Who’s Watching Whom In The Dental Office?

Team Supervision – Here is an area that needs addressed in the worst way. One of the fastest routes to pure practice misery of which I am aware is to try to rule your practice by yourself. Usually, one of two extreme government types is employed by the owner dentist. Either the dentist will take the stance of the iron-fisted dictator or the loveable, liberal, wishy-washy, democrat. Note that when I say democrat, I say it with no positive or negative connotation toward the Democratic National Party in these here United States. Think more like the forums in ancient Greece. I’m talking about a doctor who thinks he or she should take a vote of the entire staff before making any real decision in the office.

This form of decision making can range from just the major decisions all the way down to what kind of drinks to stock in the staff room. I was once a victim of the democratic dental office system myself. I would put everything to a vote. One day, I realized it had gotten out of hand when the staff almost came to blows over a decision about what kind of food to bring in for one of our staff meetings. I knew after that day that I had taken a wrong turn. The tricky part is taking back control and authority from your employees once they have gotten a little taste of that power.

You’ll sure wish you had been more of a dictator before that process is over, trust me. Of course, as far as owner/employee arrangements are concerned, the dictator model isn’t all that bad for the owner. If the right guy or gal is the dictator, it’s a pretty good gig for anyone, actually. Just think, one person with total authority who is just, true, wise, and can leap tall buildings in a single bound. If a pure hearted person could take over that job and run it correctly, the Napoleon method might work.

Two problems with that theory. First off, that person is very hard to find, even if looking in the mirror. Secondly, you really don’t want that system in place to begin with. Sure, it’s great to feel like the man and make all those big time decisions, but you are killing your productivity to play the big doctor. When it all boils down, we in the United States don’t have far to look for a great model. The Representative Democracy with ultimate veto power by the Executive Branch is the way to go for the dentist office. Let me explain that one and please forgive the comparison if you are a civics major. You know how, in the U.S., we have senators and congressmen representing different states that have the authority and responsibility of making decisions for their people and also governing them? Well, in our practice, we set up Team Leaders to supervise their respective departments. This could be set up as the old school single office manager, a new style team leader, or with multiple team leaders depending on the size and scope of your office. I’ll give you an example of how it works in my office.

It has been well documented by me that I was once the victim of Overmeeting Syndrome. Once upon a time I had meetings in my office that added up to 356 hours a year. YIKES! That’s nearly 10 weeks of missed production time a year. Is it any wonder that my overhead percentages were out of whack and I couldn’t produce the big numbers I wanted? Now, I meet 1 hour each quarter with my 2 team leaders, Lupita and Connie. One represents the back office and one represents the front office. I call them my Clinical and Clerical Team Leaders. If there is any question, gripe, concern, suggestion, or problem of any kind, I do NOT allow the individual team member to come directly to me.

Maybe I could solve the problem in a superior fashion like the wannabe dictator that I am. But, that’s not the point. The point is that I want the practice to run smoothly with a chain of command without me doing all the deciding. The team member with a question/concern goes to one of the team leaders to pose that. I not only give the team leaders the authority to solve the problem on the spot, I implore them to do that without even mentioning it to me. I don’t want to know. Of course, each team leader has the right to consult with me and sometimes it is necessary, but 99.9% of the time I expect them to handle it themselves.

This has been a wonderful thing for me and my family and has freed up countless hours of my time for other, more enjoyable things. The whole 3 Day concept wouldn’t have been possible without a move in this direction.

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