When someone asks you what your job is in the practice, how do you respond?
My experience is that most people respond with either a job title or a job description, a list of tasks:
- I clean teeth
- I restore teeth
- I answer phones
- I pour models
- I take x-rays
- I collect payments
- I schedule appointments
- I educate patients
Tasks are important. Systems to organize tasks are important. But they are only part of what we do. They are not why we come to work. They are not the goal. They are ways to achieve the goal.
I remember when my son worked in a grocery store as a teen ager. Part of his job was to stack the dairy case. He had to arrange all the items according to their “Sell date.” He was annoyed when customers came in and randomly grabbed a container of yogurt and messed up his hard work. At his young age he lost sight of the fact that the goal of the process was for customers to get their yogurt, and for the store to get paid. Young and old, we can all get hung up in the tasks and the systems and sometimes lose sight of the goal. (Click here to read more. . .)
When I find myself annoyed by a ringing phone because I have “too much to do” I am losing sight of why I come to work. I once talked with a person who works at the front desk in a dental office, and she said she was frustrated because she did not get a thing done that day. Insurance forms were stacked up on her desk and other tasks she planned to accomplish that day were not done. When I asked her what happened she said it was because she got calls from four new patients that day which took up a lot of her time. What a catastrophe! She was able to laugh at herself when she realized where her attention had gone. Four new patients — the life blood of a practice — had become a distraction. Click here to learn more about how our “Step by Step” workshop in Arizona can help your team support the practice at a higher level.
What if you put your attention more on what you are trying to accomplish every day? What if each person talked more about the outcomes you are trying to achieve when you perform a task? What if you talked about what you aspire to as individuals and as a team?
I’ve often said that if I ask each member of a dental team what his or her primary responsibility was ideally each would respond: “I help people make healthy choices.” Dentists, assistants, hygienists, and those who work at the front desk: “My primary responsibility it to help people make healthy choices.” I see that as the overarching goal of every practice. It serves the needs of the patients and of the practice. Within that overarching goal every person on the team is also defined by individual outcomes they are attempting to achieve. Outcomes that serve the patients and the practice.
We all get caught up in the tasks we are trying to accomplish. I love crossing things off my “to do” list. We take pride in our tasks and our systems. But when teams really tune in to what each other is trying to accomplish we function at a much higher level.
For example, if I am a hygienist in a practice I’m well aware that the people at the front desk have to make appointments and collect money. We would likely have systems in place to do those tasks as efficiently as possible. But when I have a deeper understanding of what they are trying to accomplish in those tasks, I may have a better understanding of how my actions impact their goals and I can look for ways to be more supportive of them.
Here’s a great team building exercise you can do in your practice:
- Have each person write down one task they are responsible for.
- Then write what is it you want to accomplish through that task for the patient, and for the practice.
- Have each person share what they have written.
- Listen deeply to understand the goals and the challenges every person faces in his/her work. Listen to understand the fullness of how they see themselves in their role in the practice.
Here’s an example:
“I try to build a schedule that allows enough time for each appointment without rushing patients or practitioners. I want patients to have a clear understanding about what they are having done and why, and what they are expected to pay at their appointment. I want the practice to be well paid for our time and our work and for the patient to appreciate the value of the care we provide. I try to meet collection goals so we can all be well compensated for what we do.”
Developing systems to organize tasks is important.
Reminding yourselves what you’re really all about: