Sinking Ship

Quick – You are on ship and its starting to sink, what do you do?   

I took a poll of over 100 people and I asked them what would you do if you were on a sinking ship and not surprising, 84% of the people said grab a life vest and get off the boat.  If questioned further most of these individuals would say “ I had no choice I had get off the boat!  Sure, I would have saved the boat if I knew how!  But safety, first right?” This is not unlike a dental practice that is understaffed and overstressed. Many feel there is nothing left to do when their cries for help have gone unheard.  And yet we wonder, why do we continuously find ourselves understaffed in our dental offices and feel as if we ourselves are drowning.  Your team knows when you are taking on water and if you don’t throw them a life vest, you’ll see that they will gather up their friends and jump ship leaving you stranded at sea!  

You need to KNOW to prevent your practice from taking on water.  You’ll learn what steps you need to HAVE in place when you become understaffed and how implementing these techniques will ultimately make you Feel as if you are once again the captain of your ship.  If the sea gets rough your crew will have the support needed to weather any storm and your ship ….YOUR PRACTICE will remain strong with minimal stress and a happy team! 

We KNOW your strong ship needs a navigation system to keep you from steering off course.  That is your mission and vision. When you are making decisions for your practice or even hiring a new team member concentrate on who can represent your brand and fulfill the mission of your practice. Listen for core values during the interview process.  Hiring someone without your same values and vision will run you aground. Once, your new team member has boarded the vessel…make sure they fully understand expectations through a thorough onboarding process.  This sets them up for success in a proactive manner.   You are a transformational leader by showing your team the big picture and asking for an all hands on deck approach to resolving problems.  Talk to your team, ask open ended questions to see if they need a lifejacket before they start to drown.  As the captain, your job is to ensure that your team is safe both physically but also mentally so they don’t jump overboard at the first sign of distress.  When team members do decide to exit your ship, talk to your remaining crew to see if there are things in your practice which could be making it difficult for people to be able to do their jobs.  Are they trained enough?  Do they need to join an  Office Managers Chapter so they can gain knowledge?  Invest in your team and use each challenge as an opportunity to plug any potential holes in your vessel.  This will ensure growth! Remember this phrase, 

Clear communication + clear expectations will deliver outstanding results.

I learned a valuable lesson early in my career in dentistry. I returned from lunch one day to find my two co-workers had simply walked off the job. I met my boss in his office, and he said, “It’s just you and me. Are you ready?” He encouraged me and told me we would get through this together, but he asked only one promise from me: the care of his patients could not suffer. Let the phones go to voicemail, enter payments later, but the passengers aboard our ship would have the best experience possible. As captain of the ship he empowered me to take the helm and steer the ship because I believed in his vision/mission for the practice.  Looking back, this would have been the perfect opportunity to put out an SOS call and bring in a rescue crew to help keep the ship afloat.  At the time, the terms out sourcing, in sourcing, and remote team members were not in existence… today we have better options. 

What do you as a leader do when your ship is taking on water and YOU ARE feeling overwhelmed? Stop, take a breath and make a plan.  Lead your crew through some problem-solving techniques by asking them to brainstorm.  Your goal should be to find 4 solutions and one of which can’t cost any money.  You’d be surprised what your crew is able to come up with!  A transformation leader will value their opinion and lead the discussion rather than dominate and direct the outcome.  Your goal is to explore possibilities with your team!  We as transformational leaders ask questions that can’t be answered by yes or no.  There is great power in open ended questions such as “what are you good at, what do you like doing and what do you not like doing?”  What I have found is that if someone thinks a task is below them or they dislike that task chances are they are no longer vested in it’s success.  

Do you remember your first job in the dental field?  Think about the first time you walked into the office, fresh out of your dental training, and you are ready to go.  Tell me what to do and I’ll do it!  I’d pick up the phone with a smile on my face and confirm appointments all day long and love my job.  Fast forward 25 years and I have more important things that I should be doing right now than confirming appointments.  I have a $10K treatment plan that I need to go over with a patient so I better whip through these confirmations so I can say they are done never realizing that my failure to perform the task correctly could result in more cancellations or rescheduled appointments.  Throw them a life vest to preserve the life of your practice.  

Think about the tasks that only someone IN your office can do. These would be things that make an emotional impact on the patient experience.  Think of things that happen to keep your ship a float but often happen in the engine room of your ship. Think open minded, if I took items off of your team’s plates what pieces of your patient experience could be enhanced?  

We live in the world of technology and there is a rise in a remote work force.  Even major meetings are happening virtually.  Many practices have faced struggles with team members not being able to return to work. What are you, as an owner and the captain of your ship to do – RISE up and look at your resources.  Your patients are better served by having your team 100% focused on their patient’s experience while a remote team member can take care of the behind the scenes tasks that enhance your systems.  This remote team member has the capability to work in the engine room to ensure your vessel stays a float.  

There are many companies and it is hard to decide which company would be the most beneficial to your practice.  Making this decision should not come lightly, as this company or person will serve as an extension of your practice.  Not all outsourcing is created equal so compare as aspects before you park your ship in one port.  Evaluate price, services offered, and additional fees.  Remember, using remote workers is supposed to be a life preserver for your practice not an anchor so make sure there are no long term contracts to weigh you down.   

Sinking ships are scary. Take those emotions and refocus them on what you can do to get back to your mission and vision by utilizing a remote workforce for your practice. 

If your practice is taking on water- you need to take action before it is too late and you become understaffed.  #1 –  KNOW that there are resources available.  Take the time to research and find the right fit for your practice.  #2 – Use transformational leadership techniques.  HAVE open communication with your team when they are feeling they can no longer tread water.  #3  Figure out together what can be managed with a remote team member working in the engine of your ship because you, like many forward thinking leaders, will experience the utilization of remote team members works! I promise you will Feel as if you are once again the captain of your ship and ready to cruise through all rough waters!