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    The biggest mistakes dentists make: Not providing adequate team training

    How would your dental practice change if your team members knew exactly what was expected from them and how to make that happen?

    Editor's Note: Based on his extensive experience with dentists over the past 30 years, Dr. Roger P. Levin has authored a new book entitled The 31 Biggest Mistakes Dentists Make. His premise is simple. As he says in the introduction, “We can learn from our mistakes. But isn’t it better to learn from other people’s mistakes?”

    Following is an excerpt from the book.

    Mistake #21: Not Providing Adequate Team Training

    We dentists begin our careers knowing very well that our clinical education will continue until we retire. It’s a given. Many dentists also appreciate the value of ongoing clinical training for staff members as a way to maintain and improve the quality of patient care as dental techniques, materials and technologies evolve.

    But business-oriented training? That’s another story. Aside from on-the-fly training and “shadowing” during working hours, few dentists make a strong commitment to providing training to help administrative team members perform better. To make matters even worse, many doctors micro-manage and hover over staff … not so much teaching them as correcting them.

    This behavior undermines team members’ sense of purpose, impairs office performance (because doctors typically lack business skills themselves), and prevents the practice from fulfilling its production potential.

    Another big mistake dentists make: Not working with a professional money manager

    To create an effective staff training program, you need to work backward … first identifying what performance targets you want to achieve and then determining what skills will be needed to reach those targets. This means that the smartest way to approach team training consists of these steps:

    Set performance targets. The purpose of training is to upgrade staff performance to a higher level. Rather than setting out to teach members how to “do a better job,” or some other vague goal, get specific. You want your treatment coordinator to close 90% of all cases presented. You want your marketing coordinator to elicit referrals from 40-60% of current patients. You want your financial manager to collect 99% of what’s owed to the practice within 60 days. Targets like these are your training objectives.

    Create systems to reach the targets. If you expect team members to hit their targets without providing them with updated, documented step-by-step systems, you’re being unrealistic and will end up disappointed (and perhaps even unfairly blaming your staff).

    Then train the team on the systems to reach the targets. At this point, you and team members know exactly what the training program must accomplish. Your training program should consist of a mix of informal one-to-one sessions, role-playing with scripts at team meetings, and intensive individual and group training, both in your office and off-site. To reflect different skill levels and responsibilities, design a custom training plan for each individual team member.

     

    More from Dr. Levin: Is it time for you to make over your dental practice?

    Whether teaching an existing team member how to work with a new system, cross-training your staff for greater flexibility, or getting a new employee up to speed quickly, this three-step approach will result in a highly efficient training program that will be as satisfying for staff members as it is for you.

    Dentists often complain about staff. I always take this with a grain of salt. I know from experience that these doctors would have much less to complain about if they would only meet their responsibility as team leaders and provide adequate training.

    HOT READ: An open letter from a dental assistant to a dentist

    Free Whitepaper: Tired of waiting for things to get better? Find out how a Practice Analysis can give you the answers you need to make the changes you want. Download Dr. Levin’s free whitepaper “How to Increase the Income from Your Practice” by clicking here.

    Dr. Roger P. Levin
    Dr. Roger P. Levin is a third-generation general dentist and the chairman and chief executive officer of Levin Group, Inc., the largest ...

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