Protect your practice and yourself by understanding the legalities that exist in the hiring process
- You’ll see if you can indeed “pick the winner.”
Click this link to register for this webinar hosted by The Scheduling College