Archive for Work/Life/Balance Tips for Dentists and Healthcare Professionals
My family and I recently celebrated the 4th of July holiday together. I was watching my beautiful bride of 37 years prepare for a long weekend with family and special friends. While enjoying a nice glass of wine, I began to think: I should be more helpful.
I asked my wife, Trish, what I could do and My Sweetness replied: “Ron, don’t worry! I’ve got it covered. Just do your thing!” This amazing woman had everything planned. The best thing I could do was stay out of the way, grill the beer-soaked brats and baby back ribs and fill everyone’s glass. Yet, my Sweetness gave me the credit for the well-prepared celebration.
When I was young, I took a lot for granted. Now that I’m older and killed my practice, I don’t do that anymore. I take the time to marvel at my wife, admire my daughters and the men in their lives and appreciate my friends.
Thank you for being a subscriber to my blog. I certainly don’t take you for granted.
I ask you to take a moment today to look around. What do you take for granted?
This is a principle that most of us learned decades ago from our Kindergarten teachers, so how can that apply to our lives as dentists or other healthcare professionals? Think about that simple Kindergarten lesson in terms of your team….
1) Watch for traffic: What does this mean to dentists? Watch for obstacles and challenges. Hold a “big umbrella” over your team, and cover them up when the rain comes down! As the leader/Dental CEO of your practice, it’s important to be the one who watches out for others, covers them up and waits for challenge to pass.
2) Hold hands: Again, as the leader of your practice, it’s important for you to be the one for your team to turn to. Give your team positive reinforcement, keep morale high and treat your employees well.
3) Stick together: It’s inevitable those tragic life situations will come up – divorces, illness, death. When those tragedies arise, do what you can to support your team members. For example, have your other team members “donate” their vacation time to those team members, so they can take the proper time off and be covered.
The bottom line is, those lessons that we learned decades ago are the ones that we should keep with us as we move forward in our dental/healthcare careers, and beyond.
As a lifelong learner, I often find myself reading business and personal development books. This has made a tremendous difference in my life. Each month, I gift my Full Contact Coaching© clients with a book that I know they will love; one that will improve their practice.
Kindergarten teachers are always trying to make reading fun for their students; I used to see my wife, a Kindergarten teacher for 36+ years, do this every day. So, what about business books?
Here are my 3 tips for reading business books and making them fun – believe it or not!:
1. Notice the key points or best ideas and jot them down in a notebook. Later, list how you plan to implement those ideas in your dental practice. By writing the steps down, you are subconsciously setting the intention that you will get it done. Set time to formulate those ideas into a typed up, formal plan. Turn this plan into your own personalized “toolbox” of business tips for your dental or healthcare practice.
2. Ask for recommendations from other professionals that you respect. They will be flattered that you thought of them. Remember to surround yourself with those who are “smarter” than you are; it will inspire you to be better and you will learn from them.
3. Know that some books will change your life. And that’s a good thing! The feedback I received from my aptly titled book, Killing the Practice Before It Kills You: How Throwing Out My Business Model Saved My Life, has been an eye-opener in terms of how many lives I’ve changed.
Remember that the more you read, the more you learn and digest and improve.
Our Kindergarten teachers taught us not to hit people…. I broke that rule a time or two. (Ask me about it sometime!). What our teachers were really trying to tell us is to always act civil. Unfortunately, many of us “grown-ups” have yet to learn this important life lesson.
1. Apologize if you hurt someone’s feelings: An apology should be explicit, genuine and always done in private.
2. Take a breath: If you feel “rage” coming on at a vendor who messed up your order (again), take a breath and back away from the phone.
3. Treat everyone with dignity, courtesy and respect: Don’t keep people waiting. Don’t engage in attacks on other dentists when a patient comes in complaining about someone else’s faulty work. Don’t “fly off the handle” at staff. What if they are having a problem at home?
4. Know that everyone is significant: In your dental career, you will meet many different people – staff, vendors, patients, other healthcare professionals. Know that everyone is significant and deserves your attention and care, even if all you offer is a smile and a hello.
In Kindergarten, this meant for us to use our words instead of picking a fight. But, what about in dentistry? How can we use our words for the success of our practice?
Dental practice and marketing experts suggest that we learn how to use the right “language” when speaking with our patients to ensure that we get the results we want. This goes for us and our dental office team, as well.
As dentists – and business owners – sometimes we unintentionally “steer” our patients away from doing what we want them to do. We may say things like:
- Would you like to make an appointment for that [cleaning, cosmetic procedure, etc] now or just let me know some other time?
- Did you want to go ahead and pay today, or do you just want us to send you a bill?
- If you need to cancel, please just let us know.
When you speak in language like that – flexible, subconsciously ‘weak’ language – you are actually giving patients a choice. You are saying that it’s okay to make an appointment another time, pay when they can, cancel if they remember to or avoid an important procedure.
If you believe in the service and value that you are providing your patient – and have confidence – patients notice that. Consider making this “word adjustment” in your practice and see what benefits come about for you. You are the healthcare professional; if you are confident in what you have to say and request of your patients, they will listen. For example, change those sentences to be:
- I have Tuesday at 2pm and Friday at 4pm.Which of these two days works best for your next appointment?
- Mrs. Cuomo, your total investment is $1,500.00. How would you like to pay for this? We accept cash and can offer you a 5% pre-payment bookkeeping courtesy; your credit card (Visa, MasterCard or Discover); or we can arrange third-party financing. Which do you prefer?
- I wanted to remind you, Mrs. Stanich, we expect a 48-hour notification if you cannot make your appointment so that we can provide that time for another patient that is in need.
This was what we did in Kindergarten; it’s how we spent our days. A little of this, a little of that and a lot of perspective. The lesson for dentists to draw from this great Kindergarten principle is: Keep a sense of perspective and find balance in your life.
Your life should be more than just teeth. I learned the hard way in my early 40s that I needed work/life balance. I learned that I needed to spend more time with my wife, our incredible daughters and yes – myself. It took me a massive heart attack to understand that. (Learn more about my mistakes and my lessons in my book.)
My hope for you, my reader, is that you find that practicing dentistry is rewarding but know that there is much more to life than your work. You will never regret the extra time that you spend at your kid’s dance recital, on a romantic dinner date with your spouse or reading a great book on the porch. So remember, in your daily life in your healthcare practice and at home – learn some, think some, play some, work some.
My wife, Trish, taught Kindergarten for more than 36 years. Each year, she created a little magic for her students. After being married to a Kidnergarten teacher for all of these terrific years, I sometimes look at my business through her eyes. There’s no reason why we can’t make every dental experience magical. Trish would surprise and delight her students each day.
Here are tips for creating a little magic in your dental practice:
1. Project a positive image and energy: Patients – especially child patients – know when you’re feeling good. Project that positive energy throughout your office.
2. Be polite to all patients: No matter if you’ve had a bad day, if you’ve had a bad week or if you’re considering quitting all together!
3. Go above and beyond: Place refreshments in the reception area for early morning patients; send birthday cards and remember to acknowledge lifetime milestones.
4. Make a difference: Get your entire team together to participate in a community service project. As a bonus, it’s great advertising in your community.
Sure, being a Dental CEO and taking care of your patients oral health is serious business…. but there’s no reason that you can’t inject a little fun and magic into everyday! Before I killed my practice, I simply wasn’t having enough fun. I know firsthand what affect that can have on your health and business – so, please, take it from me and add a little magic!
In kindergarten, we were often asked to pick a partner to work on a team with, for art projects or kickball. I used to simply pick out the prettiest girl with pigtails.
Assembling the right team is more important now in your professional life than it was on the playground. But how much attention do we really pay when selecting these team members or partners? You have to pick the right partner and team members to ensure the highest chance of success.
1. Make a list of the ideal qualities that you want in an employee. Share this with your current employees; getting their opinion will provide front-line input.
2. Be clear on your Core Values during the interview. Express them to the potential employee and be sure that he/she is aligned with them. Ask them to describe their own Core Values as well.
3. Don’t simply pick the person who has the best resume. Resumes are just words on paper that say nothing about personality, drive and passion. Envision this person interacting with your staff and your patients – are they a good fit? How will they handle difficult situations?
When I was practicing dentistry, prior to my coaching career, I learned these lessons the hard way. In my book, Killing the Practice Before It Kills You: How Throwing Out My Business Model Saved My Life, I tell you, the reader, how to chose wisely and hire/retain the best dental employees. Visit my website for more info: www.killingthepractice.com
There are days when your staff is unreasonable and downright grumpy. It happens. When I was practicing dentistry, there were certainly days when my staff would complain, have low morale and simply not do their job to their potential. There are days when the Dental CEO is grumpy, too: things go wrong, practice revenue is down, etc. Some days, nothing goes right and it just doesn’t feel fair.
One of my personal favorite kindergarten lessons is to take a nap every afternoon. Unfortunately, patients are waiting on us and it’s not always feasible – however, do remember to stop and take a breather when you can. Blow off steam before you blow your career.
Here are my tips to help dentists handle those bad days that come with being a Dental CEO:
1. Communicate and reach out to your employees that aren’t performing. Perhaps there is something going on in their personal life. While they may not want to discuss their private life openly, let them know that you notice something is “up.” If they know that you are there for support, they may open up. You can take it from there as to how to rectify the situation. If, however, you find that this is ongoing and negatively affecting your dental practice – take a close look at the situation. After I killed my practice, I promptly gathered my staff together one weekend day and I fired them. All of them. Learn why here.
2. When you’re in kindergarten, it seems fun to make fun of others and criticize them. You quickly learn that it doesn’t feel good when the shoe is on the other foot. Think about that feeling before you comment on another dentist’s work or practice.
3. The bigger you are, the more mistakes you can make. That’s okay. Remember to just learn from each mistake and move on. If you’re ready to blow a major gasket, quickly and calmly remove yourself from the situation. Take a timeout in your office. It only has to last 5 minutes. Despite the everyday tensions we experience in our dental offices – with staff, patients, vendors – remember to sit in the corner once in a while and take a breath.
You learned back then that life wasn’t fair. It isn’t. Neither is business. Maintaining composure is critical to the success of your dental practice.
Kindergarteners spend time wondering. They are never satisfied with what grown-ups tell them about life. They aren’t “okay” with the status quo. They wonder how high they can climb up the tree; how far they can ride their tricycle and how many insects they can collect before dinner. They know virtually no limitations.
As we grow up, we put limits on ourselves all of the time. We limit ourselves (and essentially limit our success) by saying that we don’t have enough money, that there is not enough time and that it’s impossible to find good employees. As adults, we push ourselves away from day dreaming because, well, that’s for kids!
What should you be wondering and day dreaming about?
- Wonder how you can make your practice better: What could you implement to make the practice more appealing? More comfortable? More well-recognized?
- Wonder how you can make your staff feel more appreciated: How can you tell your staff how much you love what they do for you?
- Wonder how you can acknowledge your patients: What unique things can you do to show them that you value that they chose you and not someone else?
There is more to life than what is within the 4 walls of your dental office. Explore and see what is beyond your practice. When I was a young dentist and suffered from a heart attack, my whole world abruptly changed. I used that seemingly desperate situation to turn it all around – for myself, my business and my family. (You can read more about that here: www.killingthepractice.com)
There are many valuable lessons, for success and happiness. We just have to learn, see and think – like 5 year olds!