I like to step outside of dentistry into the corporate world for my mastermind meetings and continuing education. During my recent travels, I met up with a Fortune 500 business consultant and we had a brilliant conversation about the concept that success isn’t always all it’s cracked up to be. We both agreed that situational success can sometimes get in the way of long-term, predictable success. Let me explain…
THE GROUNDHOG DAY SUCCESS STRATEGY
We talked about the challenges of developing cross-functional teams, those who perform different functional roles within an organization but must all come together to achieve a common goal. The corporate version of this brings marketing, human resources, and accounting together, for example, while dental teams bring the administrative, clinical assisting and hygienists together to achieve successful outcomes for patients and the practice. Independent expertise is just as critical as the skill of successfully passing the baton to the next department.
While the goal is to ultimately establish a seamless flow from one department to the next, the process can be downright messy at times. I spent a dozen years in the dental practice prior to starting my company, so I know, just as you do, that some days it seems like Murphy’s Law is having a field day at our expense. Then, out of nowhere the puzzle pieces start to fall into place and before you know it, the case works out, the openings in the schedule fill up and the team comes together to rock a successful day. Bravo Team! Everyone goes home happy and we come back the next day to start all over again, business as usual.
STOP RIGHT THERE
This is precisely where your success can get in your way. You and your team struck gold yesterday and it’s critical that you take the time to create the treasure map that will lead you to strike gold again. Rather than feeling like you got lucky, take the time to figure out exactly how you set yourself up for success, exactly how the seeds you planted sprouted, how the proactive tracking process you put in place paid off and/or how the relationships you nurture all contributed to your team’s ability to re-create a successful day on the fly. The insights you discover will enable you to re-create this awesome turnaround success the next time. Success leaves clues … mine the nuggets, capture the gold and reap the rewards of turning Murphy’s Law on its head. Your situational success will morph into creating a more predictable process.
Eye of the Tiger energy leading you into the office.
It’s going to be an awesome day!
The team is all on time, prepared for your huddle, the day is well-scheduled, productive and you’re excited about the good people you’ll see today and the great work you’re privileged to do. Zip a dee doo dah! I love dentistry!
How do we bottle this positive energy, mindset and can-do attitude so it’s there for us as we start each new day?
How do we make this predictable?
What do we do when ‘life happens’ and we have challenges that threaten to derail us?
How can we maintain this positive attitude when the schedule is falling apart or the unexpected happens that extends an appointment causing you to run late?
Let’s dig deeper for some answers.
A Fable and a Frog
Fables are short stories intended to teach us some moral lessons. Most of us are introduced to these stories as children, notably The Tortoise and the Hare, Little Red Riding Hood, and The Ugly Duckling.
There’s another popular fable about a frog that instantly leaps out when placed in a pot of boiling water, immediately aware of the danger. That same frog can be placed in a pot of cool water that is slowly heated to the boiling point and the frog will not sense the gradual change in temperature until it’s too late and the frog meets its demise.
Perspective based on stories we tell ourselves…
I’ve asked hundreds of dental teams what they think the lessons in the Boiled Frog fable are for dentists and their teams. The two most common answers are interestingly at odds with each other.
#1 Change has to be gradual in order for it to be accepted (placing frog in cold water) #2 Change won’t happen without a proper sense of urgency (placing frog in hot water)
Which is the real lesson, the best one? That’s a matter of perspective, based on the stories we tell ourselves.
Whatever you believe will become your reality, as you prove yourself right. For example, you may believe that change won’t happen without a proper sense of urgency and yet how many times have you gone shopping and bought something you didn’t need? There was no urgency for the VitaMix Blender, but it is awesome and you wanted it. You’ll wake up to smoothies and make hot soup because now you can, all the while still believing that there has to be a proper sense of urgency for change to occur. I’m always fascinated that as humans we can hold two seemingly opposite beliefs at one time.
It’s important to realize that our subconscious brain believes what we tell it. This is the root of the limiting beliefs we have that hold us back. I believe our greatest opportunities lie in challenging those limiting beliefs, those stories we tell ourselves at a conscious level with an open mind.
There is a third option…
Back to the boiled frog fable. Here’s a third option that has a pivot point for breaking through many limiting beliefs. It’s most common to see ourselves and our patients as the frog and craft our stories based on which of the two most common choices listed above.
What happens when we approach the question of the best lesson in the story with a totally different perspective: are we the boiled or the boiler? Each of us, as a practice leader, provides the framework for our reality (the pan). We create the culture (the water) and we provide the heat source (the flame).
Eureka! This can change everything.
How does your perspective change when you realize you have the power to determine your outcome? What happens when you start telling yourselves a new story with possibilities you had not previously believed to be possible? Take a look around, if someone else is doing it, there’s a better than average chance you can do it, too. If it’s not being done, who’s to say you can’t be the one to break the barrier and create the freedom to practice the way you want to?
There are 10 top limiting beliefs I see in dental practices
1. Patients only want what insurance covers 2. Ideal day scheduling is a pipe dream 3. There’s just not enough time
My challenge for you this week is to come together as a team and identify your limiting beliefs and then bust them wide open to create your new reality and that Eye of the Tiger energy that will propel your team to even greater impact and success.
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.
Even the best and the brightest teams will fall short of their goals if they are not all on the same page. I’ve seen talented teams that are actually more of a group of people working alongside each other, but with competing priorities, plateau, unable to advance to the next level of success. The best way out of this rut, so you create new growth starts with coming together to shift the energy in the practice, to shift the practice culture. If you want to create a new culture, you have to change the energy feeding the old culture.
I hear from team members all the time that they are “working so hard.” One of my favorite shifts that occur in team development is when the team begins to realize that working hard is not an essential ingredient to success… achieving results is the essential part.
When there are openings in hygiene and someone is focused on how hard he or she is working and how many calls they are making, they are churning negative energy. When you’re on the phone, 92% of your success in communicating will be based on your voice quality and tone – that’s another way of saying it’s based on the energy in your voice. Remember the old adage, it’s not what you say, but how you say it? We’ve all experienced this, right? There’s a big difference between a monotone “Thanks for calling. How can I help you?” and an engaged “Thanks for calling. How can I help you?!” or better yet “Thanks for calling, I can help you!”
If you’re focused on how hard you’re working or how many phone calls you’re making, your voice quality and tone will reflect your struggle. If you’re focusing on the wonderful service you’re providing your patients by helping them stay on track and health, your energy level will shift & so will your results. Energy is either an asset or a liability – it’s a choice we make with every action.
You may think you can kid yourself about your focus, but your energy will not be fooled… neither will your coworkers or your patients.
Group Exercise for Your Practice
Here’s a quick exercise to get everyone focused on identifying your core values that give life (energy) to your practice.
First, everyone take a quick 10 seconds here and think about your role in the practice, what you do at work. Put your ideas up on a whiteboard or easel pad if it’s handy.
I’ve asked thousands of team members to do this and I find the focus is much too narrow and the responses are all position drive: I’m the doctor, I’m a hygienist, I’m an assistant. My favorites are the ones that identify as a piece of furniture when they say, “I’m the front desk.” Wow, we really need to elevate some team members’ images of themselves! I’m guessing most of your answers are probably much the same as I’ve seen, very task oriented.
At your next team meeting, I challenge you to go one step further and write down what you do without using any words that could be found in your job description. Work with a partner so you can rate each other’s answers and nix the ones that might be a task on a job description.
Bring everyone together to understand why you do what you do… and we all know it’s so much more than fixing teeth … it’s about who you are being when you do what you do… it’s about changing lives, restoring confidence and lifting people up.
Create a new list of all the roles you identify in this exercise. I’ve done this exercise with hundreds of teams and every time it has the same effect – it raises the stakes and makes each person’s contribution more meaningful than ever because the focus is on the WHAT & WHY instead of HOW they do their job.
Once you’ve got everyone on the same page with the WHAT & WHYthe power and the passion… the HOW becomes much easier to agree on and the proof is in the results!
Use the video below for your next huddle or team meeting to help facilitate the energy discussion in your practice.
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.