How Team Morale can Make or Break Your Dental Practice

Team morale can make or break your dental practice. It’s a bold statement, but there are several reasons why it is true. The morale of every member of your team impacts other team members, your patients, and over time, even your bottom line. If you want your dental practice to be a success, team morale needs to be a priority.

Unhappy staff are less productive. When a member of your team is unhappy in their job, they work more slowly, are less efficient, and are less likely to “go the extra mile” to ensure a great patient experience. When an unhappy staff member isn’t giving a great patient experience, that patient is less likely to be a repeat patient and unlikely to refer anyone else to your practice. Over time, this could potentially cost you dozens of patients and thousands of dollars.

Unhappy staff make other staff unhappy. When one person is feeling unmotivated, unappreciated, or disgruntled, their attitude affects those around them. Other staff are forced to work harder to compensate for the lack of productivity. One person complaining about being unhappy can hurt the morale of every other person in your office. What starts as a seemingly small problem can quickly gain momentum if it isn’t addressed quickly and correctly.

Unhappy staff are more likely to quit. On the surface, this may seem like a good thing: take the poor attitude and low morale out of the equation. However, the cost of finding, hiring, and training a replacement can be high. Even more, the most common reason why an employee quits a job is that they feel unappreciated and/or unsupported by management. Chances are good that if one of your staff feels that way, others aren’t far behind.

Overcome team morale issues with good leadership. As the dentist and CEO of the practice, you are the primary person your team is looking to for leadership. Hold yourself accountable to your team for following through on your promises. Deal with conflicts as soon as they arise. Have an open door policy that makes your staff feel comfortable coming to you with problems so you can address them before they become unmanageable.

Hold regular effective team meetings to ensure every team member understands their place in your vision for the practice. Recognize individual and team successes. Show appreciation. Ensure that you are supportive of any staff empowered to make decisions. If you need to coach them on a change in policy, do so privately to avoid undermining their authority.

You are the leader of your team. The trust, support, recognition, appreciation, and respect you give to your team is the foundation of your team’s morale. When you create a great working environment, your team morale is high. High team morale creates a better patient experience and greater productivity, which benefits everyone. To ensure your practice thrives, make your team’s morale a priority.

Promoting Change

Why do we resist change?

Change is scary. Change forces us out of our comfort zones and into the unknown, often into situations outside our control. We are afraid of change because we are afraid that this new challenge might make us look foolish, feel less capable, or even fail.

Change is also necessary. It is impossible to grow your practice, increase your service offerings, or stay competitive without change. Dentistry is a dynamic field, with new technologies and creative techniques being explored continuously. It is critical to be open to exploring these changes and to implementing the ones that will best improve your practice.

Unfortunately, one of the realities you may face is that your most loyal and long-term team members may be the ones who are most resistant to accepting these changes in your practice.

Over time, people tend to develop routines to perform their tasks. On one hand, this can be beneficial, as it can ensure consistency in job performance and can simplify the training of new employees. Often, these team members take pride in mastering the routine of their position and equate this with mastery of their role in the practice.

On the other hand, routines can lead to complacency, which can be devastating for your practice. Complacency can cause team members to “go through the motions,” putting less thought and effort into their routine, and may make their work become sloppy over time. A complacent employee is unwilling to change their routine to embrace the new ideas, methods, or technologies that you need to better serve your patients and grow your business. A complacent employee can even harm team morale and slow the adoption of the changes you seek to implement.

How do you protect your office from complacency and promote change as a part of your practice?

First, create an atmosphere of change. Start small, but design a series of changes to be implemented over the next few weeks or months in your practice. Make the idea of change something that is a normal and accepted part of your routine. This will make bigger changes easier to implement when the time comes.

Second, talk to your team. Make sure every team member understands the changes you want to implement, your reasons for making the changes, and your expectations of their compliance. Be open to answering questions, but do not allow “that’s not how we’ve always done things” to be a reason to slow or avoid changes.

Finally, make your team and yourself accountable for the changes. Track that your changes are in place and that every team member is on board. Meet with your team and discuss the outcomes of the change and how everyone feels about the change. Celebrate victories and strategize improvements. When your team is able to own the change and its outcome, it will be easier to implement the next and to suggest new ideas for future change.

Why Your Practice Needs Effective Team Meetings

Regular effective team meetings can play a crucial role in the health of your dental practice. That one simple-sounding factor can impact every aspect of your business. Your people, your patients, and your practice all benefit from regular effective team meetings.

Your people need team meetings. The core of your practice is your vision, your goals, and your strategy for achieving your goals. Each member of your team needs to understand all of these things and, just as importantly, needs to understand their part in your plan. Without that understanding, your team is working blindly and is unable to actively contribute toward reaching your goals for your business.

A team meeting is an ideal format for open discussion about your vision, goals, and strategy. Not only can you use this discussion to ensure every member is clear on your expectations, but you may find that their unique perspective creates an exchange of ideas on more effective ways to reach your goals and how each person can best contribute.

While not every team meeting needs to include high-level discussion of vision, goals, and strategy, it is a good idea to include this at least once or twice a year and when bringing a new employee into the team. Additionally, many successful dentists find that it is highly useful to touch on how the strategies are being implemented and to discuss any measurable progress toward goals on at least a monthly basis. This helps to keep your team engaged and motivated toward achievement.

Your patients need team meetings. One of the most common components of an effective team meeting is education. Your team needs to know what the policies are, what is on the agenda for the day, if there are any specials being offered, if anyone is sick or on vacation. Any new ideas, training, or techniques that can be shared should be. Your patients need to know they will be given correct and consistent information from any member of your team. Make sure everyone is on the same page.

Your practice needs team meetings. Teach your team how to ask patients for referrals. Word of mouth can have a huge impact on your new customer base. Even happy, satisfied patients rarely refer anyone unless asked to do so, according to a recent study. Your team members should be engaging your patients in every interaction to ensure a positive experience and should be able to ask for referrals when patients are pleased.

Only you can review your practice, your time, and your schedules to determine when and how frequently you should hold team meetings. Whether you meet daily, weekly, or on some other timeline, make your meetings regular and effective. You will see benefits to your team, your patient experience, and your practice.
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