Bad day at the office? Here’s how you can help!

39680325_SEfficiency is a beautiful concept, but it is often a moving target for a business owner. Just when you think you’ve achieved a new level of efficiency, human nature comes to the forefront.

Disagreements can disturb workflow and trigger back-room gossip sessions. And, isn’t it strange how one error seems to set off a cascade of other mistakes, until everyone in the office is flustered?

If you’re a manager, you might chalk up such days to an out-of-sorts employee. Or, maybe you assume that one of your staff-members stayed up too late the night before. Perhaps a simmering disagreement finally erupted into something more serious.

When the workplace is unsettled, here are three ways to help pull everyone on the team back together:

1) Show good humor. When managers model good humor, it lightens the day. Research suggests that humor can have a wide variety of benefits in the workplace. Just the physical act of smiling releases beneficial hormones!

2) Provide encouragement. Keeping pace with a busy workflow can be tough. Be kind to your employees and find simple ways to celebrate their successes. Never forget to praise an employee for a job well done.

3) Show empathy. You may be surprised to know that empathy is a skill. When your staff comes to work each morning, you may not know what their lives are like behind the scenes unless they share some personal details with you. Grief, anxiety, and physical illness also can drain the energy of your staff. Empathy can go a long way toward helping people cope with on-the-job challenges.

The mark of a consummate professional

vision word on compassPurpose, integrity and transparency are the hallmarks of an ethical, effective business owner.

The expression of these things doesn’t occur happenstance. The cultivation of honorable qualities requires a highly disciplined approach. Those aspiring to the utmost in professionalism regularly practice those tenets both on and off the job. And they inspire others, too.

A steady, consistent management approach provides a calm, peaceful business environment. It is within those quiet spaces where a person’s inner strength and resolve spark moments of brilliance. Those moments of insight cannot happen in a chaotic environment.

Yet all too often we move through our practice and our lives too quickly. We miss those pregnant moments of opportunity to demonstrate our resolve and commitment to magnanimity. We lose those opportunities to coach and inspire another person.

In the world today, talk is cheap and words often flow freely, but gems of wisdom are relatively rare even among the best of us. Practicing the art of consistency and transparency provides the backdrop that reveals the inner mettle one possesses.

It all comes down to commitment: Do we support our team members? Do we take on the hard jobs without fear? In our professional practice, do we set the bar high? Do we aim for the best and not shrink back from the call of honor; the call of duty to our employees, our clients and others operating within our circle of influence?

Running a business or operating a practice is tough at times. But one’s work and contribution to an enterprise is so much more than the sum of its parts.

Step back and take a deeper look at your professional life. Don’t be afraid to test your mettle. Share ideas freely. And never stop believing in the pursuit of integrity.

It’s not about what you do for a living. It’s about who you are when the going gets tough.

Copyright (2015): All content and images used on this site are owned or licensed by Doug Gulbrandsen for use on this site only. Unauthorized use is prohibited.

The flexibility to build on the strengths of your employees

11211911_SManagers manage people, but staff members are in charge of managing their daily supply of energy, which of course happens to be a finite resource.

One of the main ways managers can help their employees manage their workdays efficiently is to create patterns of behavior customized to an individual’s personality and aptitude.

Our brains are prepped to take advantage of efficiencies through repetitious behaviors. Forming habits allows the mind to take a shortcut. If you’ve ever watched someone learn a repetitive skill such as knitting, which requires the same action over and over again, you’ll see a learning curve that eventually becomes almost second nature through the formation of habitual behavior.

The key is to identify those habitual behaviors among your staff that are productive and in tune with your company’s goals, and then to allow more free reign for individual staff members to capitalize on their innate strengths. Of course, there are other considerations that influence workplace efficiencies.

While complete customization of the workplace to suit each person’s individual needs is impractical, smart managers should be willing to shake up the status quo a bit. Managers should have the flexibility to build on the strengths of their employees, meshing individual personalities with a company’s business plan. Then, it’s truly a marriage made in heaven.

Transform your business: Act like a leader and engage your staff

Concept of super hero businessman with business symbolIn a recent interview, Herminia Ibarra, a professor at the INSEAD School of Business and author of “Act Like a Leader, Think like a Leader,” touches upon a compelling issue. Have we as a society put the wrong leaders at the top of the business hierarchy?

Ibarra notes a key challenge for today’s business leaders is the task of defining an organization’s leadership roles, be it a professional practice or an enterprise.

Another challenge a manager faces is avoiding “do it yourself transitions” within a company.

This issue can arise when a job description evolves as the company expands operations. The pressing need for expediency now kicks in as a firm’s growth taxes the skills of the company’s existing talent and expertise. Unfortunately this “mini” transition to a new role typically arises when a manager least expects it. Even when the company’s leadership foresees a crisis in roles, the situation still exacts a stressful burden on staff members. 

In today’s mercurial business environment the job of managing both a workforce and company expectations is changing all the time. So how does a manager know the right time to exercise what Ibarra calls ”outsight” (versus insight)? Therein is the challenge for business managers.

In a nutshell, here’s her take: You cannot reflect your way into taking the leadership reins. You have to live it out in the midst of your daily role as a manager. Self-reflection is not helpful. But the willingness to dive into the challenge begins to change one’s thinking and therein lies the key to effective leadership. Transformation of the business process is now within reach.

Copyright (2015): All content and images used on this site are owned or licensed by Doug Gulbrandsen for use on this site only. Unauthorized use is prohibited.

Smile power is a potent way to build a practice

dentistWhat’s the impact of a smile in a dental practice?

More than you might imagine at first glance, according to a recent article in Psychology Today.

Smiles are highly contagious, spreading happy feelings in the workplace. More importantly flashing a smile increases the likelihood the other person will return that smile, leading to a synergistic effect in which both parties get a welcomed psychological lift.

Dentists are in the business of creating beautiful smiles, but the daily stress of operating a dental practice can turn those smiles upside down. It can be a challenge to maintain a calm, happy mood on one of those days when appointments stack up and a lengthy case can throw the whole day off kilter.

It is for these reasons that dental practice managers should tread carefully when it comes to criticizing a staff member. Don’t show your frustration in front of other staff. A disheartening attitude can spread like a cancer in a practice. People tend to hear and recall critical comments much more than compliments. So aim for a ratio of at least two compliments for every critique.

Schedule team-building opportunities and make the meetings fun and light-hearted. Hold a silly in-office contest or invite staff to submit fun recipes.  And never forget at the end of a challenging day, flashing a smile at a coworker can do wonders to lift collective morale in your practice.

Copyright (2015): All content and images used on this site are owned or licensed by Doug Gulbrandsen for use on this site only. Unauthorized use is prohibited.

Non-essential tasks can sink a firm’s productivity

Measuring productivityA recent study puts the spotlight on a pernicious problem in the office: Non-essential tasks can sink a firm’s productivity through the proverbial “death by a thousand small cuts.”

If one could tally the minutes spent unwisely, it would likely be a sobering statistic for the average business manager.

Here are three ways your firm may be engaging in unproductive activity:

  1. Consider work habits. We are creatures of habit and therein lies both a problem and an opportunity. When a new staff member joins a firm, will that new hire bring constructive work habits or pose a stumbling block to a firm’s existing, well-performing employees? Work habits are contagious and may impact other workers in the firm. A slacker attitude is as contagious as the flu.
  2. Tapping too many hours to onboard a new employee. The on-boarding process for a new hire offers a manager a crucial window of opportunity for cementing a positive work ethic from the get-go. Cultural values will vary from person to person, but inculcating decency, open communication, and loyalty to the firm requires quality on-boarding time.
  3. An over-dependence on email. Never underestimate the importance of face-to-face communication, especially for new hires. An initial on-the-job performance review may not reveal any significant issues, but some personality types may not come forth with concerns during that initial probationary period. Those underlying problems may simmer on the back burner until unaddressed issues create a blockage in communication that stalls workflow.

Process improvement is a worthy goal. There will be a pushback any time workplace routines are revised and improved, but applying consistent quality control will win the day!

Managers should relentlessly pursue those opportunities to foster an efficient approach to problem solving. At the same time, a business manager should tread carefully, applying emotional intelligence to future interactions with staff members.

Copyright (2015): All content and images used on this site are owned or licensed by Doug Gulbrandsen for use on this site only. Unauthorized use is prohibited.

Are your dental practice routines maximizing efficient delivery of services?

Productivity, Efficiency, Streamline, Responsive and ProcessHere’s a truism: Any commercial endeavor one could undertake in the professional sphere adheres to the same basic managerial precepts.

Even so, when a business owner has focused his or her work in one industry sector for a lengthy period of time, a myopic mindset can set in, dulling the entrepreneurial passion that fuels a spirit of innovation.

Then it becomes harder to see the gradual drift away from the razor-edge focus one had when starting out in professional life. Routines have a way of exacting a deadening influence. It’s the way we’re wired. Our brains always seek efficiency, but this usually comes at the cost of those precious gems of insight that arise in a moment of inspiration when the muse is at work.

For dental professionals routines provide comfort and consistency in how care is delivered, but they also tend to deaden a manager’s ability to perceive a gradual decline in a practice’s efficiency and operational routines.

There is also the constant push of new technology to better serve one’s patients. Wisely choosing technology that will maximize returns is crucial for creating a flourishing list of clients ready to outlay on high-end dental services.

As with any commercial enterprise, clarity and insight can diminish with the passage of time. This is why dental practitioners should take a critical look at the practice’s operational procedures. Inefficiencies may have crept in over time.

Bringing in an outside perspective can be helpful in achieving a more astute understanding of what internal processes in your dental practice may be in need of an overhaul. For example, as technology changes staff members may have taken the initiative to create adaptations to the workflow that exert a negative influence on efficient operations as well as the bottom line.

A second set of objective eyes can better understand the practice areas that need an efficiency tuneup. We’re happy to help!

Copyright (2015): All content and images used on this site are owned or licensed by Doug Gulbrandsen for use on this site only. Unauthorized use is prohibited.

iPad app invented by a Japanese father calms child in the dental chair

Little girl on dentist prevention examinationSomething as simple as a cartoon drawing may help young children and special-needs patients with physical and mental challenges feel more comfortable in the dental chair.

Noritaka Kaneko, a 47-year-old Japanese executive with Saitama IT, created an iPad app that uses visual aids to help children better understand and anticipate dental procedures.

Even with very young children, knowledge is empowering. When patients of tender years are better able to anticipate specific procedures, they suffer less anxiety as do their guardians.

Spurred by a father’s concern, Kaneko not only heads a not-for-profit that provides assistance and support to developmentally challenged children, he also spreads word of his discoveries through presentations at various conferences. A man with a mission, Kaneko has put the spotlight on an urgent problem.

Reducing stress is not just a means to more dental chair turns; it also provides a health benefit to a child. Parents will be more likely to take children in for regular checkups when the atmosphere is calm and relaxed. Since parents are the ones in charge of scheduling appointments, ensuring that their young children feel comfortable visiting the dentist is a huge issue in avoiding an early loss of primary teeth.

Relatively simple investments in providing helpful distractions to younger dental patients reduce interruptions and delays. And in the era of digital apps, Kaneko’s discovery likely will decrease the stress arising from dental procedures.

A calm atmosphere within the dental examination room also ups the odds that a child’s guardian will not dread the next visit. Parents may subconsciously delay the next dental checkup as they remember the stress of a previous visit.

Copyright (2014): All content and images used on this site are owned or licensed by Doug Gulbrandsen for use on this site only. Unauthorized use is prohibited.

Morale-boosting tips for your dental practice manager

Group Of Doctors Working On Laptop In HospitalNiche industry networking is vital for dental office professionals as it often can be a lonely job.

Typically, dental staffers are not engaged in those interesting conversations readily shared in other professions. Instead, the focus is usually on building a trusting relationship with the patient in the dental chair.

A dental practice staffer may spend a lot of time alone in an office preparing and submitting paperwork. Stress can arise from run-of-the-mill drama common in other close-proximity workplace situations. Worse, it can spread to others in the dental practice, contributing to poor morale, as nearby staff are pulled into yet another time-wasting, workplace drama. 

And here’s another pernicious morale-buster: Due to confidentiality concerns, there are limits on what can be appropriately shared among dental practice staff.

Never underestimate the beneficial morale boost of chitchatting with other dental office managers in your sphere of influence. Attending dental practice networking events, such as those events sponsored by the American Association of Dental Practice Managers, can make a lasting impact, because it contributes to a more collegial workplace atmosphere.

Just as in other professions, networking within the dental practice industry is an effective way to build a smoothly operating dental practice, while at the same time avoiding the risk of internal stresses leaking out to the community at large.

Copyright (2015): All content and images used on this site are owned or licensed by Doug Gulbrandsen for use on this site only. Unauthorized use is prohibited.