With the start of the New Year, now is the perfect time to fix some issues in your practice.
When I was the editor of PennWell’s Dental Assisting Digest, I did a survey of 1,000 dental assistants and asked them two simple questions. The first was, “What is the nicest thing a dentist ever said to you?” The second was, “What is the meanest thing a dentist has ever said to you?” You would be amazed at the responses I received.
It would take a completely different article to list all of the mean names assistants told me they were called during the course of a day. Suffice to say, bullying and demeaning comments have no place in any business, and that includes a dental practice.
If this action is happening in your dental practice today, it must stop immediately. I guarantee your patients are picking up on the negative vibe emanating from your business … and it is driving them away.
For the purpose of this article, I am going to focus on the nicest thing that a dentist said to the 1,000 assistants I surveyed. Can you guess what it is? It was far and away the most popular answer I was given. Just two simple words: thank you.
The power of a sincere “Thank You”
Yes, those two words can make such a difference in not only the outlook of a dental assistant, but any of us who walk along this earth. As humans, each of us long to be noticed and to know that we are making a difference on a daily basis. Saying “thank you” can go a long way toward accomplishing both of those goals.
Now, you may be reading this and thinking to yourself, “We show appreciation in our practice all the time.”
It’s awesome if you do. But I will ask you what form of appreciation you are showing. Is it through cards and bonuses once or twice a year, or is it every day in the form of a smile and an honest, heartfelt expression of appreciation?
I can tell you from speaking to assistants around the country that a simple thank you on a daily basis can go much further than a one-time bonus.
Sadly, we know the relationships between the front and the back often sour, and this can create a dividing line in the practice.
My wife, Dayna Johnson, and I teach a course at meetings around the country called, “The Three Biggest Battles Between the Back and the Front, and How to Solve Them.” We spend hours talking to each side of the argument and helping them understand the other’s viewpoint. Amazingly, we often hear that hurt feelings caused by a perceived lack of appreciation was the reason for a chasm between the two sides.
How to begin fostering a culture of appreciation
It doesn’t take much to begin a culture of appreciation in your practice. All it often requires is identifying one or two things that a staff member did to perform “above and beyond” their normal scope of practice, and telling them “thank you”. Maybe the assistant filled in at the front desk while the dental practice administrator made some phone calls to try to fill a hole in the schedule.
Maybe the assistant did an extraordinarily thorough job of explaining the treatment that was given that day when she handed the patient off to the front desk. Moments like those can be acknowledged with a, “Thank you for…” I promise it will make an impact and subconsciously make that assistant want to find another way to be acknowledged and appreciated.
Of course, a culture of appreciation shouldn’t just be directed toward assistants. It should be directed to everyone who works in the practice. You (yes, you) deserve some appreciation during your day just as much as anyone else.
Highlight the benefits to the business
So, what should you do if a culture of appreciation is hard to start in your practice? I have always found that framing things in a business context can make a world of difference to those who don’t see the emotional benefits of appreciation.
Remember, as I wrote earlier, your dental practice is a small business and you have customers who make that small business thrive. Approaching someone who might not be willing to have the “appreciation conversation” in a business context makes sense in this case.
Here is an example:
“Dr. Jones, I have noticed that some of our patients have been commenting on the atmosphere in our practice. Now that we are starting 2019, it might be good to make sure the atmosphere within our business is the best it can be. One of the ways I think we can do this is to cultivate an attitude of gratitude in the practice.”
You have framed the context in a business setting and, subconsciously, stated that changes can make a difference in the bottom line of the business. By phrasing it this way, you are not placing blame on anyone but rather offering an alternative way of doing things that can make an immediate impact.
Appreciation is an undervalued and often underused action. Take a few moments to try some of these tips on making your dental practice stronger and see how the overall atmosphere of your business will change.
Meet the Author
An advocate of today’s dental assistant, Kevin Henry gives dental seminars across the nation on topics that empower dental assistants, helping them recognize the leadership role they hold in the practice. He currently serves as the co-founder of IgniteDA, a free online community that empowers, enlightens and educates dental assistants.
With 16 years in the dental publishing industry, Kevin is the former managing editor for Dental Economics and group editorial director for Dental Products Report. He was recently named as one of the top five influential voices in the industry on Twitter (@kgh23).