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Episode #497: Why You Need a SMART & HEALTHY Team, with Deena Meldgin

the best practices show podcast Nov 11, 2022


You don't want your workplace to be a frat house, but you also don't want it to be the DMV. There's a sweet spot to achieving that balance, and Kirk Behrendt brings back Deena Meldgin, ACT’s practice analyst, to share her secrets for a smart and healthy practice. It all starts with listening and communicating with your team! To hear smart advice for running a successful dental practice, listen to Episode 497 of The Best Practices Show!

Episode Resources:

Links Mentioned in This Episode:

Books by Patrick Lencioni: https://bookshop.org/books?keywords=patrick+lencioni

Main Takeaways:

Your team needs a balance of smart and healthy.

A healthy culture is the most critical thing for your practice.

It is healthy to track data. Choose three to five metrics to track.

Recognize when team members are afraid of tracking numbers.

Really listen to your team to understand the health of your business.

You can't have only one person tracking and reporting on the numbers.

Having a smart and healthy practice means every team member is all-in.


“It’s really, really important to have both. And when I share this with my team, I tell them being a smart team means that we’re super organized, we have systems, and we track metrics. We know the health of the business. And being a healthy team means that we have a great culture. And to make it fun, I tell my teams if we’re just a smart team that’s super organized, but we don't have any fun, we’re kind of like the DMV. And if we’re just a healthy team that has a ton of fun and we’re not organized, we’re like a frat house. So, we have to have a little bit of both.” (4:59—5:27)

“I actually think the healthy side is more important than the smart side. And the healthy really consists of having a strong level of trust and having this great culture. And we talk about the five behaviors of a cohesive team, and it starts with having a safety within the room and having trust with each other. If we don't have that healthy side, your team members are going to nod their head yes, and it’s going to fall through the cracks 24 hours later.” (5:28—6:00)

“In being a smart and healthy team, we have to know the health of the business. We have to know if we’re healthy or not in each department. And so, we’re talking about the smart side and tracking numbers, but we have to have, as a team member, an awareness of where we are and if our practice is healthy or not. And every team member needs to have a piece in that and ownership for a number in order for us to reach our practice’s overall goal.” (7:55—8:24)

“As far as tracking numbers, there's no emotion behind numbers. They just tell a story. And the first step is really determining where we’re at. And so, we have to understand where we are, and we have to consistently track things to know if we’re headed in the right direction.” (8:32—8:48)

“A lot of times, I'll talk with my teams, and I'll ask them about how many patients we’re reappointing. And they tell me, ‘We’re reappointing everyone, Deena! Everyone that comes through the door, we’re reappointing them.’ And I'm like, ‘All right! I love that. Let's check and see where we’re at.’ And we look at our hygiene reappointment percentage, and we see it’s at 63%. And it’s like, ‘Well, I never looked at that metric before. I didn't know what it meant.’ Well, now we can say that we’re not reappointing every single person. And we’re not going to know if we’re doing well or not without actually seeing where we are.” (8:48—9:20)

“We talk about the why first, and that's what I think is most important, is starting with the why when we talk about the difference between a smart team and a healthy team. And one of the first things that I like to do is I like to ask everyone on the team to close their eyes, and I will ask the question, ‘Do we have any fear around tracking numbers? I want you to raise your hand.’ And I like to ask that question because we all have come from a different background, and some of our team members have come from a background that didn't have a great culture and it was all about numbers. And that can be scary. So, it’s important to recognize if you have team members that have fear centered around tracking numbers and job security.” (10:49—11:27)

“Numbers play a part in everything that we do.” (12:06—12:08)

“I like to ask my teams to color their metrics green, yellow, or red. Green means they're meeting or exceeding their goals. Yellow is in-between. And red means they're behind. So, yellow means they're 50% or above, and red means they're below 50% of their goal. And I do that because it makes it fun. One of my teams, they have a tree up on the wall. And every month, they put a green, yellow, or red leaf on the tree to indicate how healthy their practice is overall, how healthy that tree is overall.” (12:41—13:12)

“Team members want to feel like they're really a part of their practice and they're contributing to the overall growth. And so, I know a lot of practices, they track numbers, but it’s one person tracking them. It’s their office manager tracking them. And when she’s calling out those numbers, I can tell you your team is — it’s going through one ear and out the other. It’s really important that everyone on the team is responsible for a certain metric that is related to their individual responsibility.” (13:13—13:40)

“If we’re in the yellow or we’re in the red, we’re not slapping that team member on the wrist. We’re talking about, as a team, how can we rally around that department and help them to move forward. And let's say your admin department, your accounts receivable is super high and you're in the red there. Maybe, as a team, we can say, ‘Hey, we’re going to help our admin team answer the phone for an hour or two so they're able to make calls.’ That's how, as a hygienist or an assistant, I can contribute to that team member changing that number, that department. We all need to be in this to support each other. We’re not on separate teams. We’re tracking different numbers related to our department, but as an entire team, we’re helping that department get better.” (14:02—14:50)

“I have a lot of teams that are doing really, really well and they're constantly in the green. But it’s really important to recognize how we got there. Because oftentimes, we don't talk about what happened in order for us to get into the green. And so, you'll find you're riding this wave, and you're riding high. And then, all of a sudden, it drops because we never discuss, as a team, what were all of the things that helped us get there.” (15:11—15:33)

“It has to be a balance. So, we can't [have a] team meeting [where] 100% of the meeting is talking about numbers. We have to have a part of our team meeting that's centered around team growth and behavioral growth, and part of our meeting centered around systems and numbers. So, there has to be both.” (16:35—16:51)

“I also think it’s important to stop and recognize where your team is truly at. Some of my teams, it’s like, ‘We can't even talk about systems or metrics right now because the team isn't meshing.’ I had an awesome visit last week with my team, and the only thing we talked about was communication the entire meeting. But that’s what we needed to discuss because that's what's going to best serve them right now. So, really listen to your team and talk with team members individually to see how they're feeling about things, because you might find now isn't the time to roll this out. What we need to work on is the health of the practice first, and then we can get to the smart side, which is systems and metrics.” (16:51—17:34)

“The most productive way to determine your biggest problem is really by asking yourself, ‘What do I want the outcome to be?’ and work backwards from there. ‘What is it that I want? What would have to happen in order for this situation to get better?’ And that usually answers your question of what you need to do.” (18:49—19:09)

“I think that it’s important to pick maybe five primary metrics, three to five. I like to see more data, so I'm going to go with five here. And now, you're probably going to ask what are those five metrics that we should be tracking. Well, it all depends on the practice. There are some practices that I worked with for years that have an awesome AR, but their perio is super low. So, I think it’s important to really diagnose your practice, overall, first and see where you're at up against the benchmarks. And then, from there, select five of the metrics that you see the biggest opportunity in.” (20:17—21:05)

“The number-one thing that I see in my practices that I coach is they’ll tell me, ‘Yeah, we’re tracking those metrics now, Deena.’ And then, I'll join a team meeting and I'll notice that it’s one person reporting on them because the rest of the team doesn't understand them. I think when you find out what those five metrics are, where does that metric tie to, what department, from there, have one person in that department report on it this quarter. They should have an understanding of what reports to pull in your practice software, how to find the information. Make a guide on how to do that in case that person is out on vacation, so there's somebody else that can pick up and track it as well. Everybody has to be able to contribute to this or it’s not going to work. We can't just have one person owning numbers. Because even you, doctor, you're not owning the numbers either if your office manager is just telling you where we’re at.” (22:51—23:49)

“In adult learning, we only retain 10% of what we hear. What you guys are hearing today, you're retaining 10%. So, I would encourage you to think about what we shared today, write a few things down, and then take action, because we need to hear it, read it, write it, and repeat it. We can't continue to develop new habits or really implement new ideas in the practice without actually trying it out multiple times.” (24:18—24:43)


0:00 Introduction.

1:48 Deena’s background.

4:31 The smart and healthy sides, explained.

7:21 It is healthy to talk about data and numbers.

10:39 Create accountability and trust via numbers.

12:10 Set goals for your metrics.

13:40 Countermeasures for low metrics.

14:51 Talk about what led to achieving goals.

15:55 Check in with your team to see where they are.  

17:34 Call out the real problems first.

19:41 How many metrics should be tracked?

21:05 You can't have one person owning the numbers.

24:04 Last thoughts on being a smart and healthy team.

Deena Meldgin Bio:

Deena is a lead practice coach passionate about practice administration, team building, and practice performance. She has been working in the industry since 2006 and has become well-versed in dental administrative systems and helping practices improve results. Deena enjoys strengthening office communication and elevating team attitude while creating a happy and high-performing practice environment.

When Deena isn’t working, she enjoys spending time with Matt and two English bulldogs, Sumo and Benny. 


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