To have a great practice, you must first have a great team. Too much conflict and too little trust will make sure that your office isn’t a fun place to work, but when you have a smart and healthy team, it will make everything more enjoyable. A healthy team has a great culture, while a smart team is organized, has systems, and tracks metrics with the goal of understanding the overall health of the practice. It’s incredibly important to be both healthy and smart because you need that balance. I like to explain it to our clients in a fun way: if they’re a smart team that’s super organized but doesn’t have any fun, then they’re essentially just the DMV; if they’re a healthy team that has fun but isn’t organized, then they’re a fraternity house. It takes both aspects to be successful.
It Starts With Trust
When working to create a team that’s smart and healthy, I think it’s more important to focus on the healthy aspect first, because that’s how you build a strong foundation: with a great culture and a strong level of trust. Patrick Lencioni writes about the five behaviors that a cohesive team must have, and the very first is the ability to trust one another. If you’re going to implement new systems in the practice, then you must have a safe environment where the team can discuss and debate without fear, because otherwise they’ll just nod their heads during your meetings and then all that information will fall through the cracks 24 hours later.
It’s important to stop and recognize where your team is truly at, because if the team isn’t meshing, then it’s impossible to sit down and talk about what matters. Talk to them, listen to them, and find out how they’re feeling about things because you might find out that this isn’t the right time to start making changes. For example, one of the first things I’d do when I started working with a team is to ask everyone to close their eyes, and then ask them to raise their hands if they have any fears about tracking numbers. We’ve all come from different backgrounds, and some of those may not have been places with a great culture that only focused on hitting the numbers. For those team members, it can be scary to start tracking numbers, but when you know that fear exists, you can start working to reduce it. It’s crucial to nail down that behavioral side because it makes the smart side so much easier.
Don’t Fear the Numbers
A smart team knows the health of the business and whether or not each department is healthy, which comes from tracking the numbers. I think there’s a tendency to be afraid of looking at the numbers because the results might reflect poorly on your team’s performance. But like Kirk says, “Accountability requires accounting,” because nothing will improve if you’re afraid to talk about it. Numbers play a part in everything that we do, and there’s no emotion behind them—they just tell a story.
It’s important to start small and not take on too much at once when tracking metrics, so I recommend picking three to five primary metrics. Which you choose depends on your practice, so diagnose it first and see where you are against your benchmarks, then look at the areas that are your biggest opportunities. At this point, you need to avoid the number one mistake I see practices make: only having one person tracking those metrics. Whatever the metric is, look at the department it ties to, and then put one person from that department in charge of it. Team members want to feel like they’re truly a part of their practice and are contributing to the overall growth, and that doesn’t happen when there’s one person in charge of the numbers.
I also like to ask our teams to color code their metrics based on how well they’re doing: green when meeting or exceeding goals, yellow for above 50% of their goal, and red for below 50% of their goal. This is a good way of visualizing your metrics, and it’s also an opportunity to make it fun. One of my teams has a tree on the wall, and every month they put a green, yellow, or red leaf on it as a way to indicate the overall level of health in the practice. And remember, this is a healthy team, so assigning these colors to the departmental metrics isn’t a way to determine who gets punished. Think of it as an opportunity to learn why that goal isn’t being met and what can be done to improve it. The healthiest teams will find a way to rally together help the department move forward, because they’re not separate teams—they’re in it to support each other.
Establishing a healthy culture in your practice is the foundation to a better team. Without that trust, it’s impossible to come together and solve difficult problems. You don’t want your practice to be the DMV or a frat house—there needs to be a balance of being smart and healthy, so schedule a call with the fantastic ACT coaches and let them show you how to create the environment that will let you build a Better Practice, and a Better Life!
Deena Meldgin is a Practice Analyst for ACT Dental