To motivate the dental team, use these seven suggestions:
1. Praise Good Behavior Regularly to Motivate Productive Team Members. It is easy to spot bad behavior, but most people in a dental office at any given time are doing a good job. When you are looking for problems, it is possible to overlook the people who are working in the trenches and keeping the place humming. Notice good behavior and comment on it. Recognition is a great motivator. Keep a log of how many times you praise individual performance. Chances are it is not enough to motivate the dental team.
2. Get the Doctor On board the Praise Train. Team meetings should not devolve into gripe sessions or a post mortem of yesterday’s challenges. Find ways to praise people in meetings and make sure the doctor takes an active part. When the doctor notices, everyone notices.
3. Shut Down Gossip. What would you do if a team member started smoking in your office? You would no doubt shut down that behavior right quick, as they say. You need to establish and enforce a no gossip zone. It is just as important as a no smoking zone because gossip is nasty habit that can destroy a practice.
4. Confront the Malcontents and Slackers. You can be diplomatic or direct, but you cannot let complaining and unproductive workers slide by without calling them out. They will either get the message and improve, leave the office, or be asked to leave. The morale of everyone else cannot be dragged down by one or two people. Like it or not, as a practice administrator, you are a cop. You need to lay down the law.
5. Put the Whiners to Work on Solutions. A great way to quell a whiner is to ask for a written list of suggestions. Ask them to include ideas for implementation, a timeline, and a budget if their suggestions will cost money. Discuss their proposal at a team meeting. If they have good ideas, then try to implement them. If not, then the whiner will get a fair hearing and it will be time to move on.
6. Reward the Team. People play slot machines for hours because they never know when the machine will pay off. “Random interval reinforcement” is a powerful motivator. Do the unexpected: everyone gets off an hour early one day; lunch is catered in one in a while courtesy of the practice; you have a party to celebrate a productive quarter, etc. You break up the routine and give everyone a reason to thank you and congratulate each other on a job well done.
7. Use the “Broken Window” Approach. There is a philosophy in law enforcement, too complex to explain fully in this space, that says that the police should respond to minor crimes (such as someone throwing rocks and breaking windows in an abandoned building) to prevent major crimes from happening later. In every dental office, there are customer service standards. When one small standard is not observed, the bar drops just a little lower. Over time, the practice is no longer distinguished by first-class service. If, for example, every new patient is supposed to receive a hand-written thank you note after the first appointment, then stay on top of that protocol, lest you go down the slippery slope and find more egregious problems later.
Practice administrators do a great job. These suggestions are another handy checklist to motivate the dental team.