Holding Your Team Accountable
You can delegate a task, you can delegate responsibility, but you cannot delegate accountability. One of the most difficult tasks for a dentist is holding team members accountable for outcomes. Monitoring team members’ progress and providing feedback at regular intervals supports healthy communication. According to Harvard Business Review, accountability is not simply taking the blame when something goes wrong. Accountability is about delivering on a commitment. It is a responsibility to an outcome, not just a set of tasks. It is taking initiative with thoughtful, strategic follow-through. Getting frustrated with people when they fall short is not a productive process for holding people accountable. It almost always reduces motivation and performance.
As a leader, you will need to be consistent in order to implement new systems, and change can be difficult. Several steps need to be in place in order to increase accountability. It is never too late to provide the leadership necessary to reach your goals! The dynamics of a dental practice shift over time, as do individual roles and practice goals. No matter how long you have owned your practice, start by reviewing the parameters outlined below to ignite great leadership, and motivate team members.
First, let’s take look at where you stand. Rank yourself on the following areas, a score of 1 means “I could work on this,” a score of 5 means “I’ve got this down.” If you find you are ranking yourself below a 4, click the link after each statement to learn more.
- I have a clear vision and mission statement for my practice that I consistently convey to my team. (Share Your Vision)
- I have clear and consistent expectations, which include accurate, written job descriptions and protocols. (Set Clear Expectations)
- I consistently focus on purpose and outcomes with my team members; they each have an outcome-based mindset. (Gain Buy-In)
- I regularly communicate with my team through morning huddles, monthly team meetings, and one-on-ones. (Communicate With the Team)
- I provide each team member with measurable standards for her/his performance. (Provide Measurable Standards)
- I consistently base my check-ins and monitoring on the functional level of each of my team members. (Check-in as Frequently as Needed)
- I consistently provide appropriate consequences for individual performance that is above or below practice standards. (Be Prepared for Challenges)
How’d you do?
If you scored anything less than a 4, review the following sections for guidance on how to strengthen your leadership in these areas. The question numbers above correspond to the numbers to the left in the following sections.
Share Your Vision
A vision statement is a vivid future-based description of the desired outcome that inspires, energizes, and helps you create a mental picture of your target. Vision answers the question, “What will we become?” A practice without a vision is characterized by low energy levels, decreases in production, lower morale, personal agendas, and a feeling of staff “working to get through the day.” If your practice loses sight of your vision, you are not leading but reacting to immediate events. Communicating your vision is critical to your role as a business leader; it serves to guide you and your practice. The vision statement needs to be in written form, displayed for staff to read, as necessary, and communicated verbally during team meetings. In addition, share your mission statement. The mission statement lets your staff know how you will reach the vision.
Set Clear Expectations
Staff should have both a clear understanding and clear documentation regarding the expectations for their role. You will need to go beyond communicating the details of the job description and incorporate the “why” behind the job. Let them know how their contribution fits with your practice vision and goals. They should understand the big picture role they have within the practice as well as the day-to-day details of the job. Each role in the dental office directly impacts the ability of other team members to meet their objectives. When one employee is out of sync, a chaotic work environment is created. On the other hand, employees will also mirror professionalism and accountability. Impactful leadership is based on modeled behavior. Be a good role model.
Written and signed descriptions should be on file.
- Review descriptions annually or more frequently as needed.
- Standard operating procedures should be in written form for easy reference
- Large practices with more than 12 staff members and group practice models benefit from assigning a team leader for each department (front office, dental assisting, and hygiene)
When team members see themselves as an integral part of your overall plan, they are more likely to be proactive and realize outcomes. If the overall goal is not clearly communicated, they are more likely to “stay busy” and focus on tasks vs. outcomes. For example, a front office team member that is assigned the recare system will focus on the number of attempted calls vs. the number of patients scheduled. This is an example of a task mindset vs. an outcome mindset. Gaining buy-in helps move the staff member to an outcome mindset. They need to know their work has a greater purpose.
- Explain how their role helps meet practice goals.
- To increase the acceptance of accountability, ask your teams if they have everything they need. This includes the right skills, enough resources, and the time to successfully complete the work.
- When requested support is provided, and they agree to the objective, you have buy-in.
Communicate With the Team
Share expectations for roles with the entire team, this holds the team accountable to each other. You can follow up with progress at team meetings to provide additional accountability. For example, you can announce the front office team is working diligently to meet the goal of achieving 70% of the active patient base with future appointments. They are currently at 58%. The dental hygiene team is currently working to improve the periodontal statistics from 8% in periodontal care to 40%. Ask again if additional support is needed to meet the objective.
- Morning huddle
- See morning huddle meeting objectives
- Morning huddles are your opportunity to keep the team focused on the goals for the day
- Monthly team meeting
- See team meeting objectives
- Team meetings provide growth and learning opportunities
- Each meeting should end with a table that assigns follow-up to specific team members – this is displayed in a central area for further accountability and reviewed at the next meeting
- Individual meetings (one-on-ones)
- Provide individual coaching in private settings
Provide Measurable Standards
Examples of measurable standards include:
- New patient scheduling log for multi-doctor practices
- Percentage of the patient base with a future appointment
- AR aging at less than 10%
- New patient call conversion rate
- Case acceptance rate
- Outstanding recare percentage
- Periodontal percentage rate
- Case acceptance rate
- Re-appointment percentage
- Equipment maintenance logs
- An additional treatment added to the schedule for same-day treatment
- Re-appointment rate
- Diagnostic rate
- Case acceptance rate
Check-in as Frequently as Needed
Review performance frequently to make sure you meet objectives. Avoid self-reporting measures by measuring progress toward objectives within your practice management system or outside dental analytical software. The goal is to meet the objective, not to analyze the tasks needed to meet the objective. For example, discuss the percentage of patients in the practice who have a future appointment, not the number of calls a team member made to connect with patients. Measuring tasks indicates you are concerned about “busy work” and the team will shift their focus to meet that goal.
The frequency of meetings depends on the functional level of the staff member. Superstar employees who consistently meet objectives do not need close monitoring. These individuals often thrive with words of appreciation and an independent work environment. Frequent monitoring and communication are appropriate for team members who are struggling to meet objectives.
Be Prepared for Challenges
Be prepared for challenges along the way in this process. Be prepared to provide consequences for performance that is both above standard (raises, profit sharing) or below standard (performance improvement plans, terminations). Stay focused on finding and keeping team members who possess the skills and motivation necessary to reach your practice goals and help achieve your vision.
Practice Support Team has resources and actionable recommendations to support implementation or consistency in any of these areas to enhance accountability in your practice.