By Roger P. Levin, D.D.S.
In larger organizations that employ hundreds or thousands of people, no one assumes that effective internal communication will occur naturally. At business schools as well as in the real world, executives learn that interactions between staff members have a direct bearing on a company’s ultimate success. How well leaders communicate with their teams and how well team members communicate with each other are equally important in smaller organizations, such as endodontic practices. Effective communications result in greater motivation, improved coordination, higher efficiency and increased productivity. As a team leader, you can take steps to upgrade internal communications in your practice.
- Create a practice vision statement and maintain high staff awareness of it. Your vision of where you want the practice to be in three years is the most important information you can convey to your team. Write it, present it at a regular or special meeting, post it on bulletin boards and discuss it frequently to motivate everyone to work toward fulfilling it.
- Hold daily and monthly staff meetings. Meet every morning to prepare everyone for the upcoming day. Start and end on time (for a total of 10-15 minutes), designate a meeting leader and follow an agenda that includes a report on progress toward achieving production targets. Use monthly meetings to deal with larger issues, such as resolving bottlenecks, brainstorming marketing strategies, reviewing scripts, etc.
- Encourage staff members to speak their minds. Practice team members are often reluctant to share their thoughts at the office, fearing they will somehow offend the doctor or that their ideas aren’t worth mentioning. By inviting feedback and responding well to it, you can break down this communication barrier. Each team member has a unique point of view. The easier it is for them to express it, the more you and your practice will benefit.
- Create a supportive atmosphere. Casual comments around the office can play a major role in keeping morale high, reinforcing excellent performance, defusing stress and promoting cooperation. Everyone can contribute to this part of internal communications, but you should set an example and encourage team members to participate actively in the supportive daily dialogue.
- Mediate conflict as soon as it arises. All working groups experience friction from time to time. When tension between team members first appears, intervene. Without taking sides or making light of the conflict, point out that unresolved disagreements are counterproductive – and will, therefore, not be tolerated. Help the two parties come up with a solution, then monitor the situation to ensure that the problem is resolved, not just hidden away.
- Host social events away from the office. Add another dimension to staff communications by getting together away from the workplace. Whether it’s a nice lunch, a local sporting event or a group community service project, an informal gathering can increase mutual understanding and appreciation considerably among team members.
- Conduct annual performance reviews. One-on-one meetings with team members to discuss their performance, perceptions and goals are vital communication tools. These reviews not only enable staff members to see how they’re doing but also explore how you and the practice can help them reach their career goals.
As these suggestions indicate, there are many ways that you, as practice leader, can improve the quality of internal communication at your endodontic office. By learning and applying these techniques, you’ll enhance your team’s ability to provide excellent patient care while maintaining a supportive and satisfying work environment.
Dr. Roger P. Levin is a third-generation general dentist and the founder and CEO of Levin Group, Inc., the leading dental practice consulting firm in North America. He offers tools to help endodontists run more profitable, efficient and satisfying practices through the Levin Group Resource Center atwww.levingroup.com/endo.