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With dental practices everywhere working at reduced capacity – due to PPE and decontamination requirements if nothing else – it’s more important than ever that every team member works as efficiently and productively as possible. Dentist-owners will need to establish new performance goals for each team member… but how many of those doctors have any training in reaching mutual agreement on goal-setting? Very few, and even fewer know how to support their team in reaching those goals.

To be effective, the goal-setting process needs buy-in from the person tasked with meeting that goal. The process begins with collecting accurate, current performance data. “Do better” is not a sound performance goal; goal-setting requires a solid performance basepoint, agreement on the need to improve, and measurable, progressive improvement increments.

They Can’t Do It Alone

Employee performance improvement process has to involve both the team member and the doctor in finding solutions to existing barriers to better performance. For instance, a dental hygienist might be taking longer between appointments than you feel they should. That issue needs to be explored; perhaps they’re more sensitive to the increased heat of wearing full PPE and needs more recovery time.

If so, schedules can be slightly adjusted or other ameliorative measures put in place. But first, you have to know exactly how much longer they’re taking than your other hygienists.

That’s a homely example, but it makes the point; if you start with the viewpoint that all your employees want to do better, goal-setting involves removing the obstacles to better. 

A better example might be a front office worker who’s failing to answer a number of incoming calls. Start the goal-setting process by establishing exactly how many calls go unanswered (you’ll likely be very surprised) and then mutually exploring why they’re missing those calls. Your staffing patterns may need to be adjusted – lunch times, for instance. Or perhaps that team member is also handling insurance billing and is away from the phone periodically.

Improvement Is A Process, Not An Event

Stretch goals are generally a good thing, but not always. If your team member is already struggling, for whatever reason, asking them to significantly improve their performance is likely to be demoralizing. It’s far more realistic and productive to look at short-term, incremental performance improvement. When the initial goal is reached, it’s time to revisit to set a new goal.

One area that dentists sometimes fail to consider is that, in high-performing teams, the team members help each other when one is underperforming. Part of the goal-setting and performance improvement process is to get buy-in from all your team members on your vision for the practice. 

During this particular economic and social crisis, achieving that vision may seem like an insurmountable task. But having a goal to strive for, one that will benefit all the team members as well as the practice, can be a strong motivator. 

If your team is fully aligned with your vision, everyone is working toward achieving that long-term goal. Internal friction is minimized and staff members become more supportive of each other. Just as importantly, the team-driven practice relieves the dentist of the sole responsibility of being the primary revenue drive for the practice.

Help Is Available

SmartBox has created a proprietary, online, on-demand, video-driven curriculum to empower dentists to lead their teams with confidence. Success Academy addresses all of the goal-setting and alignment issues discussed above as well as teaching high-level skills for your front office. 

Success Academy is only available for practices who have a service-level agreement with SmartBox, but you can learn more at https://www.smartboxdental.com/success-academy.


Written by Smartbox

SmartBox employs the best minds in dentistry to help you grow your practice. Our Practice Growth System™ is proven to help dentists in every market area across the country achieve predictable year-over-year growth.

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